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Blog Category: National Institute of Standards and Technology

The Benefits of IMCP

A US Navy welder works at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Photo courtesy US Navy

Guest Blog by Sarah Lee, Principal Economic Development Manager, Puget Sound Regional Council

Washington State brought in $7 million in IMCP-aligned federal agency funds just months after receiving one of the “manufacturing community” designations from the U.S. Department of Commerce. That’s a pretty shining endorsement of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) program, right? But the truth is Washington State began reaping the benefits of the program even before we submitted our application. The value of this program is about even more than funding.

Our IMCP application was based on the Washington Aerospace Strategy, already developed by the Governor’s Office of Aerospace and the Washington Aerospace Partnership, so we had a head start. The application process pushed us to dig deeper, to prioritize projects and firm up commitments. We reached out to more stakeholders than we had before, which meant we uncovered great programs and projects and discovered partners we didn’t even know we had.

For example, we hadn’t fully explored what our local Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) could do for us. MEP is a National Institute of Standards and Technology program that helps small and medium manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money. With a median size of 98 employees, our state’s aerospace suppliers definitely qualify for MEP programs. As a result, two of the six catalytic investments outlined in our IMCP plan are projects developed in partnership with our MEP. We have already secured funds for one of those projects, and the MEP relationship continues to open new doors. 

Puerto Rico MBDA Business Center’s MED Week Event Helps Local Entrepreneurs, Businesses Expand Their Opportunities

Isabella Cascarano, U.S. Embassy of Dominican Republic,  Jose Burgos USEAC, of Puerto Rico, James W. Brewster, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Gabriela Morales, MBDA Business Development Specialist, Teresa Berrios, Puerto Rico MBDA Business Center's Director, and Alejandra Y. Castillo, MBDA's National Director, ready to meet local entrepreneurs during the Puerto Rico MBDA Business Center's MED Week Conference in San Juan's Condado Plaza Hotel, Jan. 30.

Puerto Rican businesses and entrepreneurs looking for opportunities that drive growth found them during Puerto Rico’s MBDA Business Center’s Minority Enterprise Development Week (MED Week) conference held on January 30th in San Juan’s Condado Plaza Hotel.

The MED Week in Puerto Rico continued the celebration of the Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA) 45th Anniversary.  It was also another opportunity to amplify our continued efforts in Puerto Rico to assist minority-owned firms grow in size and scale, and diversify into the industries of tomorrow.

To that end, this past year, we engaged the Puerto Rico MBDA Business Center on several important business endeavors.  One of them was ensuring that minority firms in Puerto Rico were well positioned to export, and that’s precisely why we invited James W. Brewster, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic to be the keynote speaker at this year’s MED Week event.  As a critical trade partner, we wanted to talk about the exporting opportunities that exist in the Dominican Republic, but also throughout all the Caribbean nations.

Head Health Challenge III

Dr. Willie E. May, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology and Standards and Acting Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology at the press conference announcing the Head Health Challenge III

Guest blog post by Dr. Willie E. May, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology and Standards and Acting Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Today I had the honor of announcing a new public-private partnership, along with the National Football League (NFL), GE, and Under Armour. This unusual group of players is launching an open innovation competition to advance materials that better absorb or dissipate energy. These new materials could improve the performance of protective equipment for athletes, military personnel and first responders.

The announcement was made at a news conference in Phoenix as part of the NFL’s larger annual health and safety presentation for reporters prior to the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 1.

The NFL, GE, Under Armor, and NIST have each contributed $500,000 for a total of $2 million in prize money for the winners of the competition.

During the Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit in May 2014, President Obama announced a number of planned new investments from federal agencies, universities, the NFL, and even private donors all focused on lowering the societal cost of concussions and other brain injuries for athletes of all ages, our military forces, and other members of the public.

NIST is proud to join our partners in helping implement the President’s promise and realize his vision.

U.S. Manufacturing Attracts Foreign Investment

U.S. Manufacturing Attracts Foreign Investment

By Mark Schmit, National Accounts Manager, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership

The United States is an attractive destination for foreign investment dollars for a variety of reasons, including a large economy with diverse consumer markets, a skilled labor force (thanks to community colleges with skill-development missions as well as research universities) and a predictable and stable regulatory system. These reasons and more explain why the U.S. has been the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) since 2006 according to an October 2013 White House report, Foreign Direct Investment in the U.S.

Working for NIST’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), I wasn’t surprised to learn that the manufacturing industry is the largest beneficiary of FDI in the United States, accounting for more than one-third of that investment, according to data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. “Made in America” is, after all, a de facto stamp of approval the world over. We are a manufacturer’s dream!

And investments in manufacturing have powerful multiplier effects on the U.S. economy. Every $1 spent in manufacturing generates $1.35 in additional economic activity. Since 1988, MEP has been committed to strengthening U.S. manufacturing and individual manufacturers, contributing to the growth of well-paying jobs, the development of dynamic manufacturing communities, and the enhancement of American innovation and global competitiveness. 

MEP delivers its own high return on investment to taxpayers. For every dollar of federal investment, MEP clients generate nearly $19 in new sales, which translates into $2.5 billion annually. Last year, MEP centers served more than 30,000 manufacturing clients—a subset of which are foreign-owned. For example, since 2012, MEP centers worked on 900 projects with 322 manufacturers in the U.S. that have ownership ties to other countries. These projects helped those companies create and retain more than $700 million dollars in sales, save about $77 million and create or retain more than 6,000 U.S. jobs.

New Technologies Bring New Opportunities and New Risks: Vetting Mobile Apps

New Technologies Bring New Opportunities and New Risks: Vetting Mobile Apps

By Tom Karygiannis, Computer Security Researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Understanding what mobile apps do and how they have been implemented is the first step toward understanding their security and privacy impact on an agency’s data and IT infrastructure.

Just as consumers are enjoying productivity gains from the use of smart phones and the myriad of mobile apps available today, so are government employees enjoying the convenience of being able to use apps to check weather, increase office productivity, update social media and more while on the go and outside the confines of their office. These technologies introduce new capabilities and even new ways of conducting business, but they also may introduce new risks that must be carefully assessed by security and privacy professionals.

Today NIST published guidance to help government agencies perform security and privacy assessments on mobile apps. Special Publication 800-163 - Vetting the Security of Mobile Applications, while intended for a government audience, can also benefit private industry app developers and enterprise security professionals.

The document is designed to help organizations understand the process for vetting the security of mobile applications, plan for the implementation of an app vetting process, develop app security requirements, understand the types of app vulnerabilities and the testing methods used to detect them, and determine if an app is acceptable for deployment on the organization's mobile devices.

The guidelines describe vulnerabilities and poor programming practices for both Android and iOS devices. Many of these vulnerabilities can be addressed through other security technologies, but each agency may have a different risk tolerance level depending on its mission. Ultimately, each must establish its own mobile app security and privacy policies. The decision on whether an app is suitable for an organization’s employees begins by understanding the app—for example, what personal information it collects and with whom it is shared, or if the app can access the microphone, track the user’s location or access the user’s contact list. Once this is understood, security and privacy officers can take steps to mitigate these risks, educate their employees and make informed decisions.

The guidance was developed with input from government agencies, software assurance tool vendors, original equipment manufacturers, telecommunication carriers, universities and security practitioners. Not every agency or organization may have the in-house expertise to evaluate the security of each mobile app, which is why collaboration is so important and why guidance such as this is valuable.

Having guidelines on how to test mobile apps helps software assurance analysts avoid ad hoc manual testing, helps industry respond to government requirements, and helps the people responsible for keeping data safe understand the risks of using mobile apps.

When users download apps to their personal devices, they are usually willing to accept some risk, rarely read the app privacy policies and certainly cannot be expected to be software assurance experts. But government employees who are trusted with sensitive data must make sure that data they collect, share and store is protected against unauthorized disclosure. NIST SP-800-163 provides the guidelines that can help an agency make informed decisions to strike a balance between potential productivity gains and any new privacy or security risks that may result from the installation and use of the mobile app. 

Commerce’s NIST Announces STEM Education Opportunities for Teachers and Undergraduates

Commerce’s NIST Announces STEM Education Opportunities for Teachers and Undergraduates

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently announced they are accepting applications for two grant programs for middle school science teachers and for its annual NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. These programs underscore the importance of educating both our teachers and students in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). President Obama has set a priority of increasing the number of students and teachers who are proficient in these vital fields. Specifically, he has called on the nation to develop, recruit, and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over the next ten years. 

The NIST Summer Institute for Middle School Science Teachers program is a two-week workshop at NIST's Gaithersburg, Md., campus, combining lectures, tours and hands-on activities that educators can recreate in their own classrooms. The program aims to increase teachers' understanding of the subjects they teach, provide materials and resources to implement what they have learned at NIST in the classroom, enhance their enthusiasm for science, increase teachers' understanding of how scientific research is carried out, and provide them with the opportunity to develop an ongoing network of scientists and engineers at NIST who will be available for consultation even after the NIST Summer Institute program has ended. 

The program is open to public school districts or accredited private educational institutes in the United States and/or its territories that offer general science classes at grade levels 6-8 are eligible to nominate teachers to participate. In both cases, teachers apply through their schools or school districts rather than individually. Applications must be received by March 13, 2015. Full details of the program, rules and the application process are available at grants.gov under funding opportunity 2015-NIST-SUMMER-INSTITUTE-01, or visithttp://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=270552

For teachers who have completed the Summer Institute Program in a previous year, NIST also is announcing grants in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Program. The aim is to provide two teachers with an opportunity to further their understanding of how scientific research is performed by participating in research at NIST for six continuous weeks. Selected teachers will work side by side with NIST research scientists and engineers on projects that combine research with direct applications tailored to developing, maintaining, advancing and enabling the measurement system for the nation. The research projects in which the teachers engage will be selected to be highly relevant to the teachers’ interests and the NIST mission. 

Applications for the RET Program must be received by March 18, 2015. Teachers must have completed the NIST Summer Institute program prior to applying to the RET Program. Full details of the program, rules and the application process are available at grants.gov under funding opportunity 2015-NIST-RET-01, or visit http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=270786

President Obama Announces $400M for Manufacturing Hubs and Skills Training

This week President Obama made some major announcements that will help create new, 21st century job opportunities for American workers in high-demand sectors.

Specifically, President Obama launched two new competitions for manufacturing and innovation institutes, one in smart manufacturing at the Department of Energy, and one in flexible hybrid electronics at the Department of Defense. Each institute will receive $70 million or more of federal investment to be matched by at least $70 million from the private sector, for a total of more than $290 million in new investment.

This announcement fulfills the President’s 2014 State of the Union pledge to launch four new institutes this year, for a total of eight institutes launched so far, and puts the Administration past the halfway mark on the President’s original goal of creating 15 manufacturing innovation institutes supported through executive action. These institutes are critical to ensuring the United States maintains its global leadership in innovation.

The Department of Commerce is committed to the President’s vision of creating a full national network of up to 45 manufacturing institutes over the next 10 years, which will require Congress to pass legislation. Secretary Pritzker has advocated for the passage of pending bipartisan legislation that would establish NNMI. Specifically, the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act would create a network of up to 15 regional institutes nationwide. The legislation will also encourage partnership and regional collaboration between communities, the private sector, academia, NGOs, and needed supply chains in order to bring ideas from the lab to market.

NNMI would play a critical role in boosting America’s industrial competitiveness by supporting innovative technology development. Support for this network of industry-driven commercialization hubs will help strengthen U.S. innovation and competitiveness, two key priorities of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”  

Defining Operational Excellence One Person at a Time

Defining Operational Excellence One Person at a Time

When you’re striving for excellence, it helps to have an example. It’s much easier to work hard on something when you’ve seen others succeed despite obstacles. A highlight each year at the National Institute of Standards and Technology is the annual awards ceremony. This is where NIST celebrates operational excellence through the many achievements of its scientific, engineering, administrative and other support staff members. 

This year the agency was honored to have U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker provide remarks at the event.

As NIST employees left the ceremony Wednesday, they had almost 200 examples of operational excellence to pick from for role models—people who had done amazing things. Since NIST is a research agency, many were technical stars who had:

NIST Awards $2.5 Million in Grants to MEP Centers for Pilot Business-to-Business Networks

 NIST Awards $2.5 Million in Grants to MEP Centers for Pilot Business-to-Business Networks

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded $2.5 million in grants to 10 Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers to pilot online regional business-to-business network projects. The networks will help match buyers and sellers of technologies or products and services in support of small and midsize manufacturers.

“The Commerce Department is committed to keeping our small and medium-size manufacturers globally competitive,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “The Manufacturing Extension Partnership grants announced today are an example of our efforts to invest in cutting-edge technologies through public-private collaboration.”

Each awardee will receive a total of $250,000 for a two-year project. The pilots are designed to be scalable and interoperable to help determine if they might be expanded into a national network or a series of regional ones. The networks are expected to include technologies available at federal laboratories and universities and, therefore, enhance the framework for collaboration between the private and public sectors through the nationwide network of MEP centers.

“One of NIST-MEP’s goals is to improve the productivity of our domestic supply chains,” said Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May. “These projects will demonstrate a variety of innovative approaches to doing that by connecting small firms with larger corporations.”

The awardees and their projects are:

Oregon MEP (Portland, Ore.)
The Northwest Connectory Business-to-Business Network (NWB2B) will bring together Oregon MEP, Impact Washington (State of Washington MEP), the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalitionand partnering trade associations, manufacturers, suppliers and other public-sector organizations in a regional consortium that will develop and maintain the pilot network. The business-to-business exchange tool they create will help manufacturers scout for local customers and suppliers, solicit bids, promote and seek emerging technologies and other related activities. The NWB2B project will build upon the existing NW Connectory, an online buyer-supplier network for Pacific Northwest manufacturing and technology companies that already contains vetted, full-text searchable profiles of more than 4,700 companies located in the Northwest.

Catalyst Connection (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
The Pennsylvania Network for Open Innovation will use an open innovation business model that instills a culture of innovation in small and medium-size manufacturing enterprises, increases their speed to market with more promising innovations, and thus, accelerates their business growth. It will leverage existing strong relationships and resources during the initiative, and the model will provide a basis for nationwide replication.

Commerce Secretary Pritzker Announces Four U.S. Organizations Honored With 2014 Baldrige National Quality Award

 Commerce Secretary Pritzker Announces Four U.S. Organizations Honored With 2014 Baldrige National Quality Award

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that four U.S. organizations are recipients of the 2014 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership. 

The 2014 Baldrige Award recipients—listed with their category—are:

An independent board of examiners recommended this year’s Baldrige Award recipients from a field of 22 applicants after evaluating them in seven areas defined by the Baldrige Criteria: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results. An organization may compete for the award in one of six categories: manufacturing, service, small business, health care, education and nonprofit (including government agencies).

Thousands of organizations worldwide use the Baldrige Criteria to guide their operations, improve performance and get sustainable results.

The criteria, which are regularly updated, help organizations reach their goals, improve results and become more competitive by aligning plans, processes, people, decisions and actions vital to achieving ongoing success. More than 30 independent Baldrige-based award programs covering nearly all 50 states. Internationally, the program has served as a model for nearly 100 excellence programs.

From 2010-2013, Baldrige Award applicants represented nearly 500,000 jobs, more than $77 billion in revenue and budgets, and more than 400 million customers served.

A December 2011 study measuring the Baldrige Program's value to U.S. organizations conservatively estimated a benefit-to-cost ratio of 820 to 1, while a 2011 report by Truven Health Analytics found that health care organizations that have won or been in the final review process for a Baldrige Award outperform other hospitals in all but one metric the company uses to determine its "100 Top Hospitals" in the nation (and were six times more likely to be among the top 100). A study of the six organizations to win two Baldrige Awards found that for the years between awards their median growth in revenue was 93 percent and the median growth in jobs was 66 percent. The job growth was significantly higher than the average growth in jobs of 2.5 percent for matched industries and time periods.