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The Commerce Blog

NIST: Presidential Memorandum Outlines Commerce's Role in Speeding Tech Transfer

Young scientist works on a collaborative project

Accelerating innovation is the key to creating more high-wage jobs. And the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will play a significant role in helping federal labs and U.S. industry speed up the innovation process under a new Presidential Memorandum issued Oct. 28.

Through its existing role coordinating the Interagency Workgroup on Technology Transfer, NIST will help lead agencies with federal laboratories to develop plans that establish performance goals to increase the number and pace of effective technology transfer and commercialization activities in partnership with non-federal organizations. The group also will be responsible for recommending opportunities to improve technology transfer from federal labs and for refining how tech transfer is defined, to better capture data on all of the ways it happens.

NIST will coordinate development and analysis of appropriate metrics and will continue to report and analyze results through its annual report on technology transfer, which covers 11 federal agencies.

NIST has had its own success transferring technology, for example, one licensed technology is helping build a new confinement structure at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant and another is treating heart arrhythmias and uterine conditions—and generating millions of dollars in revenue for the licensee. Free software from NIST, Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability (BEES), is helping architects, engineers and the construction industry select environmentally-preferred and cost-effective products.

Read more about NIST’s role in tech transfer in the latest issue of TechBeat.

Building Networks to Advance the Innovation Economy

RIANO logo

Guest blog post by John Fernandez, Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

Like President Obama, the top priority of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s new Secretary John Bryson is jobs. Advancing innovative economies is key to achieving sustainable job creation.

Today I traveled to Columbus, Ohio to address innovators, technology business leaders and economic development professionals to discuss ways to accelerate America’s innovation economy to create good jobs and increase our global competitiveness.

I was joined by my colleagues Phil Singerman, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology and Sean Greene, Associate Administrator for Investment and Special Adviser for Innovation at the Small Business Administration at a conference hosted by State Science & Technology Institute (SSTI) – an organization that seeks to improve the economy through science and technology.  We discussed how under President Obama’s leadership federal agencies are making the smart investments needed to promote American innovation and support entrepreneurship and small business development.

Assistant Secretary Suresh Kumar Blogs on 30th Anniversary DEC Conference

District Export Council Conference logo

Guest blog post by Assistant Secretary for Trade Promotion and Director General for the U.S. and Foreign Commercial Service Suresh Kumar

I’m proud to be speaking at the 30th District Export Council Conference (DEC), in Las Vegas, Nevada.  We have more than 40 DECs represented from across the country at the conference this year.  The DECs are comprised of business leaders from around the country who are nominated by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Commercial Service (often in consultation with other DEC members and local partner organizations) and appointed by the Secretary of Commerce.  The DECs provide guidance and mentoring to U.S. businesses looking to export, and work closely with the U.S. Commercial Service, referring these businesses to our network of U.S. Export Assistance Centers.   By supporting firms in their local communities which are looking to progress from their first international business plan to their first export sale, DEC members empower the U.S. Commercial Service in our mission of broadening and deepening the U.S. exporter base. 

Nationwide, there are 59 DECs which include the expertise of 1500 exporters and export service providers throughout the United States, who volunteer their time to promote numerous trade related activities.  DECs also create seminars that make trade finance both understandable and accessible to small exporters, host international buyer delegations, design breakthrough guides to help firms export, put exporters on the Internet and help build export assistance partnerships to strengthen the support given to local businesses interested in exporting.  As such, the DECs are critical to our effort in promoting our country's economic growth and supporting new and higher-paying jobs for their communities.

USPTO: Boosting Small Business with the New Patent Law

The president signing the bill

When President Barack Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law six weeks ago, he did more than just implement the largest patent reform since 1836. The AIA aims to help small business secure patent protection for their inventions in a variety of ways. The Act offers not only favorable legal provisions, but also establishes studies and programs to further investigate how Congress may assist small businesses in the future. The provisions in the AIA help simplify the patent law, promote the disclosure of inventions, and establish procedures to remove bad patents from the intellectual property (IP) system early.

By introducing provisions that speed the patent application process and enhance the quality review of patent applications, the AIA enables applicants to secure an examination of an application in one-third the regular time from an average of 3 years to an average of 12 months. Additional provisions will provide an avenue that small businesses may use to challenge bad patents and receive a decision within 12 months. This changes the current practice where decisions on patent validity are determined through district court litigation and may take several years at significantly greater expense.

ESA: Tough Economic Times Continue for State and Local Governments

State and Local Government Expenditures and Employment

Cross post by Commerce Chief Economist Mark Doms

Last week’s gross domestic product (GDP) report confirmed that our economy continues to grow (2.5 percent in the third quarter), although not as quickly as we would like. The fears of a “double dip” recession didn’t come to pass (if anyone in the DC area is interested in a triple dip, head to Ben and Jerry’s from 4 to 7 for their 3-dips-for-3-bucks special.).  One reason why the economy isn’t growing faster is that budget constraints are forcing continued and historically deep contractions in state and local government spending.  Measures within the American Jobs Act can help bridge the gap.

These cuts in state and local government spending are evident in the GDP data and also in the employment data (the October payroll data will be released this Friday).  State and local spending and investment decreased 5.3 percent in real terms since spending peaked in the fourth quarter of 2007, by far the deepest 15-quarter decline in spending in the post-WWII era.  Job losses that have followed from these budget cuts total 646,000, or 3.3 percent, since state and local employment peaked in August 2008. 

So far this year state and local governments have been cutting jobs at the same pace that private sector firms are adding them.  Over the first 9 months of the year, private payroll employment has grown 1.2 percent (1.3 million jobs) while employment in state and local governments declined by 1.2 percent (234,000 jobs). 

NIST Releases Draft Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap for Comments

VanRoekel on podium

The U.S. Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released for public comment a draft "roadmap" that is designed to foster federal agencies' adoption of cloud computing, support the private sector, improve the information available to decision makers and facilitate the continued development of the cloud computing model.

In February 2011, the government issued the Federal Cloud Computing Strategy that describes cloud computing as a "profound economic and technical shift (with) great potential to reduce the cost of Federal Information Technology (IT) systems while. . . improving IT capabilities and stimulating innovation in IT solutions."

As part of that strategy, NIST has been assigned "a central [role] in defining and advancing standards, and collaborating with U.S. government agency CIOs, private-sector experts and international bodies to identify and reach consensus on cloud computing technology and standardization priorities." U.S. Government Cloud Computing Technology Roadmap, Release 1.0 is designed to support the secure and effective adoption of the cloud computing model by federal agencies to reduce costs and improve services. The public comment period is open through Dec. 2.  Read the full NIST release

American Companies Sweep Top Workplace Honors in Multinational Survey

Blue Ribbon

Guest blog post by Commerce Secretary John Bryson

Great Places to Work, a global research, consulting, and training firm, just unveiled its inaugural list of the 25 best multinational companies to work for in the entire world.  American companies landed 18 of the 25 top spots, including all 10 of the top 10.

Microsoft led the best workplace rankings, followed by SAS, NetApp, Google, FedEx Express, Cisco, Marriott, McDonald’s, Kimberly Clark and SC Johnson.  Also making the list were American Express, Medtronic, 3M, National Instruments, Mars, Accenture, Coca-Cola and Quintiles.

In businesses across the spectrum – information technology, services, manufacturing–innovative U.S. companies are furthering a reputation for excellence and creating opportunity for their shareholders, their customers and their employees.  In the process, they are modeling best practices in world markets and making the American dream possible for people here … and throughout the globe.

The 25 best multinational business workplaces were selected based on data from surveys taken by more than 2.5 million employees and managers, representing a 10-million strong workforce, in thousands of companies across six continents.

In his book, That Used To Be Us: How America Fell Behind the World It Invented and How We can Come Back, Thomas Friedman writes of America’s visible demonstration of the connections between freedom, economic growth and human fulfillment.  And he noted that the power of example is a hugely potent social force.

In being recognized for workplace environments characterized by credibility, trust, respect, fairness, pride in accomplishment and camaraderie, these top-ranked multinational American companies are powerful examples to the world.

Trading Across the Border – The United States and Mexico’s $1 Billion per Day Relationship

Juan Carlos Baker, Director General of Mexico’s Secretariat of Economy with Hector Mancha Ana Hinojosa, Director of Field Operations, El Paso Field Office with Michael Camuñez, Assistant Secretary for ITA’s Market Access and Compliance.

Guest blog post by Michael Camuñez, Assistant Secretary for ITA’s Market Access and Compliance

Last year, trade between the United States and Mexico amounted to nearly $400 billion. With 85% of that trade crossing the border each day by truck, the U.S.-Mexico border region plays a vital role in the U.S. economy. And it is open for business.

This is the message I heard last Wednesday through Friday when I visited the El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juarez, Mexico region.

As Americans, we hear a lot about our southern border, little of it positive. Drugs, violence, and illegal immigration are what we see on television and read in the newspaper. While such stories may be in the media’s economic interest, I want to share an entirely different story that is in every American’s economic interest.

Two-way trade between the United States and Mexico amounts to more than $1 billion a day. To put the scope and depth of our relationship in perspective, consider that last year U.S. exports to Mexico exceeded our exports to Brazil, Russia, India and China combined. Remarkably, even our imports from Mexico support U.S. jobs—64% of the content of the Mexican goods we import include U.S. inputs. The continued growth of this relationship is vital to the America’s economic recovery.

And that is exactly why I went to the border—to discuss how infrastructure investments and improvements in customs procedures can facilitate increased trade.

To emphasize the need for a shared approach, I asked Juan Carlos Baker, Director General of Mexico’s Secretariat of Economy, to join me. Together, we met with many of the principal exporters on both sides of the border—maquiladora executives representing the Mexican private sector and U.S. small and medium sized business owners who comprise the maquiladoras’ supply chain. We had excellent discussions with both groups and received useful feedback, which we will incorporate into our respective government’s efforts to grow trade along our southern border.
 
We also visited The Bridge of the Americas, one of the busiest ports of entry on the entire U.S.-Mexico border where we were briefed by senior U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials regarding the challenges of advancing our dual interests: security and commerce. We communicated industry concerns and gained useful information that will inform our efforts on behalf of our respective private sectors.

Along the way, we also discussed some of the untapped potential of the border region, particularly that in renewable energy. I spoke at the U.S.-Mexico Border Energy Forum Plenary Session, where I offered insight into Commerce’s efforts to develop this sector.

What is most important is that we not lose sight of the importance of the U.S.-Mexico border to the U.S. economy and to our global competitiveness. We share much more than a border with Mexico. Our societies and cultures are inextricably linked—I should know, my family came from Mexico generations ago and settled in the border region, right near El Paso. Those ties present an enormous opportunity from which we must not be distracted.

The American Jobs Act: Personal Income and Tax Cuts

The American Jobs Act Cover

Today the Bureau of Economic Analysis released personal income and outlays for September 2011. Personal income increased $17.3 billion, or 0.1 percent, and disposable personal income increased $12.9 billion, or 0.1 percent. That number is helped by the tax cuts in the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 that cut social security withholding by 2 percentage points and that resulted in about $1000 per family per year in increased income.

Knowing that increasing personal income is vital to improving our economy, the President has proposed increasing this tax cut in his American Jobs Act. Under his proposal, the payroll tax cut would be extended to firms by cutting in half their payroll tax on the first $5 million in payroll. Next year, instead of paying 6.2 percent on their payroll expenses, firms would pay only 3.1 percent. The President’s plan would provide tax cuts for all firms, with focused relief on the 98% with less than $5 million in payroll.

For example, a construction firm with 50 workers earning an average of $50,000 a year – for a total payroll of $2.5 million – would receive a payroll tax cut of 3.1% of its total payroll, or about $80,000. The firm’s workers would receive an average tax cut of about $1,500 a year from the employee side payroll tax cut in the President’s plan.

Learn more about the President’s proposed American Jobs Act on the White House website.

Census Bureau Facts for Features: Halloween, 2011

Image of jack-o-lantern, pumpkin and spider web

The observance of Halloween, which dates back to Celtic rituals thousands of years ago, has long been associated with images of witches, ghosts and vampires. Over the years, Halloween customs and rituals have changed dramatically. Today, Halloween is celebrated many different ways, including wearing costumes, children trick or treating, carving pumpkins, and going to haunted houses and parties.

Facts for Features and Special Editions consist of collections of statistics from the Census Bureau's demographic and economic subject areas intended to commemorate anniversaries or observances or to provide background information for topics in the news.  Here is this year's edition of Facts for features: Halloween, October 31, 2011