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Blog Category: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Commerce’s NIST Announces $2 Million for Small Business Innovation Research

A woman operates a prototype of an environmental chamber for humidity control by Measurement Analysis Corp. (Photo © Nicholas McIntosh)

The Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded nearly $2 million in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to 12 U.S. businesses. These awards provide funding to help companies develop technologies that could lead to commercial and public benefit.

"We are delighted by the high quality of SBIR proposals we received, and congratulate all the awardees," said Phillip Singerman, associate director for innovation and industry services at NIST. "Over the past year, NIST updated the solicitation process to focus on critical national priorities and provide maximum opportunities for businesses that are just starting out. With three-fourths of the Phase I recipients in business fewer than 10 years and two-thirds of them with 12 employees or fewer, the results of the solicitation demonstrate the success of that process."

NIST's SBIR program is a competitive funding opportunity that provides contracts to small businesses for federal research and development. In Phase I, small businesses can receive up to $90,000 to establish the scientific or technical merit or feasibility of ideas that support the commercial potential of their research. If after six months the Phase I awardees have accomplished their goals, they can compete for Phase II funding of up to $300,000 to continue their research and development efforts for up to two years.

Read more about the 12 winners and how NIST will provide technical assistance and direct assistance as allowed by the SBIR statute, as well as direct them to additional resources through NIST's Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

NIST: Baldrige Program Celebrates 25 Years of Performance Excellence

Logo: Baldrige Program Celebrates 25 Years of Performance Excellence

Not many 25-year-olds can boast that in their short lifetime they have helped thousands of organizations develop and maintain world-class operations, innovative management, efficient procedures, involved workforces and highly satisfied customers. But one certainly can: the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, the nation's premier means for organizations of all types to seek, achieve and maintain performance excellence.

On August 20, 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act, establishing the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and its supporting program "to spark U.S. competitiveness and create a sustainable economy." Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award and the Baldrige Program have guided organizations worldwide on their journeys toward continuous improvement and enhanced performance through the seven Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence—leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results.

To celebrate its silver anniversary, the Baldrige Program has created a special Web page, "Honoring Our Past. . . Building an Even Better Future", that provides numerous links. See the full release

Shelling Out Evidence: NIST Ballistic Standard Helps Tie Guns to Criminals

Image of shell casing

Thanks to a new reference standard developed by Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), law enforcement agencies will have an easier time linking the nearly 200,000 cartridge cases recovered annually at U.S. crime scenes to specific firearms.

Cartridge cases—the empty shells left behind after a gun is fired—are routinely sent to forensic laboratories for analysis when they're found at a shooting scene. Using a specialized microscope called an Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS), lab technicians acquire digital images of three markings, or "signatures," impressed on the cartridge case by the gun that fired it. These signatures—the firing pin impression, the breech face impression and the ejector mark—are unique when fired from a specific firearm and can serve as "fingerprints" for that gun once the digital images are entered into a national database known as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).

For forensic examiners to reliably match recovered cartridge cases with ones whose signatures have been recorded in the NIBIN, they need to have confidence in the accuracy of the equipment and procedures used to make the link. That's where NIST's new "standard casing" comes in. The standard contains two items: an exact replica of a master cartridge case with distinct signature marks (obtained from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF), and a "golden" digital image of those same signatures that reside on the NIBIN.  Full Tech Beat story

Commerce Department Scientists Earn Presidential Honor for Early Career Achievements

OSTP seal

Earlier this week, President Obama announced the 2011 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Six employees from the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were among those honored on Monday.

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

The scientists are recognized not only for their innovative research, but also their demonstrated commitment to community service.

NIST Visit to Chicago Spotlights Manufacturing Success

On Tuesday this week, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Patrick Gallagher was in Chicago to visit two manufacturing companies to learn more about the best practices and challenges confronting U.S. manufacturers.

“Having the opportunity to hear directly from manufacturers and see their operations firsthand is invaluable to those of us working to support and increase the competitiveness of American manufacturing,” said Gallagher.

The trip was coordinated by the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC), the Illinois center for the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program. “NIST is a critical resource for advanced manufacturing competitiveness,” said David Boulay, president of IMEC. “We were pleased to show the director the great prospects for American manufacturing success.”

Gallagher, along with representatives from the City of Chicago including Housing and Economic Development Commissioner Andrew Mooney, toured PortionPac Corporation. The company is a sustainability-focused manufacturer of highly concentrated, pre-measured cleaning products. President Burt Klein and other company leaders got the chance to showcase their manufacturing processes. With its commitment to workforce excellence, recognized by INC. magazine’s 2010 Winning Workplace, and its values of innovation, environmental leadership and social responsibility, the company highlights the keys to success for the next generation manufacturer.

NIST: University, Industry Experts Recommend Steps to 'Invigorate' U.S. Manufacturing

Alternate TextReport: University, Industry Experts Recommend Steps to Invigorate U.S. Manufacturing (cover of report)

A new report by a national committee of U.S. industry and university leaders details 16 recommendations "aimed at reinventing manufacturing in a way that ensures U.S. competitiveness, feeds into the nation's innovation economy, and invigorates the domestic manufacturing base."

The report was prepared by the 18-member steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) that was launched by President Obama in June 2011 and co-chaired by Susan Hockfield, now president emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Andrew Liveris, president, chairman and chief executive officer of The Dow Chemical Company.

The AMP Steering Committee Report to the President on Capturing Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing (PDF) was formally adopted today by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

It addresses needs in three broad categories:

  • enabling innovation,
  • securing the talent pipeline, and
  • improving the business climate.

The recommendations include a call to establish a national network of manufacturing innovation institutes; an emphasis on investment in community college training of the advanced manufacturing workforce; an approach to evaluate platform manufacturing technologies for collaborative investment; a plan to reinvigorate the image of manufacturing in America; and proposals for trade, tax, regulatory, and energy policies that would level the global playing field for domestic manufacturers.  Full NIST release

22 Ways the Department Of Commerce Is Supporting and Fostering American Innovation

RIANO logo

In an increasingly competitive world, the United States must invest in its best scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs so that they innovate here, make things here, and create good paying, high quality jobs for middle class families. The Department of Commerce and its bureaus are supporting and fostering innovation at all stages of product development, from original research through to final manufactured goods.

Commerce’s Economic Development Agency has launched two grant challenges, the i6 Challenge and the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator, to move ideas from the lab and shop floor to the marketplace at an accelerated rate. Supporting this work is the Regional Innovation Acceleration Network, a web-based tool to help economic development professionals promote entrepreneurship, business development, and technology commercialization in their region.

In April 2010, the Commerce Department launched the Internet Policy Task Force to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation. In doing so, it has produced the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, made important steps forward for a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, started a conversation about privacy concerns within mobile apps, and worked to combat Botnets that threaten internet security. To ensure continued Internet security, Commerce has opened a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

NIST Kicks Off New National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence

NIST’s Curt Barker, Karen Waltermire, and Henry Wixon are seen explaining how interested parties can get involved

Guest blog post by Donna Dodson, Chief, Computer Security Division and Acting Director, National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, National Institute of Standards and Technology

This week, Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted a workshop to kick off the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), a new public-private collaboration that will bring together experts from industry, government and academia to design, implement, test and demonstrate integrated cybersecurity solutions and promote their widespread adoption.

IT is central to financial, communications, healthcare and physical infrastructures and even entertainment systems. It is also under constant attack by cybercriminals looking to steal business data, personal information and devices, or disrupt private and government business with malicious code, denial of service and Web-based attacks.

We were excited to bring together representatives from various industry sectors (health, utility, financial, and more), along with those from government agencies, academia and other organizations to learn how the center will operate and how the public can participate. In the photo here, NIST’s Curt Barker, Karen Waltermire, and Henry Wixon are seen explaining how interested parties can get involved.

The NCCoE will provide a state-of-the-art computing facility where researchers from NIST can work collaboratively with both the users and vendors of products and services on holistic cybersecurity approaches. NIST is hosting the center in collaboration with the state of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md.

By providing a test bed where new ideas and technologies can be tried out before being deployed, the center provides the opportunity to thoroughly document and share each solution, supporting specific industry sector business challenges. This will encourage the rapid adoption of comprehensive cybersecurity templates and approaches that support automated and trustworthy e-government and e-commerce.

NIST Goes the Distance for the Olympics

NIST technician Christopher Blackburn uses a microscope to precisely align a retroreflector over the center of a hash mark on a measuring tape. Photo credit: Bruce Borchardt

In yet another Olympian feat of measurement, researchers at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently calibrated a tape that will be used to measure out the distance of this summer's Olympic marathon—a distance of 26 miles 385 yards—to 1 part in 1,000.

Measurement is a vital aspect of the Olympic Games. Officials measure the height of jumps, the speed of races, and the mass of weights to determine who wins a medal and who goes home. The marathon is no different. Because of the difficulties in measuring out the distance, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) only recognized best times and didn't begin awarding world records for marathons until 2004 when a method using a device called a Jones Counter was officially recognized as sufficiently accurate.

Developed by a father-son duo in the early 1970s, the Jones Counter is a simple geared device that counts the revolutions of a bicycle wheel. To calibrate the device, course measurers lay out a calibrated measuring tape at least 30 meters in length. Once they have determined the number of revolutions that equal that distance—and a couple of successively longer distances—they follow painstaking procedures for laying out the rest of the course. The measurements, which can take hours to complete, will ensure that the shortest distance a runner will run will be at least the required distance and no more than about 40 meters over, corresponding to an error of about one part in 1,000.  Full story

NIST: Creating Jobs with Innovation

Image: NIST Under Secretary and Director Patrick Gallagher tours Omega Plastics

Guest blog post by Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary  of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

We’ve been hearing a lot about manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing, these days. Things like U.S. manufacturing :

  • Is critical to innovation since it’s responsible for most of our private sector research and development;
  • Is increasingly about sophisticated computer-driven, highly productive worksites requiring skilled workers; and
  • Is a growing source of good jobs.

What we don’t hear about as often are specific cases where U.S. manufacturers are using new technologies to diversify their markets, improve their products, and create or retain jobs. I was fortunate today to visit one such company, Omega Plastics Inc., located in Clinton Township, MI, about an hour outside Detroit.

The event was part of a “Best Practice Tour” sponsored by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC), an affiliate of NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).