Ed. Note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series, which highlights members of the Department of Commerce who are contributing to the president's vision of winning the future through their work.
Phillip Singerman is the Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology
In January I was honored to be selected by Pat Gallagher, Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), to serve as Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services, with responsibility for NIST’s suite of nationally recognized industry-partnership programs, the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the Technology Innovation Program, the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, technology transfer and SBIR grants. These programs are central to NIST’s mission and to the president’s innovation strategy of using science and technology to drive economic development, and are staffed by professionals of skill, dedication and integrity.
My professional career has focused on economic development at the local, state and regional levels in public, non-profit and private organizations. In my current role, I continue to have the opportunity to work with the regional public-private partnerships, young entrepreneurial firms and universities which populate the innovation ecosystem.
This is my second turn at Commerce. During the latter half of the 1990s I served as Assistant Secretary for Economic Development; what has struck me upon my return to the Department is the higher level of coordination among bureaus, particularly NIST with EDA, USPTO, and ITA, and the leadership exercised by the National Economic Council and Office of Science and Technology Policy to encourage inter-departmental collaboration. I believe that the federal government must continue to invest in research and development. These investments have played the crucial role in creating the technological infrastructure that drove our prosperity over the past 60 years; my colleague, Greg Tassey, NIST’s Chief Economist, has elegantly analyzed this issue in his recently published The Technology Imperative.
After graduating from college, I served in the Peace Corps as a rural community development organizer in the coffee-growing mountains of Colombia, South America. This year the Peace Corps is celebrating its 50th anniversary, and this reminds me that the spirit of public service embodied in the Peace Corps ideal is also what underlies the commitment of the professionals that I have worked with in the federal government.
A recent example from the internationally recognized Baldrige Performance Excellence Program makes a similar point: Baldrige relies upon hundreds of volunteer Examiners to review proposals, visit companies and provide recommendations. Each Examiner might donate 200 or more hours for this task, without compensation. When the Examiners were surveyed about their motivation, they responded that the single most important element was a sense of “patriotism,” a willingness to give back to the national community. This is the higher calling of federal service.