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Closing Remarks at N-STEP Signing Ceremony

As prepared.

Thank you all for joining us this afternoon as we celebrate a new effort to promote entrepreneurship and help to transfer innovative technology from the laboratory to the marketplace.

I'd like to start by thanking our hosts at N5 Sensors—Dr. Abishek Motayed and the entire staff here. This company serves as one recent example of how NIST technology can be used to develop innovative goods and services for the American people, and very importantly, create jobs—here in Maryland.

ZeroK Nanotech is another recent example where technology patented at NIST has been licensed to former postdocs that created it (Adam Steele and Brenton Knuffman). In September of 2015, ZeroK moved into their own space in Gaithersburg, with significant funding from corporate sponsorship and NSF SBIR Phase II.

Thank you to Maryland Department of Commerce Secretary Mike Gill for joining us here today. Companies like N5, ZeroK and other start-up companies we hope to support through our new grant program could learn a lot from your experience as a tech entrepreneur and investor.

I am also delighted to be joined by TEDCO President and Executive Director Rob Rosenbaum. NIST and TEDCO have a long history of working together. Rob and his team at TEDCO do an impressive job of supporting tech transfer in Maryland—and I/we look forward to their partnership in this effort.

As you know, we're here today to initiate the NIST Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program, also known as N-STEP. I am very proud to see this effort officially launched.

We held an informative kick-off event for potential applicants this morning at NIST's Gaithersburg campus with a video connection to our Boulder, Colorado, campus. I'm so encouraged by the level of interest being shown in the program.

Dr. Motayed, who's hosting us today, was a NIST associate researcher working with Albert Davydov in our Material Measurement Lab when they developed the nano-sized sensor technologies N5 is commercializing today. Their innovative work was even recognized with the University of Maryland's 25th Annual Invention of the Year Award in 2012.

Drs. Steele and Knuffman were postdocs in our Center for Nanoscale Science and Technology when they developed their new focused ion beam technology for high-precision milling and diagnostics at the nanoscale—based on laser cooling with higher brightness and better resolution.

These collaborations and resulting technologies are indeed impressive, and we hope that this new grant program will encourage others to launch their own small businesses as well. That's what this new program is all about: creating opportunities for small businesses, which will, in turn, create jobs. Well-paying jobs!

Since 1990, as big business eliminated 4 million jobs in the U.S., small businesses added 8 million new jobs. Small businesses really are the "backbone" of the U.S. economy. According to the Small Business Administration, more than 50 percent of private-sector U.S. employees work for small businesses. And that's true in Maryland, Virginia, D.C., and Colorado.

Small businesses already play an important role in federal technology transfer. In the annual Federal Laboratory Technology Transfer Report—which we released just last week—small businesses account for 18 percent of 3,095 active cooperative research and development agreements and 7 percent of active technology licenses. This was the first year we collected data on small business interactions, so we expect those numbers to grow in the future.

The United States spends over $130 billion each year on research and development. In addition to improving health, safety and quality of life, these investments can provide significant economic benefit and impact when these investments result in new commercial products. At NIST alone, there are many great discoveries and inventions made each year by our staff.

But NIST is not in business to generate profit margins. Our job and mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. Technology transfer is one of the ways that we realize our mission!

In 2015, NIST received a rare opportunity to improve lab-to-market efforts with $6 million in appropriated funding. We are using that funding to develop human capital, create effective collaborations, evaluate tech transfer efforts, and more.

One way I would like to see us increase lab-to-market transfer is by leveraging some of the very talented research associates who spend time conducting research at NIST. NIST has ~3,000 federal employees; 1,800 of these are scientists and engineers. NIST also has more than 3,500 associates or visiting scientists that spend time working on our campuses each year. Every year we have an average of 85 new post-doctoral researchers join us. Most of these spend about two years working with our world-class scientific staff before moving on to permanent positions elsewhere; we retain 35-40 per cent of them for the longer term. Some of these "temporary researchers" launch their own businesses, and it's possible that more would, if given the right support.

The N-STEP program was designed to do just this; to give these researchers the opportunity to launch their own companies, built on NIST research and their own skills and drive—and stay here and have their companies grow in Maryland or Colorado; like N5 and ZeroK Nanotech have done.

I'm pleased to have TEDCO join us as a partner on this project. They will administer the program, award funds, assist awardees and monitor progress. Although TEDCO is a Maryland organization, awardees are not limited to this state! The program will fund activities nationwide, and TEDCO will partner with local organizations in Boulder, Colorado, to ensure associates out there get the support they need to be successful as well!

I know that like me—everyone in this room is looking forward to seeing the great ideas that come from this new program. The grant recipients' success will help ensure that the American people get greater benefits from investments made in the NIST labs—benefits that will create new jobs and help strengthen the local as well as the national economy.

Thank you for your attention.

Created November 19, 2015, Updated October 1, 2016