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The state of Maine and the National Institute of Standards and Technology have formed a partnership that will serve as a pilot for strengthening ties between the federal technology research agency and state organizations.

In the first partnership between NIST -- an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department -- and a state, the two have agreed to cooperate on a number of research and development projects in network infrastructure, small business development and the physical sciences, among others.

"We are embarking on a large expansion of our [research and development] activity," Maine Gov. Angus King Jr. said in an interview. He added that the state legislature already had approved more than $40 million over the next two years for partnership projects. "This partnership is like being in a one-room library and then finding a door leading to the Library of Congress."

According to a NIST spokesman, "NIST and Maine have agreed to solidify and coordinate efforts even more strongly than they already are. "This will ensure that there are no duplicate efforts...and by signing a formal agreement, it is a pledge to work even harder to make technology more available in the state and the rest of the country."

King echoed those statements, saying the partnership provides the state with myriad new resources. "The NIST deal expands our capacity and opens up resources through their labs and technical knowledge...it basically allows to get more bang for our R& D buck," he said.

One area that will be explored by the partnership is a study of Maine small businesses to determine their use of the Baldridge criteria, performance standards for business based on the annual Malcolm Baldridge quality awards given by the Commerce Department. The study would help develop business-quality strategies for small businesses.

Other projects include NIST's physics laboratory offering technical assistance in optical measurement to businesses in Maine that depend on optical technology for measurement, inspection, remote sensing and other applications.

Maine and NIST will monitor the progress of the partnership and report annually on its status.

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