House bill would expand advanced tech program

The Advanced Technology Program (ATP), a frequent target for Bush administration budget cuts, may have a new lease on life.

A bill approved by the House Subcommittee on Technology and Innovation April 19 would rename and expand the scope of the program, which provides funding for companies to turn cutting-edge research into marketable products.

Under the bill, the ATP would become the Technology Innovation Program would retain its original mission, but would provide more support for small and medium-sized high-tech firms and would allow universities to participate in joint-venture projects. The Bush administration has proposed phasing out the program in recent budgets, only to have Congress restore funding.

The changes are proposed as part of the Technology Innovation and Manufacturing Stimulation Act of 2007.

The bill, which would authorize appropriations for the National Institute of Standards and Technology for fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010, now goes to the full Committee on Science and Technology.

Other provisions would increase funding for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) initiative by 8 percent a year, doubling the program's funding in ten years. The administration’s proposed fiscal year 2008 budget would cut federal funding for MEP in half.

The MEP is a hybrid funding initiative that provides federal, state, local and private capital to help small and medium manufacturers compete against international firms.

“Both MEP and ATP have been successful private-public partnerships which have contributed to American innovation and competitiveness,” said Subcommittee chairman David Wu (D-Or.). “I hope that we can break this cycle where every year the Administration neglects their value, and proposes either eliminating or cutting these two programs.”

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