Commerce will expand its R&D funding program

Commerce will expand its R&D funding program

The Commerce Department has issued a six-point plan for improving its Advanced Technology Program, a public-private effort to develop high-risk technology projects.

Commerce Secretary Don Evans yesterday released the report, The Advanced Technology Program: Reform with a Purpose.

ATP, which is overseen by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has funded billions of dollars of R&D projects since its inception in the mid-1980s, with funds from both the government and industry. The awards often have gone to small companies or start-ups for work on novel or high-risk projects that would have trouble drawing investors. But ATP has its critics and has survived several attempts in Congress to kill the program.

The report offers six steps for improving the program:

  • Take advantage of higher education’s resources by letting universities lead ATP joint ventures


  • Increase universities’ participation by letting them negotiate with industry over rights to the intellectual property the projects produce


  • Limit the participation of large companies in joint ventures


  • Reinvest a percentage of revenues from the projects back into ATP to fund additional research and help stabilize the program


  • Identify the scientific or technological barriers to a project during deliberations on funding and explain why removing a barrier would help the technology move forward


  • Determine, where appropriate, whether additional private-sector input would help ATP's selection boards assess funding requests.


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