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The Commerce Blog

NIST Awards $50 Million in Grants for Construction of Science Facilities

Artist rendering of new science facilityThe U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today awarded a total of $50 million in grants to five institutions to support the construction of new scientific research facilities that will explore everything from nanometer-scale electronics and “green” buildings to microbe ecosystems in the oceans. The five projects receiving funding under the NIST Construction Grant Program (NCGP) will contribute to almost $133 million in new laboratory construction projects, according to grantees.

“Strengthening research and development in the United States is critical to our ability to create jobs and remain competitive,” U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said. “These construction grants will help the U.S. produce world-leading research in science and technology that will advance our economic growth and international competitiveness.”  Release  |  Read more on the Construction Program

NIST 'Vision Facility' Aims for Lighting Revolution

Women in fron of video screenLight-emitting diodes, or LEDs, have become popular with backpackers and cyclists who mount them on headbands for a reliable, hands-free source of illumination. Now, a new lab at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is helping to bring these tiny but brilliant devices into your home, to help save both energy costs and the environment.

“LEDs can be very energy efficient, and they are a lot smaller and last a lot longer than light bulbs,” says NIST vision scientist Wendy Davis. “They’re what we’ll likely use in the future to light our houses and public places.”

It’s a vision of illumination’s future. And to realize it, Davis, along with Yoshi Ohno and a team of physicists, created the NIST Spectrally Tunable Lighting Facility (STLF). Their main goal is to improve the quality of the light that LEDs produce, so that when you turn them on, home feels homey.  Read more  |  YouTube video

Secretary Locke Announces Grants to Boost Exports and Promote U.S. Competitiveness

Export GrantsToday U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced more than $1.7 million in grants to support projects that increase U.S. exports, create jobs and strengthen our global competitive edge.  The grants will be awarded to five non-profit industry organizations and are expected to generate $265 million in U.S. exports. 

These awards are part of Commerce’s Market Development Cooperator Program (MDCP), which includes financial and technical assistance from the International Trade Administration to support business plans that help increase exports and U.S. competitiveness within certain industries. Projects receiving funding include efforts to increase exports among small manufacturers of water treatment equipment and independent film makers.

“These funds will help U.S. firms compete globally so they can sell more of their goods and services abroad and create jobs here in the U.S.,” Locke said. “The [Market Development Cooperator Program] is a good example of how public-private sector partnerships can leverage limited public resources to help small- and medium-sized businesses expand their exports to compete in the global marketplace.” 

These cooperative agreements help to further President Obama’s National Export Initiative, which aims to double U.S. exports within the next five years in support of several million U.S. jobs.

See the five recipients of the 2010 Market Development Cooperator Program awards.

Learn more about the Market Development Cooperator Program.  |  Release

Secretary Locke Announces Initiative to Keep Internet Open for Innovation and Trade at Cybersecurity Forum

Secretary Locke speaking at cybersecurity forum in GeorgetownSpeaking today at the 5th annual Online Trust and Cybersecurity Forum at Georgetown Univeristy, Secretary Locke announced the official launch of an initiative aimed at preserving the global, free flow of information online to ensure that the Internet remains open for commercial opportunity and innovation. This initiative coincides with President Obama's message today in his speech at the U.N. General Assembly in which he reinforced America's commitment to "a free and open Internet."

The Commerce Department is seeking public comment on the extent to which evolving policies from governments around the world may be restricting information on the Internet and inhibiting innovation and economic growth for U.S. companies. The request will seek input from all stakeholders to better understand the types of emerging government policies that restrict online information, how they are adopted, and what impact they have on innovation, job creation, economic development, global trade and investment.


Winners of i6 Challenge Announced

Secretary Locke gesturing from the podiumU.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke today announced the winners of the i6 Challenge, a new $12 million innovation competition led by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), in partnership with the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The i6 Challenge seeks to identify and support the nation’s best ideas for technology commercialization and entrepreneurship in six different regions of the country. The winning team from each region will receive $1 million from EDA to support their project and may be eligible for additional awards from NIH and NSF.   

“I applaud the winners of the i6 Challenge on their tremendous achievement,” Locke said. “Each of the winners exemplifies the entrepreneurial spirit that drives innovation and will help move America forward by increasing our competitiveness around the world. The i6 Challenge represents a key component of President Obama’s innovation strategy - to move great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to create jobs and economic growth.”  

Remarks | Release

Hispanic-Owned Businesses Grow by More than Double the National Rate

The Commerce Department’s Minority Business Development Agency and U.S. Census Bureau today announced that the number of Hispanic-owned firms increased by nearly 44 percent between 2002 and 2007 from 1.6 million businesses to 2.3 million, according to new data released today from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2007 Survey of Business Owners. Employment at Hispanic-owned firms also grew by 26 percent from 1.5 million to 1.9 million workers, a growth rate significantly higher than that of non-minority-owned firms.

“It is encouraging that the Hispanic business community is growing, but we need to create the right conditions for Hispanic-owned businesses to grow more quickly,” MBDA’s National Director David A. Hinson said. “We encourage Hispanic-owned businesses to explore new markets and take advantage of their existing cultural, family or business ties in foreign countries to export as a means to grow and compete in today’s global economy.”

Hispanic-owned businesses generated $345.2 billion in sales in 2007, up 55.5 percent compared with 2002. And of all Hispanic-owned firms with employees, approximately 44,000 have revenues of more than $1 million, representing an increase of more than 51 percent over 2002.

While these are welcome improvements for Hispanic-owned businesses and the minority business community, there is still significant room for growth. Learn how the Minority Business Development Agency can help you grow your minority business.

Today’s newly-released data from the U.S. Census Bureau is available by geographic area, industry and size of business.  |  Full release  |  Noticias en español

Patent and Trademark Office Incentivizes the Creation and Distribution of Technologies That Address Humanitarian Needs

Humanitarian healthcare workers with childAs world leaders prepare to meet in New York City for the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative to discuss ways to solve the critical challenges that face our world, the Commerce Department’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has launched an effort to incentivize the creation and distribution of technologies that address humanitarian needs both domestically and internationally.

The USPTO is seeking comments on a proposed pilot program that would allow patent holders who make their technology available for humanitarian purposes to be eligible for a voucher entitling them to an accelerated re-examination of a patent.Because patents under re-examination are often among the most commercially valuable patents, fast-track re-examination of a patent allows a patent owner to affirm the validity of his or her patent more quickly and less expensively.  This voucher could then be used on any patent owned by the patent holder or transferred on the open market.

Technologies that address humanitarian needs among impoverished populations, such as treatments for tropical diseases, diagnostic medical tools, crops with higher yields or better nutritional value, and treatments for sanitation or clean water, would be considered eligible for the program.  Participants could qualify for the proposed pilot in two ways: by making their patented technologies available to impoverished populations for humanitarian use, or by making their patented technologies available to researchers who are developing technologies that address humanitarian needs.

Learn more about the pilot project and offer your comments (PDF).

Secretary Locke Delivers Keynote Address on the Economy at 128th Meeting of Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce

Alternate TextU.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke was in Seattle today speaking with small- and medium-sized businesses about exports and the economy. Afterwards he delivered the keynote address at the annual meeting of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce.

Secretary Locke discussed the progress made and the next steps for President Obama's National Export Initiative (NEI). He also addressed how it is helping to lay the groundwork for sustainable economic growth in Washington state, the nation's most trade-dependent state, and across the country. His remarks today are only one day after he and his colleagues on the Export Promotion Cabinet delivered a detailed report to the president laying out recommendations for how to double U.S. exports.

“Yesterday, at the president’s newly-constituted Export Council – chaired by Jim McNerny, CEO of Boeing – we announced that our renewed focus on trade promotion has contributed to an 18 percent increase in U.S. exports so far in 2010 over the same period last year.

  • U.S. exports of manufactured goods so far in 2010 have risen by 22 percent. U.S. agricultural exports this year are projected to be the second-highest amount ever, with a trade surplus of $30 billion.

These increases are having an impact on the economy: Exports contributed to GDP growth for just as much as domestic consumption in each of the four quarters of recovery."

Exports growth is also impacting employment. Since January, Commerce’s Advocacy Center, in close coordination with the State Department and other agencies, has helped U.S. companies successfully compete for contracts with foreign governments supporting an estimated $11.8 billion in U.S. content. These deals alone support an estimated 70,000 jobs. “

Learn more about the National Export Initiative and read Secretary Locke’s complete remarks.  |  Press release  |  NEI website

White House Releases Report on National Export Initiative

President with members of PECToday the White House released a report to the president on the National Export Initiative (NEI). It detailed the way the Export Promotion Cabinet plans to meet the president’s goal of doubling U.S. exports in five years to support millions of new jobs.

Since the president announced the NEI, the Department of Commerce’s Advocacy Center has assisted American companies competing for export opportunities, supporting $11.8 billion in U.S. exports and an estimated 70,000 jobs. To date, the Commerce Department has coordinated 20 trade missions with over 250 U.S. companies to 25 countries.

Expanding into new markets is key for America’s growth as Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said today, “As American consumers spend a little less and save a little more, it has never been more important to connect U.S. businesses to the 95 percent of the world's consumers who live outside our borders. Helping American companies sell more abroad will create jobs and boost our economy. This report is a blueprint for doing just that.” 

For more information, read the complete NEI report, the executive summary and the press release.  See  the International Trade Administration's NEI website.  |  NEI meeting video

Commerce's NTIA Announces Investments to Expand Internet Access During HBCU Week

Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information and NTIA Administrator Lawrence E. Strickling will be joined by U.S. Department of Justice Senior Counselor for Access to Justice Laurence Tribe with grant awardeesIt is National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week, a time to celebrate educational achievement and opportunity. The Commerce Department’s NTIA today announced a Recovery Act grant to an HBCU, North Carolina Central University’s School of Law, to upgrade broadband service while expanding access to its legal education programs. The nearly $2 million investment will also benefit four partner HBCUs in the state --  Elizabeth City State University, Winston-Salem State University, North Carolina A&T University, and Fayetteville State University. 

This is one of two Recovery Act investments announced today that will help bridge the technological divide, improve education, and increase access to legal services. Release  |  Presidential Proclamation