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Blog Category: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Making U.S. Manufacturing Stronger

Making U.S. Manufacturing Stronger

Guest blog post by Phillip Singerman, Associate Director for Innovation and Industry Services at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

During his visit to Cleveland, Ohio, today, President Obama highlighted increased investment in a unique program that makes sure small and medium-size U.S. manufactures have the support they need to innovate, grow and succeed.

The president visited the Manufacturing Advocacy and Growth Network (MAGNET), one of 60 centers across the country in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).  MAGNET is one of the Ohio MEP affiliates located at Cleveland State University. These centers have helped manufacturers such as Ohio-based Wright Materials Research and Heather Moore Jewelry make improvements that led to the hiring of new staff, sped delivery of their products and generated new sales.

As a new report released by the White House (which was supported by our colleagues at the Economics and Statistics Administration) finds that small and medium-size companies like these form the backbone of America’s manufacturing supply chains and employ nearly half of all U.S. manufacturing workers.

There are many success stories in MEP’s 26-year history that demonstrate the benefits of investing in these manufacturers. And we plan to support many more. MEP has issued a Federal Funding Opportunity for non-profit organizations to operate centers in Alaska, Idaho, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin. This is the second round of competitions in a multiyear effort to update MEP’s funding structure and will strengthen the network. We announced the first competition awardees in February 2015.

NIST’s MRI Measurement Tools to Help Diagnose Veterans’ Traumatic Brain Injuries

Brain wiring diagram made by high-definition fiber tracking magnetic resonance imaging (HDFT MRI) of water diffusion. The technique is useful for studies of traumatic brain injury.

More than 300,000 U.S. veterans have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) in recent years, a legacy of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. But these numbers don’t tell the whole story. While severe TBI can be obvious, milder cases involving symptoms such as memory loss or inability to concentrate are difficult to confirm and treat.

Advanced imaging of the microscopic motion of water molecules in the brain shows promise for detecting these subtle injuries. A new study of TBI using this diffusion magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique will get a quality control boost from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which has been working in collaboration with other organizations for nearly a decade to improve quantitative measures for MRI.*

NIST has developed a series of MRI “phantoms” to enable measurements that can be traced to international standards.** Phantoms are stable reference objects designed to mimic human tissue responses to MRI, but in a predictable, repeatable way. They are used to calibrate MRI scanners.

As interest in quantitative MRI measurements grows, NIST phantoms are being tested around the world, used in U.S. clinical trials, and transferred to industry. The goal is to improve image comparisons across scanners, test sites and time, thereby enhancing quality of care and reducing medical costs. NIST has applied for a patent on its basic phantom design and use to help promote commercialization.***

NIST and collaborators have already developed a phantom for diffusion MRI, which is now being tested in Europe and the United States. “It has shown very good reproducibility so far,” NIST’s Michael Boss says. “Diffusion MRI can reveal differences between tumors and normal tissue. But until now, there has been no widely accepted phantom or traceability to standards. NIST’s expertise lies in phantom development and what characteristics they should have in order to determine sources of error and inform protocols to be used with MRI patients.”

A new quantitative MRI study, co-led by researchers from NIST and three other institutions, will look for evidence of brain injury in patients with suspected TBI. The two-year study is part of a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) effort to reliably diagnose TBI and predict outcomes and care needs. The study requires the creation of a new, head-sized MRI phantom to measureanisotropic diffusion, which tracks water molecules as they move in specific directions through the brain. Their motions can reveal structural information such as abnormalities in neural pathways. Nerve cell damage is believed to be a driving factor in TBI. Diffusion imaging has revealed changes in brain structure in some people with mild TBI; researchers say it has great potential to characterize and quantify the integrity of brain tissue.

Lab to Market: When One Plus One Equals Three

Lab to Market: When One Plus One Equals Three

Guest blog post by Paul R. Zielinski, MS, MBA, Director, Technology Partnerships Office, National Institute of Standards and Technology & Chair, Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer

When you want a plant to grow, you provide water, light, and fertilizer.   When you want an economy to grow you provide capital, labor, and innovation.

In today’s global markets, companies that don’t innovate generally don’t survive for long.  To keep your current customers and earn new ones, you must continually look for ways to be faster, cheaper, better . . .  or all three. 

At the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) we specialize in helping industry find those “Wow!” innovation ideas that create jobs and raise everyone’s standard of living.

We do this in lots of ways under  an approach  we call lab to market. We develop new measurement tools and standards to make sure new products can be measured fairly against established ones. We advance basic science to enable new technologies. And we work collaboratively with industry researchers in our laboratories to help them bring new research tools and knowledge back to their companies to be commercialized into new products.

We also have another tool for fueling innovation at small businesses, seed money. Commerce is one of 11 agencies with extramural research and development funding that makes awards to small businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research Program(SBIR) to perform research supporting the agency’s mission.  Awards can also be made to businesses to commercialize innovations, including innovations already developed by federal research and development programs. 

For example, at NIST, Phase I grants through SBIR provide up to $100,000 over six months to demonstrate that a proposed research effort is feasible and likely to successfully advance a commercially promising technology. NIST is currently seeking applications for SBIR awardsthat address specific technologies in a wide range of fields including advanced manufacturing, climate change and clean energy, cybersecurity, health care, and bioscience.

Weights and Measures Week 2015: On the Path to Tomorrow

Weights and Measures Week 2015: On the Path to Tomorrow

Guest blog post by Carol Hockert, Director, Office of Weights and Measures, National Institute of Standards and Technology 

It’s held annually during the first week of March to commemorate President John Adams's signing of the first U.S. weights and measures law on March 2, 1799, but you may not be aware of it. Weights and Measures Week is when we as a nation take a moment to sing the praises of our unsung heroes, weights and measures inspectors and other weights and measures professionals and recognize the well-lubricated machine that is the U.S. commercial measurement system. It is also a good time to reflect on how the ever-evolving commercial marketplace drives the need for continual changes in that system. 

Many may think that, aside from the occasional redefinition, the standard units of measure are more or less fixed and there is relatively little need to change. 

Not so! 

Certainly ensuring uniformity and making sure that the chain of measurements from their ultimate realizations all the way down to the consumer level is unbroken and as accurate as possible is a large part of what the whole weights and measures system is about. But, as new products and services come on the market, supporting measurement standards and practices need to be put in place to help ensure that people know what they’re getting and for how much and to ensure that businesses selling those products and services are able to fairly compete. 

To recognize this, the National Conference on Weights and Measures (NCWM) has made this year’s Weights and Measures Week theme “On the Path to Tomorrow.” NCWM is a professional nonprofit association of state and local weights and measures officials, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers that develops model codes that states use as a template for new weights and measures-related laws. 

“During the 110-year history of the NCWM, we have seen a number of advancements, from mechanical devices to highly sophisticated software-based weighing and measuring instruments and now apps used on smart phones,” NCWM Chairman Ronald Hayes said in a press release. 

With technical guidance from NIST, the NCWM is working to help pave the regulatory path forward for startup companies like Uber and Lyft that are using GPS to calculate passenger transport fares, alongside more conventional methods of measurement. Once complete, the model regulations for these systems will be included in NIST Handbook 44 so that states can adopt them, in whole or in part, into their regulatory structure.

Spotlight on Commerce: Cecelia V. Royster, Director, Office of Acquisition and Agreements Management, Bureau Procurement Official, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Spotlight on Commerce: Cecelia V. Royster, Director, Office of Acquisition and Agreements Management, Bureau Procurement Official, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to building a middle class economy in honor of Black History Month

Guest blog post by Cecelia V. Royster, Director, Office of Acquisition and Agreements Management, Bureau Procurement Official, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Black history month has a special place in my heart. When I began my federal government career 30 years ago with the U.S. Coast Guard, it was when I learned of the many inspiring accomplishments of African Americans. There was Captain Richard Etheridge, who became the first African-American to command a Life-Saving station in North Carolina in 1880, and Captain Michael Healy or “Hell Roaring Mike”, who took command of the revenue cutter Chandler in 1877. During his 20-year career, Captain Healy was the United States Government in most of Alaska where he acted as judge, doctor, and policeman to Alaskan natives, merchant seamen and whaling crews. And more recently, Admiral Stephen Rochon, the first African-American to serve as Chief Usher of the White House, was a good friend and mentor to me during my Coast Guard career. Black History month allowed me to cherish my heritage, and appreciate the contributions of these great men. 

So I’m especially honored to share my own story of a career in public service this month. 

I was born in Washington, D.C. of parents from the mountains south of Lynchburg, Va., who believed in and demonstrated the values of integrity, attention to detail and above all, a strong work ethic. Both of my parents worked and retired from lifetime careers in the federal government and my father, a decorated Korean War Veteran and U.S Army retiree, insisted that our home stress the values of family accountability and devotion to duty and country. 

I grew up singing in the choir and being a member of the junior usher board at our family African Methodist Episcopal (AME) church. As a young teen, I attended Kittrell College, which was a part of the AME church, every summer for a one week summer session which provided young African American students with an introduction to African art, poetry and highlighted the careers of successful African American entrepreneurs, physicians, scientist and educators. 

Currently, I am the Director of the Office of Acquisition and Agreements Management (OAAM), and the Bureau Procurement Official (BPO) for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) where I oversee the full range of the $1 billion acquisition and financial assistance activities awarded for NIST and seven client Bureaus under the Department of Commerce to support ongoing programs, operations and mission objectives.  NIST technological research activities - cover an incredibly diverse range of disciplines including  bioscience, health care, chemistry, neutron research, nanotechnology, information technology, , manufacturing, public safety, energy, physics, cybersecurity and computer technology laboratory practices for all aspects of advanced science. 

Commerce's NIST Awards $26 Million to Support Manufacturing in 10 States

Commerce's NIST Awards $26 Million to Support Manufacturing in 10 States

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced the award of new cooperative agreements to 10 nonprofit organizations and universities to manage Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers. NIST’s MEP program helps small- and mid-size manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits and save time and money. In an open competition, the existing MEP centers in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, were selected to receive a total of $26 million in federal funding, an increase of about $10 million or nearly 60 percent. The funding will allow the centers to reach new customers and offer new services.

“We are excited to award new agreements that bring increased funding levels to better meet the needs of manufacturers in these 10 states,” said Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May. “These awards will allow the centers to help more manufacturers reach their goals in growth and innovation, which will have a positive impact on both their communities and the U.S. economy.”

In August 2014, NIST announced a competition for the centers in these 10 states as the first step in a multi-year effort to update MEP’s funding structure to better match resources with needs. In March 2014, the Government Accountability Office recommended that MEP update its distribution of funds, which were allocated according to the award each center received when it was first established. The original awards to these states were made more than 10 years ago, and the MEP investment in terms of dollars per manufacturing establishment was below its national average, making them the most underfunded of MEP’s 60 centers.

Proposals were reviewed by government and independent experts and evaluated against a number of criteria, including demonstration of a thorough understanding of market needs and how proposed service offerings would meet those needs. The reviewers also looked at the proposed business models, performance measurements and metrics, partnership potential, staff qualifications and program management, as well as financial and non-federal cost-share plans.

The new cooperative agreements are for five years, subject to the availability of annual appropriations and successful annual reviews.

NIST Awards $20 Million for Research Center to Help Communities Increase Resilience to Disaster

 NIST Awards $20 Million for Research Center to Help Communities Increase Resilience to Disaster

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that it has awarded a $20 million cooperative agreement to Colorado State University (CSU) to establish the Community Resilience Center of Excellence. Working with NIST researchers and partners from 10 other universities, the center will develop computer tools to help local governments decide how each can best invest resources intended to lessen the impact of extreme weather and other hazards on buildings and infrastructure and to recover rapidly in their aftermath.

The Fort Collins-based center will receive $4 million annually for five years. NIST has the option to renew the award for five additional years, depending on performance and the availability of funds.

“This center complements NIST’s long-standing efforts to improve the performance of the built environment against natural hazards—such as tornadoes, coastal flooding, wildfires and earthquakes—as well as large-scale, human-caused disruptions,” said Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May. “The tools developed by the center will help to further advance the important goal of disaster resilience from ambitious concepts to cost-effective solutions that communities can implement over time.”

Community disaster resilience includes preparing for anticipated hazards, adapting to changing conditions, and withstanding and recovering rapidly from disruptions.

Richard Cavanagh, NIST Acting Associate Director for Laboratory Programs, announced the award at the NIST Disaster Resilience Workshop in Del Mar, Calif. The meeting is the fourth in a series of regional workshops that NIST has convened to gather input from a broad network of stakeholders as the agency drafts its Disaster Resilience Framework.

The framework will provide guidance to communities as they consider pre- and post-event actions and investments to prevent future hazards from inflicting devastating consequences. The framework focuses on buildings and infrastructure systems, such as power, communication, water and transportation. It also will address how to maintain social services and institutions vital to meeting the needs of community residents, as well as economic functions. Work at the new center will support this sustained effort.

Secretary Pritzker Participates in White House Cyber Security Summit to Discuss Importance of Public-Private Collaboration To Combat Growing Threats

Secretary Penny Pritzker joined President Barack Obama last week at the White House Cyber Security Summit at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California. Designed to help shape public and private sector efforts to protect American consumers and companies from growing threats, the Summit offered Secretary Pritzker an opportunity to hear directly from businesses about their concerns, and to highlight the Commerce Department’s work to combat these threats and strengthen our nation’s cybersecurity.

During the Summit, business leaders across many sectors spoke about the growing issues of online security and how to best protect businesses, consumers and critical infrastructure. Secretary Pritzker moderated a panel titled “Improving Cybersecurity Practices at Consumer Oriented Businesses and Organizations,” that brought together CEOs and business executives from the financial services sector, the technology industry, and civil society. Panelists included Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan, MasterCard CEO Ajay Banga, AIG CEO Peter Hancock, Intel Corporation’s President Renee James, and Center for Democracy and Technology CEO Nuala O’ Connor.

During the panel Secretary Pritzker asked each panelist how they can align policies and operations to better protect themselves and their customers, and asked them what ways they thought would be the most efficient for government and industry to partner in developing stronger security standards. Each of the panelists praised the effectiveness of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework in creating a benchmarking process that companies should adhere to. With technology evolving quickly, participants also stressed that there should be more collaboration between businesses and the government to address cybersecurity concerns. 

To further this dialogue, Secretary Pritzker attended a luncheon roundtable hosted by President Obama with the CEOs of Apple, Square, QVC, Visa, First Data, Intel, AIG, Mastercard, Bank of America, Citi, American Express, PG&E, and Palo Alto Networks where they discussed how to move these concerns to the forefront and work together to find solutions to these growing threats.

Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility, and the United States government has legitimate interests in safeguarding the privacy and security of its citizens, as well as ensuring an equitable and level playing field in the digital economy. Secretary Pritzker understands this notion and recognizes that the NIST Framework, which was developed using a multi-stakeholder process involving many of the companies that attended the summit, is a great example of how the private and public sectors can work together to find timely, effective solutions.

Manufacturing Innovation: Gaining the Advantage In a Fiercely Competitive Global Economy

Manufacturing Innovation: Gaining the Advantage In a Fiercely Competitive Global Economy

Guest blog post by Mike Molnar, Director, Advanced Manufacturing National Program Office and NIST Advanced Manufacturing Program Office 

Good ideas—for new products, new processes, or new services—are terrible things to waste.

Yet, time and time again, inventions and discoveries that first sprouted in the U.S. have taken root in the factories and economies of other nations. Think of computer-controlled machine tools, solar cells, industrial robots, consumer-electronics devices, lithium-ion batteries . . .

To many, the list is painfully familiar. And the costs are too: lost jobs, shuttered manufacturing plants, withering supply chains, trade deficits, lost opportunities for spin-off technologies, and more.

But wait, a far better story for U.S. manufacturing is beginning to take shape.  Over the past five years, U.S. manufacturers have added an average of nearly 15,000 new jobs every month, and exports have grown at an average annual rate of 10 percent—or more than three times faster than the average for the preceding decade.

And now, U.S. industry and the federal government are taking deliberate strides to seize and maintain an innovation advantage in the fiercely competitive global economy. One key step is the establishment of the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), accomplished with the inclusion of the bipartisan Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act in the government funding bill passed by Congress last December.

This young partnership, consisting of regional hubs of manufacturing innovation, is devoted to the economy- growing principle that if a technology is invented in the U.S., we should do our very best to make it here.  The NNMI institutes will leverage the individual and collective knowledge, talents, capabilities, and resources of industry, university, and government partners. These collaborations will cultivate promising discoveries and ideas into new technologies and into cost-effective ways to convert these innovations into American-made products sold to customers around the world.

There’s no time to waste. The competition has a head start. China, Korea, Germany, Taiwan, and other nations intent on building innovation-driven economies already have mounted major programs and the supporting infrastructure to sustain long-term collaborations—the kind required to speed research breakthroughs into proofs of concept, then prototypes, and, ultimately, manufacturable products and related services.

The Benefits of IMCP

A US Navy welder works at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard. Photo courtesy US Navy

Guest Blog by Sarah Lee, Principal Economic Development Manager, Puget Sound Regional Council

Washington State brought in $7 million in IMCP-aligned federal agency funds just months after receiving one of the “manufacturing community” designations from the U.S. Department of Commerce. That’s a pretty shining endorsement of the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP) program, right? But the truth is Washington State began reaping the benefits of the program even before we submitted our application. The value of this program is about even more than funding.

Our IMCP application was based on the Washington Aerospace Strategy, already developed by the Governor’s Office of Aerospace and the Washington Aerospace Partnership, so we had a head start. The application process pushed us to dig deeper, to prioritize projects and firm up commitments. We reached out to more stakeholders than we had before, which meant we uncovered great programs and projects and discovered partners we didn’t even know we had.

For example, we hadn’t fully explored what our local Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) could do for us. MEP is a National Institute of Standards and Technology program that helps small and medium manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money. With a median size of 98 employees, our state’s aerospace suppliers definitely qualify for MEP programs. As a result, two of the six catalytic investments outlined in our IMCP plan are projects developed in partnership with our MEP. We have already secured funds for one of those projects, and the MEP relationship continues to open new doors. 

Puerto Rico MBDA Business Center’s MED Week Event Helps Local Entrepreneurs, Businesses Expand Their Opportunities

Isabella Cascarano, U.S. Embassy of Dominican Republic,  Jose Burgos USEAC, of Puerto Rico, James W. Brewster, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic, Gabriela Morales, MBDA Business Development Specialist, Teresa Berrios, Puerto Rico MBDA Business Center's Director, and Alejandra Y. Castillo, MBDA's National Director, ready to meet local entrepreneurs during the Puerto Rico MBDA Business Center's MED Week Conference in San Juan's Condado Plaza Hotel, Jan. 30.

Puerto Rican businesses and entrepreneurs looking for opportunities that drive growth found them during Puerto Rico’s MBDA Business Center’s Minority Enterprise Development Week (MED Week) conference held on January 30th in San Juan’s Condado Plaza Hotel.

The MED Week in Puerto Rico continued the celebration of the Minority Business Development Agency’s (MBDA) 45th Anniversary.  It was also another opportunity to amplify our continued efforts in Puerto Rico to assist minority-owned firms grow in size and scale, and diversify into the industries of tomorrow.

To that end, this past year, we engaged the Puerto Rico MBDA Business Center on several important business endeavors.  One of them was ensuring that minority firms in Puerto Rico were well positioned to export, and that’s precisely why we invited James W. Brewster, Jr., U.S. Ambassador to the Dominican Republic to be the keynote speaker at this year’s MED Week event.  As a critical trade partner, we wanted to talk about the exporting opportunities that exist in the Dominican Republic, but also throughout all the Caribbean nations.

Head Health Challenge III

Dr. Willie E. May, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology and Standards and Acting Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology at the press conference announcing the Head Health Challenge III

Guest blog post by Dr. Willie E. May, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Technology and Standards and Acting Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Today I had the honor of announcing a new public-private partnership, along with the National Football League (NFL), GE, and Under Armour. This unusual group of players is launching an open innovation competition to advance materials that better absorb or dissipate energy. These new materials could improve the performance of protective equipment for athletes, military personnel and first responders.

The announcement was made at a news conference in Phoenix as part of the NFL’s larger annual health and safety presentation for reporters prior to the Super Bowl on Sunday, Feb. 1.

The NFL, GE, Under Armor, and NIST have each contributed $500,000 for a total of $2 million in prize money for the winners of the competition.

During the Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit in May 2014, President Obama announced a number of planned new investments from federal agencies, universities, the NFL, and even private donors all focused on lowering the societal cost of concussions and other brain injuries for athletes of all ages, our military forces, and other members of the public.

NIST is proud to join our partners in helping implement the President’s promise and realize his vision.

U.S. Manufacturing Attracts Foreign Investment

U.S. Manufacturing Attracts Foreign Investment

By Mark Schmit, National Accounts Manager, National Institute of Standards and Technology, Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership

The United States is an attractive destination for foreign investment dollars for a variety of reasons, including a large economy with diverse consumer markets, a skilled labor force (thanks to community colleges with skill-development missions as well as research universities) and a predictable and stable regulatory system. These reasons and more explain why the U.S. has been the world’s largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) since 2006 according to an October 2013 White House report, Foreign Direct Investment in the U.S.

Working for NIST’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), I wasn’t surprised to learn that the manufacturing industry is the largest beneficiary of FDI in the United States, accounting for more than one-third of that investment, according to data from the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis. “Made in America” is, after all, a de facto stamp of approval the world over. We are a manufacturer’s dream!

And investments in manufacturing have powerful multiplier effects on the U.S. economy. Every $1 spent in manufacturing generates $1.35 in additional economic activity. Since 1988, MEP has been committed to strengthening U.S. manufacturing and individual manufacturers, contributing to the growth of well-paying jobs, the development of dynamic manufacturing communities, and the enhancement of American innovation and global competitiveness. 

MEP delivers its own high return on investment to taxpayers. For every dollar of federal investment, MEP clients generate nearly $19 in new sales, which translates into $2.5 billion annually. Last year, MEP centers served more than 30,000 manufacturing clients—a subset of which are foreign-owned. For example, since 2012, MEP centers worked on 900 projects with 322 manufacturers in the U.S. that have ownership ties to other countries. These projects helped those companies create and retain more than $700 million dollars in sales, save about $77 million and create or retain more than 6,000 U.S. jobs.

New Technologies Bring New Opportunities and New Risks: Vetting Mobile Apps

New Technologies Bring New Opportunities and New Risks: Vetting Mobile Apps

By Tom Karygiannis, Computer Security Researcher at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

Understanding what mobile apps do and how they have been implemented is the first step toward understanding their security and privacy impact on an agency’s data and IT infrastructure.

Just as consumers are enjoying productivity gains from the use of smart phones and the myriad of mobile apps available today, so are government employees enjoying the convenience of being able to use apps to check weather, increase office productivity, update social media and more while on the go and outside the confines of their office. These technologies introduce new capabilities and even new ways of conducting business, but they also may introduce new risks that must be carefully assessed by security and privacy professionals.

Today NIST published guidance to help government agencies perform security and privacy assessments on mobile apps. Special Publication 800-163 - Vetting the Security of Mobile Applications, while intended for a government audience, can also benefit private industry app developers and enterprise security professionals.

The document is designed to help organizations understand the process for vetting the security of mobile applications, plan for the implementation of an app vetting process, develop app security requirements, understand the types of app vulnerabilities and the testing methods used to detect them, and determine if an app is acceptable for deployment on the organization's mobile devices.

The guidelines describe vulnerabilities and poor programming practices for both Android and iOS devices. Many of these vulnerabilities can be addressed through other security technologies, but each agency may have a different risk tolerance level depending on its mission. Ultimately, each must establish its own mobile app security and privacy policies. The decision on whether an app is suitable for an organization’s employees begins by understanding the app—for example, what personal information it collects and with whom it is shared, or if the app can access the microphone, track the user’s location or access the user’s contact list. Once this is understood, security and privacy officers can take steps to mitigate these risks, educate their employees and make informed decisions.

The guidance was developed with input from government agencies, software assurance tool vendors, original equipment manufacturers, telecommunication carriers, universities and security practitioners. Not every agency or organization may have the in-house expertise to evaluate the security of each mobile app, which is why collaboration is so important and why guidance such as this is valuable.

Having guidelines on how to test mobile apps helps software assurance analysts avoid ad hoc manual testing, helps industry respond to government requirements, and helps the people responsible for keeping data safe understand the risks of using mobile apps.

When users download apps to their personal devices, they are usually willing to accept some risk, rarely read the app privacy policies and certainly cannot be expected to be software assurance experts. But government employees who are trusted with sensitive data must make sure that data they collect, share and store is protected against unauthorized disclosure. NIST SP-800-163 provides the guidelines that can help an agency make informed decisions to strike a balance between potential productivity gains and any new privacy or security risks that may result from the installation and use of the mobile app. 

Commerce’s NIST Announces STEM Education Opportunities for Teachers and Undergraduates

Commerce’s NIST Announces STEM Education Opportunities for Teachers and Undergraduates

The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently announced they are accepting applications for two grant programs for middle school science teachers and for its annual NIST Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. These programs underscore the importance of educating both our teachers and students in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM). President Obama has set a priority of increasing the number of students and teachers who are proficient in these vital fields. Specifically, he has called on the nation to develop, recruit, and retain 100,000 excellent STEM teachers over the next ten years. 

The NIST Summer Institute for Middle School Science Teachers program is a two-week workshop at NIST's Gaithersburg, Md., campus, combining lectures, tours and hands-on activities that educators can recreate in their own classrooms. The program aims to increase teachers' understanding of the subjects they teach, provide materials and resources to implement what they have learned at NIST in the classroom, enhance their enthusiasm for science, increase teachers' understanding of how scientific research is carried out, and provide them with the opportunity to develop an ongoing network of scientists and engineers at NIST who will be available for consultation even after the NIST Summer Institute program has ended. 

The program is open to public school districts or accredited private educational institutes in the United States and/or its territories that offer general science classes at grade levels 6-8 are eligible to nominate teachers to participate. In both cases, teachers apply through their schools or school districts rather than individually. Applications must be received by March 13, 2015. Full details of the program, rules and the application process are available at under funding opportunity 2015-NIST-SUMMER-INSTITUTE-01, or visit

For teachers who have completed the Summer Institute Program in a previous year, NIST also is announcing grants in the Research Experience for Teachers (RET) Program. The aim is to provide two teachers with an opportunity to further their understanding of how scientific research is performed by participating in research at NIST for six continuous weeks. Selected teachers will work side by side with NIST research scientists and engineers on projects that combine research with direct applications tailored to developing, maintaining, advancing and enabling the measurement system for the nation. The research projects in which the teachers engage will be selected to be highly relevant to the teachers’ interests and the NIST mission. 

Applications for the RET Program must be received by March 18, 2015. Teachers must have completed the NIST Summer Institute program prior to applying to the RET Program. Full details of the program, rules and the application process are available at under funding opportunity 2015-NIST-RET-01, or visit

President Obama Announces $400M for Manufacturing Hubs and Skills Training

This week President Obama made some major announcements that will help create new, 21st century job opportunities for American workers in high-demand sectors.

Specifically, President Obama launched two new competitions for manufacturing and innovation institutes, one in smart manufacturing at the Department of Energy, and one in flexible hybrid electronics at the Department of Defense. Each institute will receive $70 million or more of federal investment to be matched by at least $70 million from the private sector, for a total of more than $290 million in new investment.

This announcement fulfills the President’s 2014 State of the Union pledge to launch four new institutes this year, for a total of eight institutes launched so far, and puts the Administration past the halfway mark on the President’s original goal of creating 15 manufacturing innovation institutes supported through executive action. These institutes are critical to ensuring the United States maintains its global leadership in innovation.

The Department of Commerce is committed to the President’s vision of creating a full national network of up to 45 manufacturing institutes over the next 10 years, which will require Congress to pass legislation. Secretary Pritzker has advocated for the passage of pending bipartisan legislation that would establish NNMI. Specifically, the Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation (RAMI) Act would create a network of up to 15 regional institutes nationwide. The legislation will also encourage partnership and regional collaboration between communities, the private sector, academia, NGOs, and needed supply chains in order to bring ideas from the lab to market.

NNMI would play a critical role in boosting America’s industrial competitiveness by supporting innovative technology development. Support for this network of industry-driven commercialization hubs will help strengthen U.S. innovation and competitiveness, two key priorities of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda.”  

Defining Operational Excellence One Person at a Time

Defining Operational Excellence One Person at a Time

When you’re striving for excellence, it helps to have an example. It’s much easier to work hard on something when you’ve seen others succeed despite obstacles. A highlight each year at the National Institute of Standards and Technology is the annual awards ceremony. This is where NIST celebrates operational excellence through the many achievements of its scientific, engineering, administrative and other support staff members. 

This year the agency was honored to have U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker provide remarks at the event.

As NIST employees left the ceremony Wednesday, they had almost 200 examples of operational excellence to pick from for role models—people who had done amazing things. Since NIST is a research agency, many were technical stars who had:

NIST Awards $2.5 Million in Grants to MEP Centers for Pilot Business-to-Business Networks

 NIST Awards $2.5 Million in Grants to MEP Centers for Pilot Business-to-Business Networks

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded $2.5 million in grants to 10 Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers to pilot online regional business-to-business network projects. The networks will help match buyers and sellers of technologies or products and services in support of small and midsize manufacturers.

“The Commerce Department is committed to keeping our small and medium-size manufacturers globally competitive,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. “The Manufacturing Extension Partnership grants announced today are an example of our efforts to invest in cutting-edge technologies through public-private collaboration.”

Each awardee will receive a total of $250,000 for a two-year project. The pilots are designed to be scalable and interoperable to help determine if they might be expanded into a national network or a series of regional ones. The networks are expected to include technologies available at federal laboratories and universities and, therefore, enhance the framework for collaboration between the private and public sectors through the nationwide network of MEP centers.

“One of NIST-MEP’s goals is to improve the productivity of our domestic supply chains,” said Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May. “These projects will demonstrate a variety of innovative approaches to doing that by connecting small firms with larger corporations.”

The awardees and their projects are:

Oregon MEP (Portland, Ore.)
The Northwest Connectory Business-to-Business Network (NWB2B) will bring together Oregon MEP, Impact Washington (State of Washington MEP), the Pacific Northwest Defense Coalitionand partnering trade associations, manufacturers, suppliers and other public-sector organizations in a regional consortium that will develop and maintain the pilot network. The business-to-business exchange tool they create will help manufacturers scout for local customers and suppliers, solicit bids, promote and seek emerging technologies and other related activities. The NWB2B project will build upon the existing NW Connectory, an online buyer-supplier network for Pacific Northwest manufacturing and technology companies that already contains vetted, full-text searchable profiles of more than 4,700 companies located in the Northwest.

Catalyst Connection (Pittsburgh, Pa.)
The Pennsylvania Network for Open Innovation will use an open innovation business model that instills a culture of innovation in small and medium-size manufacturing enterprises, increases their speed to market with more promising innovations, and thus, accelerates their business growth. It will leverage existing strong relationships and resources during the initiative, and the model will provide a basis for nationwide replication.

Commerce Secretary Pritzker Announces Four U.S. Organizations Honored With 2014 Baldrige National Quality Award

 Commerce Secretary Pritzker Announces Four U.S. Organizations Honored With 2014 Baldrige National Quality Award

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that four U.S. organizations are recipients of the 2014 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership. 

The 2014 Baldrige Award recipients—listed with their category—are:

An independent board of examiners recommended this year’s Baldrige Award recipients from a field of 22 applicants after evaluating them in seven areas defined by the Baldrige Criteria: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results. An organization may compete for the award in one of six categories: manufacturing, service, small business, health care, education and nonprofit (including government agencies).

Thousands of organizations worldwide use the Baldrige Criteria to guide their operations, improve performance and get sustainable results.

The criteria, which are regularly updated, help organizations reach their goals, improve results and become more competitive by aligning plans, processes, people, decisions and actions vital to achieving ongoing success. More than 30 independent Baldrige-based award programs covering nearly all 50 states. Internationally, the program has served as a model for nearly 100 excellence programs.

From 2010-2013, Baldrige Award applicants represented nearly 500,000 jobs, more than $77 billion in revenue and budgets, and more than 400 million customers served.

A December 2011 study measuring the Baldrige Program's value to U.S. organizations conservatively estimated a benefit-to-cost ratio of 820 to 1, while a 2011 report by Truven Health Analytics found that health care organizations that have won or been in the final review process for a Baldrige Award outperform other hospitals in all but one metric the company uses to determine its "100 Top Hospitals" in the nation (and were six times more likely to be among the top 100). A study of the six organizations to win two Baldrige Awards found that for the years between awards their median growth in revenue was 93 percent and the median growth in jobs was 66 percent. The job growth was significantly higher than the average growth in jobs of 2.5 percent for matched industries and time periods.

NIST Celebrates World Internet Day: NIST Identifies Programs that help Private Industry and Academia Work toward better Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity (keyboard with a key silhouette on it)

On Oct. 29, 1969, the first electronic message was sent on ARPANET, the precursor to today’s Internet. Despite crashing the system, that message is the reason today is designated International Internet Day. To mark the day, and the approaching end of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, Charles Romine, Director of the Information Technology Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, has summarized NIST’s work on improving the security of the Internet and IT systems.

NIST has been conducting cybersecurity research for as long as there has been a cyberspace to secure.  NIST issues the Federal Information Processing Standards that help to protect the federal government’s information systems and help agencies comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act. These standards and guidelines are often used by the private sector and state and local governments, and therefore have a broad impact on IT systems across the country and around the world.

Through the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), which was established in collaboration with the State of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md., we have been working directly with the private sector since 2012. The center’s goal is to accelerate the adoption of secure technologies through public-private collaborations that identify and address today’s most pressing cybersecurity challenges. We recently awarded a contract to establish the first Federally Funded Research and Development Center devoted to cybersecurity to support the NCCoE, providing needed flexibility in staffing and bringing in partners from industry and academia.

Two Years after Sandy Landfall, Commerce Continues to Help Affected Communities

Satellite view of Superstorm Sandy, 10-29-12

In the two years since Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, the Department of Commerce, through its National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Economic Development Administration (EDA), Census Bureau, National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has been working to help communities recover and enhance resiliency in the face of future storms.

Hours after the storm hit, NOAA’s National Geodetic Survey began aerial survey missions to assess storm damage. In total, 1649 miles of coastline were documented. The photos taken on these missions provided emergency and coastal managers with the information they needed to develop recovery strategies, facilitate search-and-rescue efforts, identify hazards to navigation and HAZMAT spills, locate errant vessels, and provide documentation home and business owners needed to assess damages to property. To date, FEMA has used the NOAA-supplied photos, as well as those from the Civil Air Patrol, to determine damage to 35,000 homes.

Following a major disaster like Sandy, one of EDA’s key roles is to lead the Economic Recovery Support Function on behalf of the Department of Commerce. After the hurricane struck, EDA joined with several other federal agencies to deploy staff to help hard-hit communities throughout the region. EDA team members worked with officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, economic development partners, and the affected communities to identify long-term strategies that aim to help the communities restore their local economies, expedite recovery, and minimize economic losses.

Oct. 3, Manufacturing is in the Neighborhood

Oct. 3, Manufacturing is in the Neighborhood

Guest blog post by Mark Schmit and Zara Brunner, National Institute of Standards and Technology

The first Friday of the month might not normally stand out, but the first Friday of October is a very big deal to us at the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) program. Every day we help small and mid-size manufactures innovate and grow, but tomorrow we help them celebrate Manufacturing Day (MFG Day).

On MFG Day, the public gets the chance to see what modern manufacturing is all about and we’re hoping you’ll join us at one of more than 1,500 open houses, factory tours, job fairs and other events across the country. There’s a good chance there’s something exciting happening not far from your own neighborhood.

Manufacturing plays an important role in our economy at both the national and local levels. It’s responsible for 12.5 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and every day, more than 16 million of our neighbors go to work in manufacturing. Many of them have been hard at work for months planning MFG Day activities with their companies, local MEP centers and communities.

MFG Day reflects the diversity of manufacturing. Manufacturers are hosting events in fields as ranging from consumables, textiles, cosmetics, optics, electronics, aerospace, energy, robotics, to nanotechnology and more. Visitors will learn how they make everything from ukuleles, jeans and jewelry, motorcycles, and airplanes, to one million cookies an hour.

Three Takeaways from National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) Day

Secretary Pritzker enjoying NNMI Day with Senator Sherrod Brown and Congressmen Joe Kennedy and Tom Reed

Last Thursday, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker participated in the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) Day on Capitol Hill event. She was joined by Sen. Sherrod Brown, Reps. Joe Kennedy and Tom Reed, several business leaders and the directors of the newly established pilot Institutes of Manufacturing Innovation. NNMI Day was an opportunity to showcase the successes of the four pilot institutes in North Carolina, Youngstown, Chicago, and Detroit in the areas of additive, digital, electronics, and modern metals manufacturing. In early 2014, President Obama announced a new competition for the next manufacturing innovation institute, focused on composites materials and structures, which is the first of four additional institutes the President committed to launching this year in his State of the Union address, for a total of eight pilot institutes nationwide.

During the event Thursday, Hill staffers and other attendees had the opportunity to hear from the pilot institute directors and several private sector partners about how a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation would help improve U.S. competitiveness, increase domestic production and accelerate development of an advanced manufacturing workforce.

The following are three main takeaways from the speakers and panelists:

Commerce’s NIST Megacities Project on Improving Accuracy of Greenhouse Gas Measurements Named ‘Project to Watch’ by United Nations

Sensors located around Los Angeles provide measurements of greenhouse gas mixing ratios of carbon dioxide, methane and carbon monoxide. Aircraft, mobile laboratories and satellites contribute remote-sensing measurement.

A greenhouse gas field measeurment research program developed by scientists at the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and several collaborating institutions has been named a “Project to Watch” by a United Nations organization that focuses on harnessing big data for worldwide benefit. 

The Megacities Carbon Project was launched in 2012 to solve a pressing scientific problem: how to measure the greenhouse gases that cities produce. Urban areas generate at least 70 percent of the world’s fossil fuel carbon dioxide emissions, but gauging a city’s carbon footprint remains difficult due to the lack of effective measurement methods. The project aims to change that by developing and testing techniques for both monitoring urban areas’ emissions and determining their sources.

The large sensor networks that each city in the Megacities Carbon Project employs generate huge amounts of data that could reveal the details of the cities’ emissions patterns. It is the project’s use of this so-called “big data” that drew accolades in the Big Data Climate Challenge, hosted by U.N. Global Pulse and the U.N. Secretary General’s Climate Change Support Team. The ability to analyze big data—vast quantities of electronic information generated by many sources—has the potential to provide new insights into the workings of society, and Global Pulse is working to promote awareness of the opportunities big data presents across the U.N. system.

Launched in May 2014, the competition attracted submissions from organizations in 40 countries. The applicants ran from academia to private companies to government initiatives like the Megacities Carbon Project. Two projects earned top honors, while a total of seven were dubbed Projects to Watch.

NIST Team Honored for Work on Military Smartphone Apps, Security

NIST Team Honored for Work on Military Smartphone Apps, Security

The U.S. Department of Commerce's today announced researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have earned a 2014 GCN Award for Information Technology Excellence* for speeding development and delivery of secure, battlefield-handy—and sometimes lifesaving—smartphone apps to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The four-year NIST effort included distilling soldiers’ needs into app requirements, evaluating app performance, and designing a unique smartphone security architecture. It is among 10 GCN-recognized public-sector projects “showing the power of mobile technology to transform the government IT enterprise.”

The NIST team of engineers and computer scientists was funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), under its Transformative Apps (TransApps) program. Working with soldiers, contract app developers and others, NIST contributed two brands of expertise—cybersecurity and software performance evaluation. And it organized the collaboration to accomplish DARPA’s objective, "Develop a diverse array of militarily relevant software applications using an innovative new development and acquisition process."

Within about a year after its 2010 start, DARPA-funded collaborators delivered a batch of commercially available smartphones and an initial set of secure, soldier-defined apps to an Army brigade in Afghanistan. By 2013, about 4,000 mobile devices (smartphones and tablets) were deployed in Afghanistan, and an online apps store was up and running for soldiers. The site now features about 60 apps—from map displays to a calculator for estimating blast distances to language games—and it offers regular upgrades.

One of the most popular apps is HeatMap, which color codes routes to indicate frequency of troop use, helping soldiers to vary their travel patterns.

NIST to Establish Research Center of Excellence for Forensic Science

A NIST Standard Reference Material 2460 "standard bullet" mounted on a blue stub. Each one has six signature markings typically found in a fired bullet. SRM 2460 is intended primarily for use as a check for crime laboratories to help verify that the computerized optical equipment for bullet imaging and profiling is operating properly.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has announced a competition to create a Forensic Science Center of Excellence dedicated to collaborative, interdisciplinary research. The center’s mission will be to establish a firm scientific foundation for the analytic techniques used in two important branches of forensic science, pattern evidence and digital evidence.

The seminal 2009 National Research Council report Strengthening Forensic Science in the United States – A Path Forward called for a thorough examination of the techniques used in forensic analysis to better understand their strengths and limitations. It also called for establishing scientifically rigorous standards and practices, including the development of tools and methods to better standardize analytical protocols.

Forensic investigations involve the collection of evidence, measurements of the evidence, analysis of those measurements and the determination of conclusions of known validity. One important goal is to develop so-called “probabilistic methods”—techniques that produce a quantifiable assessment of the likelihood that a given method produced a correct result. Forensic DNA analyses, for example, typically report the probability that an apparent match between two separate samples could come about by chance.

The new NIST-sponsored center will focus on developing probabilistic methods for dealing with pattern evidence and digital evidence. Pattern evidence encompasses much of what is typically thought of as forensic evidence: fingerprints, shoeprints, tire marks, tool marks, shell casing or bullet striations—anything that relies on comparing two sets of markings. Digital evidence includes such things as the data on cellphones or personal computers.

The planned center will work on scientific advances in probabilistic methods and information technology tools, as well as the necessary infrastructure to educate and train forensic science practitioners in using the new methods. The center will help expand NIST’s expertise in the field and promote interactions between NIST, academia and various stakeholders in the forensic science community.

This Center of Excellence is one of several NIST plans to establish to provide an interdisciplinary environment where researchers from NIST, academia, industry and government can collaborate on emerging areas of basic and applied research and innovations in measurement science. On Dec. 3, 2013, NIST announced the establishment of a Center for Hierarchical Materials Design (CHiMaD) under a consortium led by Northwestern University that will pursue advanced materials research. A second NIST Center of Excellence to be focused on community disaster resilience is the subject of a current competition.

MEP Launches Competition to Fund Manufacturing Centers in 10 States

Making an Impact on U.S. Manufacturing

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today opened a competition to award new cooperative funding agreements for its Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) centers in 10 states. The competition is the first in a multiyear effort to update the funding structure to better match needs with resources in MEP's network of 60 centers. The MEP centers help small and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers create and retain jobs, increase profits, and save time and money.

The current competition will fund awards for centers in Colorado, Connecticut, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The awards will provide half of each center's first-year operating funds, which the centers must match with funding from nonfederal sources. MEP anticipates awarding a total of nearly $26 million for the 10 centers.

Established in 1988, MEP is a public-private partnership that delivers a high return on investment to taxpayers. For every one dollar of federal investment, MEP helps businesses generate nearly $19 in new sales growth and $21 in new client investment. This translates into $2.2 billion in new sales annually. For every $1,978 of federal investment, MEP helps create or retain one manufacturing job.

Each MEP center works directly with area manufacturers to provide expertise and services tailored to their most critical needs, ranging from process improvement and workforce development to business practices and technology transfer. Through local and national resources, MEP centers have helped thousands of manufacturers reinvent themselves, increase profits, create jobs and establish a foundation for long-term business growth and productivity.

Commerce Department Achieves FY 2013 Small Business Federal Contracting Goal

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) today announced that the federal government met its small business federal contracting goal for the first time in eight years – awarding 23 percent, or $83.1 billion, of all federal small business eligible contracting dollars to small businesses in fiscal year 2013.

The Commerce Department played a significant role in that achievement – exceeding its goal of awarding 39 percent of funds to small businesses and receiving an overall “A” rating from SBA for the fourth straight year in a row. In FY13, the Department also surpassed overall federal government and statutory goals for prime contractors who are small disadvantaged businesses, women-owned small businesses, and service disabled veteran-owned small businesses.

U.S. small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the Commerce Department works to both support those businesses and ensure they know about our many services that can help them grow.

For example, just a couple months ago, Commerce awarded five small businesses with a contract that is expected to save up to $25 million in taxpayer dollars over the next five years. In addition to saving money, contracts that make our work more efficient and effective enable Commerce to focus more resources on our primary mission, including making investments that help businesses of all sizes create jobs and help grow our economy.

To that end, the Department offers a wide array of services to our small businesses and entrepreneurs. For example, Commerce’s National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST) has a Manufacturing Extension Partnership program with centers based around the country who work with small and medium-sized manufacturers to transform their business plans, access new technology and increase exports. As part of the department’s ‘Open for Business Agenda,’ we are working to make more of our data accessible to more people, which supports start-ups and powers small companies.

NIST Announces New Competition for Advanced Manufacturing Planning Awards

NIST Announces New Competition for Advanced Manufacturing Planning Awards

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today announced a new competition for planning awards to support industry-driven consortia in developing research plans and charting collaborative actions to solve high-priority technology challenges and accelerate the growth of advanced manufacturing in the United States.

NIST's AdvancedManufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) Program anticipates awarding a total of $5.6 million in two-year grants during the young program's second competition. Awards will range between about $250,000 and $500,000, subject to the availability of funds. Applications are due Oct. 31, 2014, and selections will be announced during the first half of 2015.

Teaming and partnerships that include broad participation by companies of all sizes, universities and government agencies, driven by industry, are encouraged. Nonprofit U.S. organizations as well as accredited institutions of higher education and state, tribal and local governments are eligible to apply for the program.

AMTech's goal is to spur consortia-planned and led research on long-term, precompetitive technology needs of U.S. manufacturing industries. The program aims to help eliminate barriers to advanced manufacturing capabilities and to promote domestic development of an underpinning technology infrastructure, including high-performing supply chains.

AMTech is designed to address a serious weakness in the nation's innovation ecosystem, an issue identified by the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) and the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, among other bodies.

Commerce's NIST Leads Nationwide Effort to Provide Tools and Guidance to Help U.S. Communities Become More Disaster Resilient

Commerce's NIST Leads Nationwide Effort to Provide Tools and Guidance to Help U.S. Communities Become More Disaster Resilient

Guest Blog Post by Stephen Cauffman, NIST Lead for Disaster Resilience

When disaster strikes . . .

No other phrase may be more ominous, conjuring images of powerlessness, destruction, and an aftermath of painful, costly recovery. Think Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy; the Oakland firestorm of 1991; the Joplin, Mo., and Moore, Okla., tornadoes; or last year’s floods in Colorado and much of the Midwest.

Although communities cannot dodge hazardous events like these, they can take concrete actions in advance to minimize the toll that natural—and even human-caused—hazards inflict and to speed up the pace of recovery. Communities can make themselves more resilient to disasters.

Providing tools and guidance to help U.S. communities become more disaster resilient is the goal of a collaborative, nationwide effort led by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Carried out under the President's Climate Action Plan, this recently launched national initiative will yield a comprehensive, disaster resilience framework that will help communities develop plans to protect people and property before disaster strikes and to recover more rapidly and efficiently.

Focusing on buildings and infrastructure systems, such as communications and electric power, the framework will identify performance goals; document existing standards, codes, and practices that address resilience; and identify gaps that must be addressed to bolster community resilience.

As we prepare the draft framework, NIST is soliciting input from a broad array of stakeholders, including planners, designers, facility owners and users, government officials, utility owners, regulators, standards and model code developers, insurers, trade and professional associations, disaster response and recovery groups, and researchers.

Commerce's NIST to Host Next Meeting on Developing a Collaborative Nationwide Disaster Resilience Framework

Disaster Resilience Workshop

As part of President Obama's Climate Action Plan, Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is leading a collaborative nationwide effort to develop a framework that U.S. communities can use to prepare for, resist, respond to, and recover from hazard events more rapidly and at a lower cost. 

On July 30, NIST will host the second in a series of regional workshops devoted to developing a community-centric "disaster resilience framework" to minimize the impacts of hazards and quickly restore vital functions and services in the aftermath of disasters.  

The workshop will begin with a session on resilience lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy, the 2012 "superstorm" that affected many states along the Atlantic seaboard. Sandy killed more than 150 people, caused an estimated $65 billion in damage, and left millions without power for extended periods. The devastation also underscored the complex web of interdependencies and vulnerabilities of buildings and infrastructure systems.

In breakout sessions, participants will help to develop sections of the framework, which will focus on communities, buildings, and infrastructure lifelines. Topics will include buildings and facilities, transportation systems, energy systems, communication and information systems, water and wastewater systems, and social vulnerabilities.

NIST seeks input from a broad array of stakeholders, including planners, designers, facility owners and users, government officials, utility owners, regulators, standards and model code developers, insurers, trade and professional associations, disaster response and recovery groups, and researchers.

NIST’s Net-Zero House Provides All Energy Needs for Family, Saving Thousands in Utilities

Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) in the snow

The net-zero energy test house at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in suburban Washington, D.C., not only absorbed winter's best shot, it came out on top, reaching its one-year anniversary on July 1 with enough surplus energy to power an electric car for about 1,440 miles.*

The 2,700 square-foot (252-square-meter) test house is built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards—the highest standard for sustainable structures. Its features include energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies, such as solar water heating and a solar photovoltaic system.

Despite 38 days when the test house's solar panels were covered with snow or ice, the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility's (NZERTF) sun-powered generation system produced 13,577 kilowatt hours of energy. That's 491 kilowatt hours more than used by the house and its occupants, a computer-simulated family of two working parents and two children, ages 8 and 14.

In terms of energy consumed per unit of living space—a measure of energy-use intensity—the NIST test house is calculated to be almost 70 percent more efficient than the average house in Washington, D.C., and nearby states.

In relation to cost, the NZERTF's virtual residents saved $4,373 in electricity payments, or $364 a month. However, front-end costs for solar panels, added insulation, triple-paned windows, and other technologies and upgrades aimed at achieving net-zero energy performance are sizable, according to an analysis by NIST economist Joshua Kneifel.

Creating More Options to Improve Privacy and Security Online

Creating more options to improve privacy and security online

Guest blog post by Jeremy Grant, Senior Executive Advisor for Identity Management, National Institute of Standards and Technology

It’s well established that diversity of thought and backgrounds strengthens organizations of all kinds and that diversity is a key component of a strong economy. At the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC) National Program Office (NPO), we believe diversity is also the key to establishing a vibrant marketplace of options to replace outdated passwords with reliably secure, privacy-enhancing and convenient ways to prove who you are online.

The Identity Ecosystem Steering Group (IDESG) was launched under the auspices of the NPO but is a privately led group laying the groundwork for that marketplace through policy and standards development. The group held its ninth plenary meeting this week at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. The meeting brought together a broad coalition of individuals and representatives from industry, privacy and civil liberties advocacy groups, consumer advocates, government agencies, and more, focused on giving people choices when they conduct secure transactions online.

Instead of giving up lots of personal information every time you go online, you could choose who gets what information about you by allowing a trusted third-party to verify your online identity and then assert specific attributes on your behalf—only as needed for a transaction.

At the IDESG meeting, we heard from pilot participant, which is collaborating with vendors such as Under Armour to provide discounts to military families and first responders. is in the process of receiving higher level certification for its solution so that users can access government services and medical records.

The Internet’s Next Big Idea: Connecting People, Information, and Things

Internet of Things (graphic credit: ©XtravaganT -

By Chris Greer, Senior Executive for Cyber-Physical Systems at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

In the early 1990s, a Web page consisted of crude, rainbow-colored, text-filled boxes that “hyperlinked” to more text. Today, your Internet-enabled smartphone not only gives you access to libraries’ worth of information, but also helps you navigate the physical world.

Cyber-physical systems, also called the Internet of Things, are the next big advance for our use of the web. They allow complex systems of feedback and control that can help a robot coordinate with a dog or human in a search-and-rescue operation or help health care providers evaluate the recovery of patients after they leave the hospital.

The Internet of Things is still in its infancy. To mature, it will require public-private collaboration across disciplines and economic sectors. Today, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., an event conceived by Presidential Innovation Fellows Sokwoo Rhee and Geoff Mulligan from the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) is demonstrating what’s needed to make the Internet of Things a reality. At the event, 24 teams representing more than 100 organizations from academia, industry and government who responded to the fellows’ SmartAmerica Challenge are demonstrating how the Internet of Things can improve health care, emergency response, transportation and more while fostering jobs and economic growth. Some of the teams also showcased their ideas at the White House yesterday.

In addition to smart emergency responses, we could soon have smart manufacturing that brings production right to your neighborhood, getting you the parts you need faster while supporting local jobs. Affordable technologies could create smart homes that include automated safety alerts and a community awareness network to protect the elderly and other vulnerable populations. And smart vehicles could not only communicate with one another and traffic signals, but also with pedestrians to prevent collisions. These are just a few of the projects led by the SmartAmerica Challenge teams.

As a next step, we hope these teams and others across the United States and around the world will join NIST and collaborating organizations for the SmartAmerica/Global Cities Challenge. We’ll ask them to work together in creating the building blocks of smart cities. Our goal is to cut in half the time and money it will take for cities to deploy advanced engineering and information technologies to better manage their resources and improve everything from health and safety to education and transportation. Progress will require standard ways for all of these devices and systems to communicate, and that will take coordination among the people building the information technology, physical devices and communities.

Several SmartAmerica teams also announced today that they plan to continue their collaborations, expand deployments of their new technologies, and introduce new products. One team is even supporting a local version of the SmartAmerica challenge in Austin, Texas. This demonstrates the amazing power of a nation that is truly “open for business.”

It’s not a coincidence that these are public-private partnerships. The components of our everyday lives are becoming ever more interconnected. The smoke detector you buy from a private company may soon connect directly to your municipal fire department, just as heart-rate monitors now can communicate with your doctor’s office.

Such collaboration accelerates innovation and it means the Internet of Things will not need decades to mature as the Web did. It’s already bringing rapid changes to the way we live and work. And best of all, it’s bringing economic opportunity with it.

The Apprentice: A Tale of Life, Love and Much Else

Guest blog post by Stacey Wagner, crossposted from the NIST Manufacturing Innovation Blog.

When I was growing up, I was fascinated by apprenticeships – really!  I was an avid reader of history, ancient and otherwise, and apprenticeships always meant adventure.  One could apprentice with Greek philosophers, British knights, Teutonic alchemists, and farmers, tradespeople and barbers (who were also doctors).  You could apprentice in a household or a business.  And once your apprenticeship was complete, you commanded respect as a trained and educated person with skills to play a useful role in society.

Apprenticeships have always been a stepping stone for both a good job and a great story.  Those tantalizing tales I read as a kid centered, mostly, on a young person’s indenture to some mysterious craftsperson and it always lead to mischief: wild chases, first-time love affairs, and messy screw-ups.  But they also led to the apprentice learning about life, love and labor – specifically the skills to be someone you weren’t before, but better.

The master-storyteller, Walt Disney, even got into the act when he produced the iconic movie, “Fantasia,” with a scene called The Sorcerers’ Apprentice, which to this day still spooks me.  There are also plenty of modern-day books about apprentices: “The Apprentice” (Lewis Libby), “The Apprentice” (Tess Gerritsen), “The Apprentice Series” (James Bryan Smith) and “Rangers Apprentice” (John Flanagan), to name just a few, and a TV show by that name as well (I know I don’t need to tell you who stars in that!). In the modern vernacular, the term sorcerers’ apprentice, was immortalized by “The Sorcerers’ Apprentice,” a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe written in 1797.

Countdown to Net Zero: NIST Test House Pursues Energy Surplus in Final Month

Countdown to Net Zero: NIST Test House Pursues Energy Surplus in Final Month

Heading into the final stretch of a year-long trial run, the experimental net-zero energy house at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., must overcome an energy deficit of 154 kilowatt hours—equivalent to about $20—during the month of June.

The facility was designed to produce at least as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year. At the end of May, the research residence still owed on its total energy bill, which averaged less than $2.00 a month over the first 11 months. In contrast, the monthly expenditure for electric power alone averaged $129 for Maryland households in 2012, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

So, the "countdown to net zero" is on. For those interested in keeping score, NIST is posting a running daily tally of net energy use through June 30. Each day's results will be reported on NIST's NZERTF web page, under Recent Research Results, and highlighted on NIST's Twitter account (use the hashtag #Countdown2NetZero). 

Better Materials for Safer Sports: Time to Use Our Heads

A simple example of making a material fail "better": By fine-tuning the thickness of the connecting spokes in a sheet of acrylic, we can change how it transmits force when fractured. With thick spokes (left), fractures propagate in a straight line and concentrate the impact. Thin spokes (right) divert the fracture across the sheet, diffusing the impact.

Guest blog post by Dr. Laurie E. Locascio, Director of the Material Measurement Laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology

On Thursday, the White House Healthy Kids and Safe Sports Concussion Summit, President Obama highlighted both the need for greater national awareness of the risks our young athletes face from traumatic brain injuries and the need for increased research on how to combat these potentially life-altering injuries.

In 2009, for example, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, emergency departments in the United States treated more than 250,000 sports- and recreation-related traumatic brain injuries, including concussions, among children and adolescents—a figure that’s risen by 60 percent in the past decade.

At the Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), we recognize that the use of advanced materials in protective equipment, such as helmets, can play a critical role in this effort. For that reason, NIST is investing $1 million per year for 5 years on tools to accelerate the development of advanced materials that can provide better protection against concussions for the athlete.

Sports equipment often leads the way in adopting new advances in materials—think of carbon nanotubes in high-end tennis rackets and golf clubs. But modern materials science offers the possibility of specifically designing new materials, from the ground up, that are tailored to the special needs of helmets and other protective equipment.

As an example, “shear-thickening suspensions”—specially designed particles suspended in a liquid polymer—can be a high-tech shock absorber that instantly adapts to offer greater resistance to stronger shocks. You’ve encountered a sheer-thickening suspension if you’ve ever tried to stir cornstarch in water quickly.

Other possibilities include micro- or nanostructured materials that either absorb shocks by crumpling in specific ways, rather like some automobile components are designed to protect passengers in a crash, or that selectively deform to channel the energy of shocks away from highly sensitive areas, like the skull. Self-healing polymers and shape-memory metal alloys can both provide reinforcement and extend the longevity of the equipment.

ExporTech™ Helps Manufacturers Develop Strategies for International Markets

ExporTech™ Helps Manufacturers Develop Strategies for International Markets

With more than 80 percent of the world market residing outside the U.S., there is clearly great opportunity for U.S. companies to find new customers and grow. But it is much easier to enter or expand into new global markets with partners who have resources and can help guide the way.

As part of the Commerce Department’s efforts to help U.S. companies increase exports, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) and the International Trade Administration’s (ITA) U.S. Export Assistance Centers offer ExporTech™. Since 2007, ExporTech™ has assisted hundreds of businesses across the country to increase export sales, establish new partnerships, expand production facilities and hire more employees.

The program brings in partners such as District Export Councils, state trade offices and other federal, state, and local agencies to efficiently connect companies with a wide range of experts that help them navigate the export sales process.

Manufacturers can sign up for ExporTech™ through their local MEP center and, over the course of nine weeks, each company is guided through the development of an export strategy, both through group workshops and individual coaching. At the end of the program, the business has an export plan that is vetted by a panel of experts. Many participants generate export sales within six months of completing the program.

ExporTech™ builds connections to a team of export organizations that help participating companies find the right markets and implement their export growth plans. It amplifies the impact of other export programs, helping companies get the most out of tradeshows, ITA’s Gold Key services, country visits and trade missions.

To date, there have been more than 90 ExporTech™ programs in 28 states with more than 500 participating companies. Those companies have hired an average of five new employees, seen nearly $800,000 in average export sales increases, saved an average of $50,000 in costs and investments, and seen new and retained sales of $400 million.

ExporTech™ is just one example of the Commerce Department’s commitment to helping more American businesses export to more markets. Just yesterday, Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker announced NEI/NEXT – a data-based, customer service-driven initiative that will build on administration-wide achievements under the National Export Initiative (NEI) to help all businesses reach the 95 percent of consumers who live outside the United States. To learn more about NEI/NEXT’s strategies to help U.S. businesses capitalize on new markets, visit

NIST Awards $9 Million in Grants for Advanced Manufacturing Technology Planning

Awarded to 19 industry-driven partnerships, NIST advanced manufacturing technology planning grants will support technology roadmapping efforts across a wide spectrum of industries and processes

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today awarded 19 advanced manufacturing technology planning grants totaling $9 million to new or existing industry-driven consortia to develop technology roadmaps aimed at strengthening U.S. manufacturing and innovation performance across industries.

The grants, awarded to universities and other nonprofit organizations, are the first conferred by NIST's new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech)Program. They range from $378,900 to $540,000 for a period of up to two years.

The funded projects will identify and rank research and development goals, define workforce needs, and initiate other steps toward speeding technology development and transfer and improving manufacturing capabilities. Project collaborations span a wide variety of industries and technologies, from flexible-electronics manufacturing to biomanufacturing and from pulp-and-paper manufacturing to forming and joining technologies.

"The AMTech awards provide incentives for partnerships to tackle the important jobs of planning, setting strategic manufacturing technology goals, and developing a shared vision of how to work collaboratively to get there," said NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. "These are essential first steps toward building the research infrastructure necessary to sustain a healthy, innovative advanced manufacturing sector—one that invents, demonstrates, prototypes and produces here, in the U.S."

Technology roadmapping is a key component of all funded projects. Each consortium will engage manufacturers of all sizes, university researchers, trade associations and other stakeholders in an interactive process to identify and prioritize research projects that reduce shared barriers to the growth of advanced manufacturing in the United States.<--break->

Commerce Department Collaborates with Regional Partners to Make the U.S. a Magnet for Advanced Manufacturing and Good Paying Jobs

This week, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker met with the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) Steering Committee 2.0 and the Manufacturing Council to discuss issues affecting the health of America’s manufacturing industry, including progress on the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI).

In his 2013 and 2014 State of the Union Addresses, President Obama called for the creation of a nationwide network devoted to innovating and scaling-up advanced manufacturing technologies and processes to create good paying jobs and spur economic growth. These efforts, known as the National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI) consist of regional hubs, bringing together companies, universities, community colleges, and government to accelerate the development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for making new, globally competitive products. The President has asked Congress to authorize a one-time $1 billion investment—to be matched by private and other non-federal funds—to create an initial network of up to 15 hubs. Over the span of 10 years, he has proposed building out NNMI to encompass 45 such hubs.

Significant progress has already been made to accelerate the development of the NNMI. In January, President Obama announced the selection of the Next Generation Power Electronics Manufacturing Innovation Institute, headquartered at North Carolina State University, to lead a manufacturing innovation institute for next generation power electronics. It is focused on enabling energy-efficient, high-power electronic chips and devices by making wide bandgap semiconductor technologies cost-competitive with current silicon-based power electronics. President Obama also announced two additional institutes in February – the Digital Manufacturing and Design Innovation Institute, headquartered in Chicago, and the Lightweight and Modern Metals Manufacturing Innovation Institute, headquartered in the Detroit area. These announcements build on the NNMI pilot – the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute, now known as America Makes – launched in August 2012 in Youngstown, Ohio.

NIST Research Offers Guide in Formulating Cancer Treatment Drugs

NIST Research Offers Guide in Formulating Cancer Treatment Drugs

Potentially valuable drugs slowed down by sticky molecules may get another shot at success. Joint research by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Genentech, the University of Delaware and Institut Laue-Langevin (ILL) has revealed the reason why a certain class of proteins tends to form clusters that lead to high viscosity in drug solutions.

The newly published results* could help drug companies create a variety of cancer and autoimmune disease treatments based on monoclonal antibodies, whose stickiness can make them difficult to administer through thin needles.

Monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) are Y-shaped protein molecules that hold great promise for disease treatment. In principle, the tip region of two of their "arms" can be engineered to deliver attacks on tumor cells without harming surrounding tissue, making mAbs less dangerous to the body than standard chemotherapy, that kills both healthy and cancerous cells. However, a roadblock in the way of their bright pharmaceutical future as a subcutaneous injection—the preferred delivery technique—is their high viscosity: in solution, some mAbs become so viscous at required high concentrations that they are nearly impossible to inject.

Early Career Commerce Scientists and Engineers honored by White House

President Barack Obama talks with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) recipients in the East Room of the White House, April 14, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) (Official White House Photo)

The Commerce Department is home to some of the world’s leading scientists and engineers that are tackling some of the biggest challenges facing our planet and doing great work to ensure our nation remains the global epicenter of innovation. Earlier today, President Obama honored six NIST and NOAA engineers and scientists with the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE) at a ceremony at the White House. The award is the highest honor given by the federal government to outstanding scientists and engineers in the early stages of their careers. The Commerce scientists are part of a group of 102 scientists from across federal agencies that received the prestigious award.

PECASE awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach. The winners represent outstanding examples of American creativity across a diverse span of issues—from adding to our understanding of the most potent contributors to climate change to unlocking secrets to some of the most pressing medical challenges of our time to mentoring students and conducting academic outreach to increase minority representation in science fields.

Big Data is Big Business for Commerce

Under Secretary for Economic Affairs Mark Doms (center) along with Erie Meyer, Joel Gurin, Waldo Jaquith, and Daniel Castro at the Center for Data Innovation hosted “The Economic Benefits of Open Data” event

Guest blog post by Mark Doms, Under Secretary for Economic Affairs

Big Data and Open Data are all the rage these days. However, Commerce was into Big Data before Big Data was cool. As far back as 1790, we began collecting data on patents in the U.S. and the Census Bureau conducted the first Decennial Census the same year. In 1870, the National Weather Service was created – which today is one of the biggest data producing agencies around.

Back then, our economy was based largely on agriculture. Over the years, our economy evolved through the industrial revolution, later giving rise to the strong service sector. Today, we are at the nascent stages of the next era in our economic growth, the information age. On a daily basis, there is an ever-increasing amount of data becoming available, and the demand for data is increasing exponentially. We have before us both great opportunity and fascinating challenges to understand how best to harness this national resource. This is a key focus of Commerce’s Open for Business Agenda.

You may not know it, but the Department of Commerce is home to many agencies that are your primary source for data that you likely use every day.

For example:

  • How many people live in the U.S. or in your hometown? You might know the Census Bureau is the authority on population, but did you know the Census Bureau’s data goes well beyond just population? Census also produces huge volumes of data on our economy, demographics, and fascinatingly insightful data describing our communities – or, if you are a business, your customers.
  • The Bureau of Economic Analysis is a little know agency that produces key economic data and many of the closely watched economic indicators that move markets, drive investment decisions and guide economic policy. Do you know which industries are the leading sources of income in your community, or to your customers? BEA data can tell you.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, is your primary source for weather, ocean and climate data – they are collecting data every minute of every day from land, sea, and even spaced-based sensors. When you hear the local forecast or hear about severe weather warning, that is NOAA data informing you about your environment in real time.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology, locally known as NIST, is our nation’s authority on broad swaths of scientific, cyber, and physical data – including, officially, what time it is.
  • We also have data on patents going back more than 200 years at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, which is a gold mine of inspiration for innovation.
  • Other agencies in Commerce provide data on economic development, minority businesses, trade, and telecommunications and the Internet.

On any given day, the Department will generate in excess of 20 terabytes of data, and sometimes much more. Yet, we think we can do more with this resource. We want to take every step we can to open access to it to the entrepreneurs and innovators of America, as we are pretty convinced that there is huge unmet value and potential. We understand that a huge part of the value of data is when it is not seen alone, but as part of a rich tapestry of information. We believe that there is great opportunity to solve problems, innovate new businesses, and improve data-driven decision-making, and we are committed to that path.

That is why I was so glad to be a part of today’s launch of the Open Data 500 Project, housed out of the GovLab at NYU. This exciting project has verified what we were certain must be true: That hundreds of American companies are using Commerce data every day to innovate and deliver important goods and services to their customers.

New Atomic Clock, NIST-F2, Three Times More Accurate

NIST physicists Steve Jefferts (foreground) and Tom Heavner with the NIST-F2 “cesium fountain” atomic clock, a new civilian time standard for the United States.

The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has officially launched a new atomic clock, called NIST-F2, to serve as a new U.S. civilian time and frequency standard, along with the current NIST-F1 standard.

NIST-F2 would neither gain nor lose one second in about 300 million years, making it about three times as accurate as NIST-F1, which has served as the standard since 1999. Both clocks use a "fountain" of cesium atoms to determine the exact length of a second.

NIST scientists recently reported the first official performance data for NIST-F2, which has been under development for a decade, to the International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM), located near Paris, France. That agency collates data from atomic clocks around the world to produce Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), the international standard of time. According to BIPM data, NIST-F2 is now the world's most accurate time standard.

For now, NIST plans to simultaneously operate both NIST-F1 and NIST-F2. Long-term comparisons of the two clocks will help NIST scientists continue to improve both clocks as they serve as U.S. standards for civilian time. The U.S. Naval Observatory maintains military time standards.

Both NIST-F1 and NIST-F2 measure the frequency of a particular transition in the cesium atom—which is 9,192,631,770 vibrations per second, and is used to define the second, the international (SI) unit of time. The key operational difference is that F1 operates near room temperature (about 27 ºC or 80 ºF) whereas the atoms in F2 are shielded within a much colder environment (at minus 193 ºC, or minus 316 ºF). This cooling dramatically lowers the background radiation and thus reduces some of the very small measurement errors that must be corrected in NIST-F1.

Watch Steve Jefferts, NIST physicist, explain how the NIST-F2 atomic clock works.

NIST Gives Astronomers a Better Ruler in the Search for Extrasolar Planets

A thorium emission lamp’s violet glow, when viewed through a spectroscope, is split into a spectrum of thousands of bright lines. New measurements of these lines could help astronomers search for earthlike planets around distant stars.

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have rejuvenated a technique for finding planets near distant stars. New measurements of light from special lamps could help astronomers find planets hidden in data from more than a decade's worth of extrasolar planet searches, as well as improve telescopes' current capabilities.

Finding extrasolar planets is tricky. Seen through a telescope, planets in the "habitable zone"—a region close to a star, where liquid water could exist on a planet's surface—usually get lost in their star's glare. But as a planet orbits, its gravity makes its parent star wobble a tiny bit, resulting in slight color changes in the star's light due to the Doppler effect. These changes can only be spotted if the light is first broken into a spectrum of thin lines, which are then compared to an unchanging reference spectrum.

The NIST team made extensive new measurements of thorium, a heavy element often used in emission lamps that help provide that fixed ruler. Scientists have detected more than 400 planets using the Doppler technique but have yet to discover a solar system similar to ours. 

Stephen Redman, a postdoctoral fellow working at NIST, worked with NIST physicist Gillian Nave and physicist Craig Sansonetti to update the most recent thorough measurement of thorium's spectrum, published in 1983. The more than 8,000 spectral lines it lists are a bit fuzzy by today's standards—good enough to reveal the larger wobble caused by a Jupiter-sized gas giant's gravity, but not the small one an Earth-like world would cause. Redman spent a year combining observations he made on a spectrometer at NIST with data culled from other researchers' work. The result is a set of nearly 20,000 spectral lines of far greater clarity.

In addition to finding systems similar to our own, the new data should aid the search for planets around dwarf stars. These have been hard to find using the Doppler method, in part because dwarfs are so faint, but Nave says the new data include good lines in the near infrared, which is the region of the spectrum in which many of these cool stars give off the most light.

Innovating Our Way to a Smoother, Safer Ride

Visitors watch a Rutgers bridge repair robot go through its paces at a NIST meeting

Guest blog by Marc Stanley, National Institute of Standards and Technology (Ret.)

When someone says “innovation,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? 3D printing? Smart phones? Smart phone apps?

Last Thursday I took a break from retirement to address a small but inspiring gathering of innovators at the Civil Infrastructure Showcase hosted by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). These are people who think about distinctly unglamorous things that are not usually associated with innovation. Like filling potholes or watching bridges rust.

Unglamorous, but really important. You can't have missed coverage of the disastrous bridge failure in Minneapolis in 2007 that killed 13 people and injured over a hundred more, but headlines like that are just the lowlights of a bad situation. Roadbed deterioration — things like potholes — cost U.S. motorists an estimated $67 billion a year in car repairs and costs. California’s farmers are suffering a disastrous drought, but nationwide we lose about 6 billion gallons of clean water a day to leaky pipelines. These are failures of infrastructure maintenance.

The hard-pressed municipal, county and state transportation agencies face many challenges, not the least of which is constrained budgets. They absolutely need to prioritize repair work, but how do you best do that? The most recent U.S. Department of Transportation figures show well over 28,000 “structurally deficient” bridges currently in use.

Several of the 12 research groups that gathered at NIST last week have some ideas about that. How about small instrument packages that can be mounted around questionable bridges to monitor strain and other key values and report back wirelessly to a data monitoring system? Rural bridges usually don’t have wall outlets, so engineers from Mistras Group, Virginia Polytechnic, and the Universities of South Carolina and Miami sweated to get power requirements down to where the boards could be run by little bridge-mounted windmills—which they also developed.

Over 6 Months, NIST Zero-Energy House Gives Back to the Grid

Over 6 Months, NIST Zero-Energy House Gives Back to the Grid

Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology recently announced results from the first six months of a virtual family of four living in an energy efficient home and how the house has performed.  During the first six months, a prototypical family of four earned about $40 by exporting 328 kilowatt hours of electricity into the local grid, while meeting all of their varied energy needs. The goal of this experiment is to demonstrate that a net-zero energy house—one that produces as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year—can fit into any neighborhood. Following the year-long experiment, the facility will be used to test existing and new energy efficient technologies and develop methods of test that better reflect how those technologies will perform in a real home, rather than a laboratory.  

To date, these virtual residents of the Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility (NZERTF) located on the campus of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), about 20 miles north of Washington, D.C., didn't have to skimp even a bit on any of the creature comforts of 21st century living. Their amenities ranged from indoor temperatures maintained between 21.1 and 23.8 degrees Celsius (70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) to a complete array of modern-day kitchen and laundry appliances, and from personal computers, a video gaming system, and two TVs to a pair of stereos, a hairdryer, and curling and clothes irons.

Both a laboratory and a home, the 2,700-square-foot (252-square-meter) NZERTF is a two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath house that incorporates energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies such as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems. There, NIST scientists and engineers and their collaborators will develop and validate measurement and test methods for evaluating energy-efficient designs, materials and technologies.

Department of Commerce releases FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan

Plan priorities are in direct alignment with the Department’s “Open for Business Agenda”

Today the Department of Commerce released its Strategic Plan for fiscal years 2014 to 2018. The five-year plan, along with the recently released FY15 budget, provides the pathway for meeting the Department’s long-term goals and objectives. The plan, summarizes the key strategies and initiatives that will drive progress in the Department’s five priority areas:

  • Trade and Investment. Expanding the U.S. economy through increased exports and foreign direct investment that leads to more and better American jobs.
  • Innovation. Fostering a more innovative U.S. economy—one that is better at inventing, improving, and commercializing products and technologies that lead to higher productivity and  competitiveness.
  • Data. Improve government, business, and community decisions and knowledge by transforming Department data capabilities and supporting a data-enabled economy.
  • Environment. Ensuring communities and businesses have the necessary information, products, and services to prepare for and prosper in a changing environment.
  • Operational Excellence. Delivering better services, solutions, and outcomes that benefit the American people.

The creation of the strategic plan was a collaborative effort involving staff from every Department of Commerce bureau and serves as a foundation for economic growth and opportunity. The plan is in direct alignment with the  “Open for Business Agenda,” which reflects the Department’s role as the voice of business, and the Administration’s focus on economic growth and job creation. Department leaders and employees will use this plan to transform strategies into actions, and actions into results.

Read a summary of the plan or the entire plan.


Spotlight on Commerce: George E. Jenkins, National Institute for Standards and Technology

George E. Jenkins, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by George E. Jenkins, National Institute of Standards and Technology

I was born in Savannah, Georgia to parents whose myriad personal sacrifices, strong sense of excellence, and loving devotion to our family were tremendous examples for how to succeed to me and my brothers.

I was the valedictorian of my high school class, captain of three sports teams, a member of the Georgia Allstate Chorus for three consecutive years and a selected participant in the Governor’s Honors Program for Music. I subsequently received an undergraduate degree in accounting from the University of Bridgeport and a Masters in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. I am also a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).

Upon graduating from college, I was hired by the international accounting firm of Ernst & Ernst (now Ernst & Young). I was a senior accountant with responsibility for the audits of multibillion dollar Fortune 500 companies. Afterward, I joined the faculties of Cheney State University, Alabama State University and Alabama A&M University, where I taught accounting and finance courses. Teaching and mentoring students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) was an enriching and rewarding experience. In fact, I later hired several of my mentees within the CPA firm that my brother and I owned and operated in Montgomery, AL for many years.

Our CPA firm delivered accounting and auditing services to professional athletes in all of the major sports, as well as, to a variety of large private corporate and government clients.

I began my federal service with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS).  While working at CMS, I held the position of Deputy Director for the Financial Management Systems Group, which was responsible for over 40 financial management systems. I also played an integral part in the development and implementation of the Healthcare Integrated General Ledger Accounting System (HIGLAS), which was one of the largest Oracle implementations in the world at the time, processing approximately 5 million Medicare claims daily.  I was an Associate Regional Administrator for Financial Management in Seattle, WA with oversight responsibilities for five western states. I received numerous awards such as the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary’s Award and the CMS Administrator’s Award on several occasions. 

Collaborating with State and Local leaders on Cybersecurity

Collaborating with state and local leaders on cybersecurity

Guest Blog Post by Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Patrick D. Gallagher

Protecting our nation’s valuable information assets from hackers and other threats is often dependent on better collaborations—both public-private partnerships and state, local, and federal efforts.

NIST’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence is all about such partnerships. And that’s why I was honored to join U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Montgomery County Maryland Executive Isiah Leggett and Maryland’s Secretary of Economic Development Dominick Murray Tuesday to celebrate a new agreement that  extends public collaboration on this important topic. These same organizations joined me in Feb. 2012 to launch the center’s efforts to address various industries’ cybersecurity challenges and to accelerate the adoption of technologies that are based on standards and best practices. Since that time, the center has been bringing together experts from industry, government and academia to demonstrate integrated cybersecurity that is cost-effective, repeatable and scalable.

Eighteen IT industry leaders have joined our efforts through the National Cybersecurity Partnership initiative. Additional companies—both large and small—have worked with us on specific projects focused on health IT, energy, and financial services, with more to come, including efforts to support the recently released Framework for Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity.

The agreement signed by NIST, Maryland and Montgomery County provides the center a new home with an expanded footprint, both physical and programmatic, not far from NIST’s Gaithersburg, Md., campus. It encourages technology transfer of government-developed technologies to companies for licensing and from one government agency to another. This collaboration also will help the state and county departments of economic development support new security technology companies and products, as well as to identify future workforce needs and provide opportunities for high school, college and graduate students.

Senator Mikulski Tours Auto Lightweighting Center at NIST

U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher hear a presentation from NIST researcher Mark Iadicola as part of tour of the NIST Center for Automotive Lightweighting.

Guest blog post by Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director

Doubling automobile fuel economy by 2025. Reducing the weight of automobiles by up to half a ton each while maintaining or improving safety. Saving millions of dollars annually in redesign and re-tooling costs. These are some of the ambitious auto industry goals supported by the Center for Automotive Lightweighting at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Yesterday we were honored to host a visit by U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) to the lightweighting center. As chairwoman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Mikulski came to the NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Md., as part of her continuing “Jobs Tour” in the state.

She also gave a talk to NIST staff about the recently enacted Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014. The act provides $850 million in appropriations for NIST work through October 2014. Included is a $30 million increase in funding for advanced manufacturing research. Such research provides manufacturers with the data and measurement tools and technologies they need to continually improve their products and compete in the global marketplace.

Established in 2006, the lightweighting center helps the auto industry stay competitive by developing new measurement methods and collecting critical data on the properties of lighter weight automotive alloys and composites. During the tour, Senator Mikulski was shown samples of new high-strength steels and aluminum and magnesium alloys that weigh up to 65 percent less and yet are stronger than the traditional mild steels that have been used in vehicles for the past 100 years.

NIST-developed research instruments installed at the center twist, press, stretch and squeeze the new lightweight materials to better understand how they will perform when shaped into automotive parts, including predicting safety during crash tests. The resulting data and analysis of the materials behavior help companies reduce expensive trial and error testing. By sharing fundamental materials properties data like this, the NIST center allows individual manufacturers to use more of their own scarce research dollars to leapfrog to better company-specific solutions and improved products.

More than 30 companies and research universities, including five automakers, have expressed interest in a new NIST Automotive Lightweighting Consortium now being formed.

It’s About Time – But Also Much More

JILA’s experimental atomic clock based on strontium atoms held in a lattice of laser light is the world's most precise and stable atomic clock. The image is a composite of many photos taken with long exposure times and other techniques to make the lasers more visible. Credit: Ye group and Baxley/JILA

DOC Guest Blog by JILA and University of Colorado Student Ben Bloom with JILA/NIST Fellow Jun Ye.  JILA is a joint institute of NIST and the University of Colorado Boulder.

40° 0.435', -105° 16.116' -- that’s where I work.  I know this because my smart phone says so. The same phone that woke me up in the morning, reminded me to give my dog his heartworm medication, and that I routinely use as a flashlight. But how does this small, everyday piece of technology know where I am? Sixty years ago when somebody set out to build atomic clocks, surely they had different goals in mind, something big and of a national scale you would think. Nobody could have imagined a handheld box for every citizen good for watching cat videos and also for advanced communications of all sorts.

My phone (and yours!) knows exactly where on Earth it is and how to drive to the nearest gas station because of atomic clocks. The Global Positioning System (or GPS) is an intricate dance of many atomic clocks floating in the space above our heads, declaring to the world what time they read. By listening to a few of these clocks, your phone can pinpoint your exact location. But the most amazing part of all of this is the fact that those atomic clocks whizzing by, orbiting our planet, are already dinosaurs in the context of today’s technology.

Research results published today showcase a new type of atomic clock built by a team of NIST and JILA researchers in Boulder, Colorado. I am privileged to be part of that team, led by Jun Ye. The new type of atomic clock is 10,000 times more precise and stable than the clocks used in space today. By creating a clock based on a few thousand strontium atoms, a metallic element, trapped by laser light, we have been able to demonstrate a radically different alternative to standard atomic clocks that define the international unit of time, the second. These new experimental clocks will allow for a new set of applications that could excite technology enthusiasts and serve the nation. Applications we can only dream of today.

Imagine being able to understand the composition of the ground underneath you by flying an atomic clock over a landmass, “teleporting” huge amounts of information across a quantum network supported by these clocks, or maybe even listening to the subtle gravitational waves emitted by a binary star as the wave sweeps by an array of these clocks. A network of these clocks will be the ultimate probe of the still mysterious space-time of our universe, and will help explore the frontiers of the bizarre quantum world. I don’t know if or when our clocks will re-define the second, be used in a new GPS that could pinpoint my location to an inch, or be some integral piece to a quantum computer, but one thing is for sure: I can’t wait to find out.

25 Years of Supporting U.S. Manufacturing

Logo for MEP

Guest blog post by Dr. Patrick Gallagher, NIST Director and Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology

The year’s end is a natural time to look back on past accomplishments. This year, we’re reflecting on 25 successful years of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Holling’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). MEP is a public-private partnership that helps mostly small and mid-size manufacturers enhance productivity and technological performance, and strengthen their global competitiveness. Through a network of more than 400 centers in every state and Puerto Rico, about 1,300 MEP experts help make these businesses—and the U.S. economy—stronger.

Manufacturing in the U.S. has seen some significant changes during the past two and a half decades. Today’s manufacturing is robotics, 3-D printing, and nanotechnology. And today’s manufacturing produces everything from large-scale industrial equipment, to medical devices, to handcrafted, consumable products we use every day. Our latest data show that for every dollar spent in manufacturing, another $1.48 is aded to the economy – the highest multiplier of any sector. Manufacturing also supports good jobs—with starting salaries 38 percent higher than other sectors.

Innovation is crucial for ensuring the U.S. remains competitive in the global economy–and manufacturing is a key indicator of our nation’s innovative capacity. A recent MIT study points out that innovation occurs not only at the point of invention, but at every stage of product development and delivery, which is why it is so important that we help companies “Make it in America.” The Commerce Department’s recently unveiled “Open for Business Agenda” also prioritizes supporting American manufacturing at all stages of the product life cycle.

NIST Investigation of Joplin, Mo., Tornado Details Proposed Measures for Saving Lives and Property

Destruction caused by the Joplin, Missouri, tornado that struck on May 22, 2011 causing 161 fatalities and more than 1,000 injuries. The tornado was the deadliest single tornado since official U.S. recordkeeping began in 1950.

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a report today on the impacts of the May 22, 2011 tornado that struck Joplin, Mo. Nationally accepted standards for building design and construction, public shelters and emergency communications can significantly reduce deaths and the steep economic costs of property damage caused by tornadoes were among the key conclusions of the two-year technical investigation.

The recommendations are featured in a draft report issued for public comment today and announced at a press briefing held at Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. The NIST study is the first to scientifically assess the impact of a tornado in four major categories: tornado characteristics, building performance, human behavior and emergency communication—and the impact of each on life-safety, the ability to protect people from injury or death. It also is the first to recommend that standards and model codes be developed and adopted for designing buildings to better resist tornadoes.

The NIST report includes a number of recommendations for future research and development of technologies and strategies to advance tornado wind measurements, strengthen emergency communications, increase warning time, derive more accurate tornado hazard maps and significantly improve public response during tornado events.

NIST welcomes comments on the draft report and recommendations—available online at — which must be received by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Comments may be submitted via email todisaster[at]nist[dot]gov or mailed to NIST Technical Investigation Joplin, 100 Bureau Dr., Stop 8611, Gaithersburg, Md. 20899-8611.

Secretary Pritzker Announces Winners of the 2013 Baldrige National Quality Award

Three U.S. Organizations Honored with the 2013 Baldrige National Quality Award

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today announced that three U.S. organizations will receive the 2013 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation's highest Presidential honor for performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership. All of this year's winners are from the health care and education sectors.

The 2013 Baldrige Award recipients—listed with their category—are:

The Baldrige program has had a tangible impact on the success of thousands of organizations worldwide and our nation's economy, and the winners announced today will undoubtedly continue that legacy and serve as role models for their peers in the health care and education sectors.

The 2013 Baldrige Award recipients were selected from a field of 22 applicants that were evaluated rigorously by an independent board of examiners in seven areas defined by the Baldrige Criteria: leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results. An organization may compete for the award in one of six categories: manufacturing, service, small business, health care, education and nonprofit (including government agencies).

Commerce Achieves Record Veteran Hiring Numbers in 2013

Veterans Day 2013 - Honoring All Who Served

In honor of Veterans Day, we wanted to take a moment to highlight the Department of Commerce’s commitment to hiring veterans. In Fiscal Year 2013, 13.2 percent of new Commerce hires were veterans and 3.6 percent were disabled veterans, the highest numbers of veterans the Department has employed in over 20 years.

The Department of Commerce (DOC) Veteran Employment Council, made up of volunteer human resources (HR) specialists, advisors, and program managers, plays a major role in hiring and retaining veterans and works with the individuals once they come on board.

“Here at Commerce, we take hiring veterans very seriously,” said Kevin Mahoney, Commerce’s Chief Human Capital Officer and Director, Office of Human Resources Management. “I would like to thank the DOC Veteran Employment Council for their hard work throughout the year, and we look forward to seeing even higher numbers next year.”

This year, the Department of Commerce trained over 3,100 hiring managers and human resources specialists on veterans’ preference and special appointing authorities for veterans and disabled veterans. Top performing agencies in the Department of Commerce for veteran hiring include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) at 31.8 percent, the Office of the Secretary (OS) at 20 percent, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) at 16.2 percent and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) at 13.2 percent.

New Spectrometry Standard for Handheld Chemical Detectors Aids First Responders

Christopher Neary of the NIST Environmental Management Group demonstrates the use of a handheld Raman spectrometer to determine the identity of an unknown sample.

When it comes to detectors for dangerous chemicals, toxins or nefarious germs, smaller and faster is better. But size and speed must still allow for accuracy, especially when measurements by different instruments must give the same result.

The recent publication of a new standard—a culmination of years of research at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)—provides confidence that results from handheld chemical detectors can be compared, apples-to-apples.

Such detectors are used by emergency responders to check for the presence of explosives or toxic chemicals that threaten public safety. Quality control managers in the pharmaceutical industry use them to verify the identity of chemicals going into their production lines.

NIST Releases Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework, Will Seek Comments

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today released its Preliminary Cybersecurity Framework to help critical infrastructure owners and operators reduce cybersecurity risks in industries such as power generation, transportation and telecommunications. In the coming days, NIST will open a 45-day public comment period on the Preliminary Framework and plans to release the official framework in February 2014, as called for in Executive Order 13636—Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

In February 2013, President Obama directed NIST to work with stakeholders to develop a voluntary framework for reducing cyber risks, recognizing that U.S. national and economic security depends on the reliable functioning of critical infrastructure. Through a request for information and a series of workshops held throughout 2013, NIST engaged with more than 3,000 individuals and organizations on standards, best practices and guidelines that can provide businesses, their suppliers, their customers and government agencies with a shared set of expected protections for critical information and IT infrastructure. 

The Preliminary Framework outlines a set of steps that can be customized to various sectors and adapted by both large and small organizations while providing a consistent approach to cybersecurity. It offers a common language and mechanism for organizations to determine and describe their current cybersecurity posture, as well as their target state for cybersecurity. The framework will help them to identify and prioritize opportunities for improvement within the context of risk management and to assess progress toward their goals. 

Obama Administration Awards $20.5 Million In Make It In America Challenge Grants

Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, along with U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, and Delta Regional Authority Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, today announced the 10 winners of the Make it in America Challenge, an Obama administration initiative to accelerate job creation and encourage business investment in the United States. The 10 grantees will receive a total of $20.5 million for projects supporting regional economic development, advanced skills training, greater supply chain access and other enhancements. The programs are designed to encourage U.S. companies to keep, expand or re-shore their manufacturing operations—and jobs—in America, and to entice foreign companies to build facilities and make their products here.

The Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), the Labor Department’sEmployment and Training Administration (ETA), and the Delta Regional Authority (DRA) are providing funding for the winning proposals. Additionally, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP) plans to make awards in early FY2014.

“Given our competitive advantages in energy costs, research and development, labor productivity, and intellectual property protection, there is no better place to do business than the United States," said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker. The Make it in America Challenge grants support innovative, regionally-based strategies that will encourage businesses to capitalize on those advantages.”  Full release

United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations

Annual funding for the government expired on September 30. The Administration strongly believed that a lapse in funding should not occur. The Department is prepared for a lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations. Prior to a potential lapse in funding, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) required the Department to submit a draft plan for agency operations (PDF) in the absence of appropriations (a “shutdown plan”).

The plan may be modified with additional guidance from the Office of Personnel Management and OMB, and may be changed by the Department, as circumstances warrant. This plan (PDF) complies with the guidance provided by the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce. All employees who are Presidentially Appointed, Senate Confirmed will remain on duty.

In compliance with the restrictions of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Department of Commerce will maintain the following services and activities during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Weather, water, and climate observing, prediction, forecast, warning, and support
• Law enforcement activities for the protection of marine fisheries
• Fisheries management activities including quota monitoring, observer activities, and regulatory actions to prevent overfishing
• Essential natural resource damage assessment activities associated with the Deepwater Horizon incident
• Water level data for ships entering U.S. ports, critical nautical chart updates and accurate position information.
• Patent and trademark application processing
• Operation of the national timing and synchronization infrastructure as well as the National Vulnerability Database
• Maintenance, continuity and protection of certain research property and critical data records
• All services of the National Technical Information Service
• Export enforcement – the ongoing conduct of criminal investigations, and prosecutions, and coordination with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in furtherance of our national security
• Budget operations required to support excepted activities under a shutdown, such as tracking of obligations and funds control.

The following services and activities will not be available during a lapse in FY14 appropriations:

• Most research activities at NIST and NOAA (excluding real-time regular models on research computers used for Hurricane and FAA flight planning)
• Assistance and support to recipients of grant funding
• Technical oversight of non-mission essential contracts
• Services and activities provided by:
−Bureau of Economic Analysis
−Economic Development Administration
−Economics and Statistics Administration
−Minority Business Development Agency
−Bureau of the Census
• Most services and activities provided by the International Trade Administration

Commerce’s NIST Awards Grants to Improve Online Security and Privacy

NIST Awards Grants to Improve Online Security and Privacy

The U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced more than $7 million in grants to support the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC).  The funding will enable five U.S. organizations to develop pilot identity protection and verification systems that offer consumers more privacy, security and convenience online.

These new pilots build on the successful launch of five NSTIC pilots awarded in 2012Launched by the Obama administration in 2011 and housed at NIST, NSTIC is an initiative that aims to support collaboration between the private sector, advocacy groups and public-sector agencies. The selected pilot proposals advance the NSTIC vision that individuals and organizations adopt secure, efficient, easy-to-use, and interoperable identity credentials to access online services in a way that promotes confidence, privacy, choice and innovation.

The grants announced today will support privacy-enhancing technologies that help make Internet transactions more secure, including better protection from fraud and identity theft, and are an important step toward giving American companies and consumers greater confidence in doing business online.  Release

NIST Releases Study on Reducing Damage and Loss from Wildfires

A wooded area aflame during the 2007 Witch Creek/Guejito wildfire in Southern California. A new report from NIST looks at the fire's impact on structures in one community based on their pre-fire exposure risk to direct fire contact and embers (both seen in the photo). Credit: With permission from Dan Tentler,

recent study of one of California's most devastating wildland fires by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) strongly suggests that measures for reducing structural damage and property loss from wildland urban interface (WUI)* fires are most effective when they are based on accurate assessments of exposure risks both for individual structures and the community as a whole.

The report also describes how the NIST-USFS WUI Hazard Scale provides a state-of-the-art tool for making such assessments and how that data could be linked to improved building codes, standards and practices that will help communities better resist the threat of wildfires.

The Witch Creek/Guejito WUI fire (commonly known as the Witch Fire) was the largest of a series of wildfires that began burning across Southern California on Oct. 20, 2007. It affected areas north and northeast of San Diego, starting in Witch Creek Canyon near Santa Ysabel and quickly spreading westward toward the coast because of strong Santa Ana winds. The Witch Fire burned some 80,000 hectares (nearly 200,000 acres), destroyed more than 1,600 structures, caused an estimated $1.8 billion in property damages and cost $18 million to fight. It also was responsible for two civilian deaths and 39 firefighter injuries.  Full release

Fostering Technology Transfer and Entrepreneurship

Green Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Showcase

This week the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) welcomed dozens of representatives from Maryland businesses to learn about collaboration and technology licensing opportunities at a “Green Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Showcase.” The event was hosted by the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO), an independent organization that provides entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies in Maryland.

In a 2011 Memorandum, President Obama wrote, “Innovation fuels economic growth, the creation of new industries, companies, jobs, products and services, and the global competitiveness of U.S. industries. One driver of successful innovation is technology transfer, in which the private sector adapts federal research for use in the marketplace.”

The memo instructed agencies to take steps to enhance successful technology innovation networks by fostering increased federal laboratory engagement with external partners. TEDCO is one of the partners working with NIST to foster tech transfer and its economic benefits.

Attendees at today’s event learned about the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, which supports small- and mid-size manufacturers across the U.S.; how to work with NIST; and technologies available for license from NIST’s Engineering and Material Measurement laboratories.

Secretary Pritzker Visits the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Gaithersburg, Md., Campus

Secretary Pritzker tours the NIST Trace Contraband Detection laboratory with Acting Deputy Secretary and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.  The laboratory helps law enforcement agencies protect the public and enforce the law by developing improved methods and standards for trace detection of drugs and explosives.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker visited the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in Gaithersburg, Md., today, as part of her nationwide listening tour. The campus hosts approximately 2,700 NIST staff members, as well as visiting researchers, post-doctorate fellows and undergraduate students.

The Secretary met with NIST senior executives to discuss Commerce priorities and took a tour of a laboratory focused on the most effective ways to collect and accurately analyze small or trace amounts of contraband such as drugs or explosives. The NIST Trace Contraband Detection Program supports the deployment and effective use of detection devices throughout the United States. NIST scientists use their  existing expertise in particle analysis, analytical chemistry and chemical microscopy to study the explosives collection and detection process in detail and to help field methods.

Secretary Pritzker saw demonstrations of some NIST-developed devices that could speed the processing of airline passengers while accurately assessing them for trace contraband. A shoe-sampler uses air jets to blow samples off of shoes still on the wearer’s feet, while another device checks IDs for samples transferred on fingertips. She also learned about the program making use of a 3-D printing machine to rapidly create new devices for improving detection methods. Through these efforts, NIST supports standards that ensure detectors in the field today work as expected and develops the specialized measurement expertise that will be needed for the next generation of explosive detection equipment.

Commerce's NIST Awards 13 Companies with 2013 Small Business Innovation Research Funding

NIST campus sign

The Commerce Department's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) announced today that more than $2.3 million in funding for Phase I and Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) projects will be awarded to 13 U.S. small businesses. The awards provide funding to help develop manufacturing and cybersecurity technologies that could lead to commercial and public benefit. 

"We congratulate the companies selected out of the numerous high-quality proposals we received," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. "The SBIR program provides a great way to foster technological innovation at small businesses and help keep America innovative and competitive."

NIST's SBIR program seeks to stimulate technological innovation in the private sector, especially at minority and disadvantaged firms, strengthen the role of small business in meeting federal research and development needs and increase commercialization of federal research and development.

SBIR awards are funded through a competitive, three-phase process. In Phase I, small businesses can receive up to $90,000 to establish the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential of the proposed research and development. Phase I awardees compete for Phase II funding of up to $300,000, enabling them to continue their efforts. Phase III involves commercial applications of the newly developed technologies, with funding from outside the SBIR program.

Readout of U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s Visit With Commerce Employees in Denver, Colorado

Secretary Penny Pritzker Meets with Commerce Employees in the Denver Office

While in Denver, Colorado, as part of her nationwide listening tour, Secretary Pritzker met with the heads of the Commerce Department’s local offices, including: International Trade Administration’s U.S. Export Assistance Center (USEAC), the Economic Development Administration (EDA), the National Institute for Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (NIST MEP), the Patent and Trademark Office (PTO), the U.S. Census Bureau, the Inspector General (IG), and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA). In addition to these meetings, she also spoke to employees about their work and ways in which their efforts are supporting economic growth and development in Colorado.

Today’s discussion in Denver served as an extension of an employee town hall she held yesterday in Boulder. The secretary emphasized how their work is crucial to creating a better quality of life for Americans and more opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses. She also asked employees for their input in the department’s ongoing efforts to protect, promote, and inform what America needs to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century.

These employee engagement opportunities are part of the secretary’s overall efforts to serve as a bridge to the business community so that the public and private sectors can work together to create jobs and opportunities for all Americans.

Readout of U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s Visit With Commerce Employees in Boulder, Colorado

Readout of U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker’s Visit With Commerce Employees in Boulder, Colorado

While in Boulder, Colorado, as part of her nationwide listening tour, U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker today met with employees from the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Approximately 1,600 department staff and affiliates are located at the Boulder facility, and the Commerce Boulder Laboratories is the largest  department facility outside Washington, DC.

Secretary Pritzker first held a town hall with approximately 350 employees from the three agencies as part of her commitment to engage with and hear directly from all Commerce employees about their work. The secretary emphasized how their work is crucial to creating a better quality of life for Americans and more opportunities for entrepreneurs and businesses. She also asked employees for their input in the department’s ongoing efforts to protect, promote and inform what America needs to be competitive and innovative in the 21st century.

Proposed Cuts Hurt Job Creation, Economy, and the Middle-Class

The President has been clear that Republicans in Congress should work with Democrats to finish a budget that cuts wasteful spending while investing in jobs, the economy, and middle class families. Until Congress reaches a budget agreement, the President will not sign individual appropriations bills that simply attempt to enact the House Republican budget into law. That would hurt our economy and make draconian cuts to middle class priorities.

The House Commerce, Justice, Science appropriations bill demonstrates just how damaging the overall spending limits imposed by House Republican leadership are. The bill would cut $1 billion from the President’s request for the Department of Commerce, requiring a halt to investments in areas designed to help grow the economy, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. The bill cuts more than $70 million from the International Trade Administration, which prevents placement of Foreign Commercial Service Officers in priority markets to help U.S. companies expand exports. That cut also limits our ability to attract foreign investment.  Instead of building on the momentum of resurgent American manufacturing as the President did in this budget, the bill terminates the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia, which is helping the industry identify long-term manufacturing needs, and it cuts $33 million from the President’s request for the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). The MEP program is a federal-state partnership, which consists of centers located across the country that work directly with their local manufacturing communities to strengthen the competitiveness of our nation's domestic manufacturing base.

NIST: Iris Biometric Identifiers for Agency Security

Image of  iris identification

Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has issued a new publication that broadens agency security options for Personal Identity Verification (PIV) cards. Biometric Data Specifications for Personal Identity Verification (Special Publication 800-76-2) adds iris images as biometric identifiers and on-card fingerprint comparison as options for the cards.

A PIV card is a government-issued smart card used by federal employees and contractors to access government facilities and computer networks. The PIV card carries a photo, fingerprint information, personal identification number (PIN) and a cryptographic credential–random computer-generated data that are recognized only by the PIV card–all of which serve to bind the card to the card holder.

To assist agencies seeking stronger security and greater operational flexibility, NIST made several modifications to the previous version of Biometric Data Specification for Personal Identity Verification. Full release

NIST Workshop Gets a 'Grip' on Robotics Challenge

Image of a seven degree-of-freedom highly dexterous robot and a seven degree-of-freedom, three fingered robotic hand.

Even though modern industrial robots are becoming nimbler and more capable, they still need to get a good grip on things—the equivalent of hands that are as agile and dexterous as the human variety.

How to tackle the thorny challenge, known in robotics speak as dexterous manipulation, was the aim of a recent workshop hosted by Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The workshop featured speakers from manufacturing companies (end users), along with developers of robot arms and of advanced robot "hands." Proceedings of the workshop, which NIST is using as it crafts a technology roadmap to guide measurement science research in the field, are summarized in a new report.

Factors driving the quest for human-like robot arms and grippers are quality control, cost, throughput and worker safety. According to one manufacturer at the workshop, two-thirds of his company's worker compensation cases are ergonomic disorders, mostly due to repetitive strain, over-extension and over-exertion.

Robotic arms are now starting to come in pairs, mounted to either a fixed or rotary torso with each arm having seven joints instead of the conventional six. This option boosts the dexterity of a robot and allows it to move its elbow around obstacles while maintaining precise placement at its working point.  Read more

NIST MEP helps U.S. Manufacturers Create Jobs and Expand their Businesses

NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership - Make It In America

National Small Business Week, which is taking place June 17-21, recognizes the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs to job creation and economic growth. One way that the Commerce Department works to support small- and medium-sized enterprises is through the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a public-private partnership designed to encourage innovation in American manufacturing.

NIST MEP is a nationwide network of technical experts and business advisers who work with small- and mid-sized U.S. manufacturers, helping these businesses identify growth opportunities. MEP focuses its resources on five critical areas: technology acceleration, supplier development, sustainability, workforce and continuous improvement of manufacturing processes, products, and services.

For every one dollar of federal investment, MEP generates nearly $20 in new sales growth, which amounts to about $2.5 billion in new sales annually. And for every $2,100 of federal investment in the program, MEP creates or retains one manufacturing job. These investments support the administration’s commitment to helping U.S. manufacturers innovate, grow, and create good jobs.

NIST MEP has successfully helped manufacturers across the country grow their businesses. For example:

Workshop Identifies Research Priorities to Mitigate Fires in the Wildland-Urban Interface

Image of the 2007 "Witch Fire"

Over 46 million residential structures in the United States are in areas at risk of wildfires. A new publication* from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) identifies a set of research needs aimed at preventing or managing this growing threat to about 70,000 communities located in the so-called wildland-urban interface (WUI).

Identified by experts at a 2012 workshop organized by NIST, the top three recommended topics warranting sustained research efforts focus on:

  • "hardening" buildings, so that they resist ignition—by flames, embers and heat;
  • developing standards and tests of building performance that improve the "survivability" of structures exposed to WUI fires; and
  • improving the understanding of "how vegetation, topography, climate and construction cause structure ignition and spread of fires."

On average, WUI fires destroy 3,000 buildings annually. They accounted for six of the 10 most costly fires in the United States over the last 100 years. Five of these fires occurred in California, where the incidence of wildfires currently is up 47 percent this year over last . Read more

Obama Administration Seeks Applicants for First Phase of ‘Investing in Manufacturing Communities’ Partnership

Effort will encourage an improved approach to economic development around the country

The Obama Administration today announced that it is accepting applications for the first phase of the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities” Partnership, a new initiative outlined in the President’s fiscal year 2014 budget that will help accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing and create jobs across the country.

Phase One of the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities” Partnership: In the first phase of this effort, the Departments of Commerce and Agriculture as well as the Small Business Administration and Environmental Protection Agency will award at least 25 grants of up to $200,000 each to help regions develop long-term economic development strategies intended to create a globally competitive environment that will attract, retain and expand investment and spur international trade and exports. These “Implementation Strategies” will encourage collaboration at the local level to identify the region’s comparative advantages and assets, and plan investments to expand the area’s appeal to manufacturers.  In addition, these grants can be used to help communities prepare for the second phase of this initiative, IMCP “Challenge” grants. 

Phase Two of the “Investing in Manufacturing Communities” Partnership: President Obama’s fiscal year 2014 budget includes funds for the Department of Commerce to award five to six IMCP “Challenge” grants, expected to be up to $25 million each.  These funds are intended to be supplemented by coordinated investments from several other federal departments and agencies. The 2014 challenge will reward communities for having the best long-term strategies for attracting private investment and increasing exports, and should combine many of the elements companies seek when they are deciding where to locate or expand, such as: specialized research centers at local universities; business incubators focused on targeted technology sectors; community college programs to train workers in targeted industries; public works projects to upgrade infrastructure or enhance energy efficiency; viable export promotion plans; well-integrated supply chains; and an engaged community of local government, education, workforce, and business leaders.  Full release

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank Honors Four Organizations for Excellence in Performance and Innovation

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank presenting the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for organizational performance excellence and innovation

Today, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank presented four U.S. organizations with the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for organizational performance excellence and innovation. The recipients of the award, which is commemorating its 25th anniversary, will share their best practices as part of a national effort to improve America’s performance and competitive standing in the world. 

Deputy Secretary Blank lauded the Baldrige Award winners for being leaders in their fields and committed to the value of performance and quality. Studies have shown that Baldrige winners grow their revenues, create jobs, maintain healthy finances, and produce superior results.

At the awards ceremony, President Obama also delivered a video message to the recipients, saying that the United States’ “free market is the greatest engine of prosperity the world has ever known, and that engine is powered by our dreamers, our risk takers and our innovators.” Further, he said, “These honorees exhibit the kind of job creating innovation that’s always kept our economy growing and vibrant and prosperous.”

A Chance to Comment on Commerce’s Report on Cybersecurity Incentives

Cybersecurity (keyboard with a key silhouette on it)

As part of the Executive Order  signed by President Obama last month directing agencies to use their existing authorities and work with the private sector to better protect our nation’s power, water, and other critical systems, the Commerce Department is preparing a report on ways to incentivize companies and organizations to improve their cybersecurity.  To better understand what stakeholders –  such as companies, trade associations, academics and others – believe would best serve as incentives, the Department has released a series of questions to gather  public comments in a Notice of Inquiry published today.

The national and economic security of the United States depends on the strength of our nation’s critical infrastructure. The cyber threat to critical infrastructure is growing, and represents one of the most serious national security challenges that the United States must confront. As the President stated in the Executive Order, “repeated cyber intrusions into America’s critical infrastructure demonstrate a need for improved cybersecurity.”

As a first step toward protecting critical infrastructure, the Executive Order tasks the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to identify the systems that could be affected by a cybersecurity incident which could in catastrophic regional or national effects on public health or safety, economic security, or national security.  Second, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will develop a framework consisting of a set of standards, methodologies, procedures, and processes that align policy, business, and technological approaches to address cyber risks. This Cybersecurity Framework will provide a prioritized, flexible, repeatable, performance-based, and cost-effective approach to improving cybersecurity, which will help owners and operators of critical infrastructure identify, assess and mange cyber risk. Third, DHS will work with sector-specific agencies to develop the Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity Program to promote voluntary adoption of the Framework.

Spotlight on Commerce: Mary Saunders, Associate Director of Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Mary Saunders, Associate Director for Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Mary Saunders, Associate Director of Management Resources, National Institute of Standards and Technology

In my 26-year career at the Department of Commerce, I’ve found that the most interesting things in life generally happen at the intersections. It’s the connections between people, places, and things where true forward progress is often made.

I was born in Washington, D.C. and have lived in Northern Virginia most of my life. I guess given my beginnings, it’s not surprising that I chose to study politics, economics, and public policy. What’s more surprising is that I’ve ended up using that knowledge to support the nation’s scientific infrastructure.

Some background helps explain the links that led me to my current position as the Associate Director of Management Resources, one of three deputies to NIST Director Patrick Gallagher.

NIST, DOJ Form Commission to Develop Guidelines for Forensic Labs

Image of fingerprint

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and National Institute of Standards and Technology Director Patrick Gallagher today addressed a group of forensics experts at the American Academy of Forensic Science’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. 

Gallagher was there with Elana Tyrangiel, acting assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Policy at the Department of Justice, to explain each agency’s role in a new National Commission on Forensic Science, announced Friday, Feb. 15.

The National Commission on Forensic Science will be composed of approximately 30 members, bringing together forensic science service practitioners, academic researchers, prosecutors, defense attorneys, judges and other relevant stakeholders to develop policy recommendations for the Attorney General. The commission will consider guidance on practices for federal, state and local forensic science laboratories developed by groups of forensic science practitioners and academic researchers administered by NIST. 

The Department of Commerce's Role in Improving Critical Infrastructure Cybersecurity

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank at Cybersecurity announcement

Last week, President Obama signed an Executive Order to strengthen the cybersecurity of this nation’s critical infrastructure. Threats from cyber attacks that could disrupt our power, water, and other critical systems are one of the most pressing risks facing both our nation’s security and our nation’s economy in the 21st century. So, in the absence of legislation to mitigate these threats to our infrastructure, the Executive Order directs federal agencies to use their existing authorities and work with the private sector to better protect our nation’s critical systems. 

We at the Commerce Department have an important role to play when it comes to strengthening the nation’s cybersecurity. In accordance with the president’s Executive Order, Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) will be leading the development of one of the Executive Order’s principle outcomes: a voluntary Cybersecurity Framework to reduce cyber risks.

Spotlight on Commerce: Dr. Willie May, Associate Director for Laboratory Programs and Principal Deputy, NIST

Dr. Willie May, Associate Director for Laboratory Programs and Principal Deputy, NIST

Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.

Guest blog post by Willie May, Associate Director for Laboratory Programs and Principal Deputy, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)

Sometimes even the most difficult circumstances lay the foundation for very positive outcomes. I grew up in Birmingham, Ala., in the late 1950s and early 1960s. It goes without saying that any aspirations for becoming a scientist and  a senior leader of a world class scientific agency with a $1 billion dollar budget and four Nobel Prizes would never have occurred to me. 

But like most people I had some advantages hidden among the more visible obstacles to success.Advantage number one: my mother and father. They made sacrifices for me and my two younger sisters and expected us to rise above our surroundings and  go to college. I was also expected to get good grades even though in my community it was more important to be a good athlete than it was to be a scholar. I actually was able to do both.

Advantage number two: I had excellent, smart, and very committed teachers. Opportunities were limited for people of color in mid- 20th century Alabama. Most African Americans like me were laborers in the mines and steel mills. Professional jobs were teacher, preacher, lawyer, doctor and undertakers; and their client base was limited to the black community. The best minds of my neighborhood went to college and became teachers. And they came back to teach us everything they possibly could.  

In my case that included college-level chemistry in high school. Mr. Frank Cook, my high school chemistry teacher, selected five of us for his own experiment. Starting in 10th grade he taught us the same material he had learned just the summer before at Alabama A&M University. That head start gave me the confidence I needed for college. Besides me and my lifelong friend, Marion Guyton (former Attorney with the Justice Department), others who benefitted from  these highly regarded public school teachers include  former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, University of Maryland Baltimore County President Freeman Hrabowski, chief of the Census Bureau’s Statistical Research Division, Tommie Wright and  Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute president, Shirley Jackson. 

Advantage number three started with heartbreak. Guyton and I were always competing with each other. As high schoolers, we both applied to Howard University, the Harvard of the black community. Marion got a full scholarship and he was more than happy to flaunt and badger me about it. When no letter came for me, I inquired about my application. It was nowhere to be found.  I later learned from my principal, R.C. Johnson (Colin Powell’s father-in-law) that the application had been lost in his office. To make up for the error, he personally arranged for me to get a scholarship to Knoxville College.

NIST and Forest Service Create World’s First Hazard Scale for Wildland Fires

Wildland Ember Exposure on a Community Using the WUI Fire Hazard Scale

Two federal agencies have teamed to create the first-ever system for linking accurate assessments of risk from wildland fires to improved building codes, standards and practices that will help communities better resist the threat. The proposed Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) Hazard Scale addresses fires that occur where developed and undeveloped areas meet, and is described in a report released by the U.S. Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's U.S. Forest Service (USFS).

"Structures in areas susceptible to other natural hazards, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and tornados, can be built to address the potential risks from these disasters because we have measurement scales that define that risk—the Richter for quakes, the Saffir-Simpson for hurricanes and the Enhanced Fujita for tornados," says NIST's Alexander Maranghides, who created the new wildfire hazard assessment tool with William Mell of the USFS. "Now, we have proposed a scale specifically for wildland fires that will allow us to link exposure to improved codes and standards, and as a result, save lives, property and dollars."

The problem of WUI fires, particularly in the western and southern regions of the United States, has been growing more prevalent as housing developments push into wilderness areas. According to the Bureau of Land Management's National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC), the 10 years since 2002 saw an annual average of nearly 71,000 WUI fires recorded and 1.9 million hectares (4.7 million acres) burned. Through the end of October 2012, the number of WUI fires for the year is below the average at slightly more than 54,000, but the amount of damage is nearly double with 3.7 million hectares (9.1 million acres) having burned—approximately 1,000 times the total area of Rhode Island. The monetary toll from the destruction is staggering; the NIFC estimates that federal agencies spend an average of $1.2 billion per year on WUI fire suppression alone, with state and local agencies contributing millions more.  Full NIST release

New York Taps NIST's Sunder for Post-Sandy Review of Critical Systems and Services

S. Shyam Sunder

S. Shyam Sunder, director of the Engineering Laboratory at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has agreed to serve on the New York State Ready Commission, formed by Governor Andrew Cuomo to recommend ways to ensure critical systems and services are prepared for future natural disasters and other emergencies.

The expert commission is one of three that Cuomo launched in the aftermath of recent major storms, including Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, that devastated parts of the state and revealed weaknesses in New York’s transportation, energy, communications and health infrastructures. The Ready Commission will review critical systems and services and recommend measures to prepare for future natural disasters and other emergencies.  Full release

Acting Commerce Secretary Blank Announces 2012 Winners of Nation’s Highest Presidential Honor for Performance Excellence

Acting Commerce Secretary Blank Announces 2012 Winners of Nation’s Highest Presidential Honor for Performance Excellence

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank today named four U.S. organizations as recipients of the 2012 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, the nation’s highest Presidential honor for performance excellence through innovation, improvement and visionary leadership. The winners in this, the 25th anniversary year of the award, represent four different sectors, one repeat recipient and a health network recognized for the same honor earned previously by its flagship hospital.       

The 2012 Baldrige Award recipients—listed with their category—are:

  • Lockheed Martin Missile and Fire Control, Grand Prairie, Texas (manufacturing)
  • MESA Products, Tulsa, Okla. (small business)
  • North Mississippi Health Services, Tupelo, Miss. (health care)
  • City of Irving, Irving, Texas (nonprofit)

"The four organizations recognized today with the 2012 Baldrige Award are leaders in the truest sense of the word and role models that others in the health care, nonprofit and business sectors worldwide will strive to emulate,” said Acting Secretary Blank. “They have set the bar high for innovative practices, dynamic management, financial performance, outstanding employee and customer satisfaction, and, most of all, for their unwavering commitment to excellence and proven results.”

This year marks the silver anniversary of both the award and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP) that supports it. To date, more than 1,500 U.S. organizations have applied for the Baldrige Award, and there are Baldrige-based award programs in nearly all 50 states. Full Release

NIST's David J. Wineland Wins 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics

Photo of Wineland

David J. Wineland, a physicist at the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), has won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physics. The honor is NIST’s fourth Nobel prize in physics in the past 15 years.

Wineland shared the prize with Serge Haroche of the Collège de France and Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France. In announcing the winners today, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited Wineland and Haroche "for ground-breaking experimental methods that enable measuring and manipulation of individual quantum systems."

Wineland got the call at about 3:30 a.m. today at his home in Boulder, Colo. “I was a little sleepy. My wife got the call. I haven’t actually asked her yet what they said, but she gave the phone to me,” Wineland recalled shortly afterwards. “It’s kind of overwhelming. This could have gone to a lot of other people. It’s certainly a wonderful surprise. The fellow I shared it with–he and I have been friends for a long time, so it’s nice to share it with him.”  NIST release  |  Nobel citation

NIST Director Gallagher Participates in Dedication of New Facility for Coral Reef Research

The new NSU Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystem Research in Hollywood, Fla. (Photo: Nova Southeastern University)

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Directory of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Dr. Patrick Gallagher today is helping dedicate the new Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Ecosystems Research (CoECRER) at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Hollywood, Florida.

Gallagher joins state and local officials, including Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and other guests, including former Vice President Al Gore and Dr. Paul Sandifer, Senior Science Adviser to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), in the opening celebration for the “only research facility in the nation dedicated entirely to coral reef ecosystems science.”

Among the unusual features of the festivities was a morning media tour, by snorkel, of one of the center’s off-shore coral “nurseries.”

The new research facility was funded in part by a $15 million grant from NIST as part of a competitive program under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to support the construction of new scientific research facilities at academic institutions and non-profit research organizations. (See “NIST Awards $123 Million in Recovery Act Grants To Construct New Research Facilities,” Jan. 8, 2010).

Acting Secretary Blank Announces $40 Million Initiative to Challenge Businesses to Make it in America

Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Announces $40 Million Initiative to Challenge Businesses to Make it in America (Photo: Roberto Westbrook and STIHL Inc.)

Yesterday, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank traveled to Virginia Beach, Va., where she toured the STIHL manufacturing plant and announced a new initiative to strengthen the economy by supporting American businesses as they make things here in America and create jobs. The Make it in America Challenge is designed to accelerate the trend of insourcing, where companies are bringing jobs back and making additional investments in America. The competition, which is being funded by the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration and National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership and the Department of Labor’s Employment and Training Administration, will build upon the administration’s bottom-up approach to strengthening the economy and creating jobs by partnering with state, regional and local economies.

The national competition will help provide the critical infrastructure, strategic planning, capacity building, technical assistance, and workforce skills training necessary for American communities to be the desired home for more businesses. The Make it in America Challenge builds on the administration’s efforts to encourage companies—large and small, foreign and domestic, manufacturers and services firms—to increase investment in the United States.

Acting Secretary Blank also highlighted two ongoing efforts by the Department of Commerce to attract foreign direct investment. SelectUSA, a program the president launched last year, continues to showcase the United States as the world’s premier business location and to provide easy access to federal-level programs and services related to business investment. Also, Commerce’s Commercial Services officers have been trained to help foreign investors who want information about how to invest in the U.S and who want to link up with local and state economic development leaders to create jobs in America.

Jacob Taylor, NIST Physicist, Receives Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal for Public Service

On Thursday evening, National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) physicist Jacob Taylor received a Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies) for his advanced scientific research, which has potential for advances in health care, communications, computing, and technology. Presented the award by Acting Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank, Taylor was one of just nine winners chosen from nearly 400 nominees for awards honoring excellence in public service.

A fellow at the Joint Quantum Institute, Taylor has already developed a number of original theories on the cutting-edge of theoretical physics. One such idea is a way to allow magnetic resonance imaging to more effectively be utilized on the molecular level. This holds the promise of providing more detailed health information, better diagnoses, more targeted medical treatments, and more rapid discoveries of new drugs.

Taylor also has a pending patent on a process that would increase the quantity of data that could be sent through the Internet while using less energy, and his theory on computing has the potential to advance scientists much closer to the goal of achieving quantum computing—an extraordinary development in the field of physics that would allow for unprecedented increases to calculation speed.

NIST Unveils Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility to Improve Testing of Energy-Efficient Technologies

Grass seed falls from a ribbon as officials celebrate the opening of the Net-Zero Residential Test Facility on NIST’s Gaithersburg, Md., campus.

In a ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday, the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) unveiled a new laboratory designed to demonstrate that a typical-looking suburban home for a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year. Following an initial year-long experiment, the facility will be used to improve test methods for energy-efficient technologies and develop cost-effective design standards for energy-efficient homes that could reduce overall energy consumption and harmful pollution, and save families money on their monthly utility bills. 

The unique facility looks and behaves like an actual house, and has been built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards—the highest standard for sustainable structures. The two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility incorporates energy-efficient construction and appliances, as well as energy-generating technologies such as solar water heating and solar photovoltaic systems. Full release  |  Video

Acting Secretary Blank Delivers Remarks at National Automobile Dealers Association Conference

Acting Secretary Blank Addresses the National Association of Auto Dealers

This morning, Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered remarks at the National Automobile Dealers Association Legislative Conference. In her remarks, the Acting Secretary discussed how the Obama administration is working to strengthen the U.S. automobile industry, grow the economy and create jobs.

New car sales are beating expectations, having just seen the best August sales since 2009—nearly 1.3 million cars and trucks were sold last month. So far this year, sales for new cars are up 20 percent and sales for light-duty trucks are up more than 10 percent. Blank noted that, compared to the lowest point in 2009, the number of people employed in auto dealerships has risen by more than 85,000.

She also highlighted Cash for Clunkers, a $3 billion investment that stimulated our economy at a critical time when we needed consumers to go ahead and buy new cars, instead of holding back.  Not only did Cash for Clunkers help auto dealers get through a tough patch, but it also helped auto manufacturers and suppliers who were struggling to keep their workers employed and put safer, cleaner cars on the road.

Commerce’s NIST Announces $2 Million for Small Business Innovation Research

A woman operates a prototype of an environmental chamber for humidity control by Measurement Analysis Corp. (Photo © Nicholas McIntosh)

The Department of Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has awarded nearly $2 million in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards to 12 U.S. businesses. These awards provide funding to help companies develop technologies that could lead to commercial and public benefit.

"We are delighted by the high quality of SBIR proposals we received, and congratulate all the awardees," said Phillip Singerman, associate director for innovation and industry services at NIST. "Over the past year, NIST updated the solicitation process to focus on critical national priorities and provide maximum opportunities for businesses that are just starting out. With three-fourths of the Phase I recipients in business fewer than 10 years and two-thirds of them with 12 employees or fewer, the results of the solicitation demonstrate the success of that process."

NIST's SBIR program is a competitive funding opportunity that provides contracts to small businesses for federal research and development. In Phase I, small businesses can receive up to $90,000 to establish the scientific or technical merit or feasibility of ideas that support the commercial potential of their research. If after six months the Phase I awardees have accomplished their goals, they can compete for Phase II funding of up to $300,000 to continue their research and development efforts for up to two years.

Read more about the 12 winners and how NIST will provide technical assistance and direct assistance as allowed by the SBIR statute, as well as direct them to additional resources through NIST's Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership.

NIST: Baldrige Program Celebrates 25 Years of Performance Excellence

Logo: Baldrige Program Celebrates 25 Years of Performance Excellence

Not many 25-year-olds can boast that in their short lifetime they have helped thousands of organizations develop and maintain world-class operations, innovative management, efficient procedures, involved workforces and highly satisfied customers. But one certainly can: the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, the nation's premier means for organizations of all types to seek, achieve and maintain performance excellence.

On August 20, 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed into law the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Improvement Act, establishing the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award and its supporting program "to spark U.S. competitiveness and create a sustainable economy." Named after Malcolm Baldrige, the 26th Secretary of Commerce, the Baldrige Award and the Baldrige Program have guided organizations worldwide on their journeys toward continuous improvement and enhanced performance through the seven Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence—leadership; strategic planning; customer focus; measurement, analysis and knowledge management; workforce focus; operations focus; and results.

To celebrate its silver anniversary, the Baldrige Program has created a special Web page, "Honoring Our Past. . . Building an Even Better Future", that provides numerous links. See the full release

Shelling Out Evidence: NIST Ballistic Standard Helps Tie Guns to Criminals

Image of shell casing

Thanks to a new reference standard developed by Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), law enforcement agencies will have an easier time linking the nearly 200,000 cartridge cases recovered annually at U.S. crime scenes to specific firearms.

Cartridge cases—the empty shells left behind after a gun is fired—are routinely sent to forensic laboratories for analysis when they're found at a shooting scene. Using a specialized microscope called an Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS), lab technicians acquire digital images of three markings, or "signatures," impressed on the cartridge case by the gun that fired it. These signatures—the firing pin impression, the breech face impression and the ejector mark—are unique when fired from a specific firearm and can serve as "fingerprints" for that gun once the digital images are entered into a national database known as the National Integrated Ballistic Information Network (NIBIN).

For forensic examiners to reliably match recovered cartridge cases with ones whose signatures have been recorded in the NIBIN, they need to have confidence in the accuracy of the equipment and procedures used to make the link. That's where NIST's new "standard casing" comes in. The standard contains two items: an exact replica of a master cartridge case with distinct signature marks (obtained from the Department of Justice's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, or ATF), and a "golden" digital image of those same signatures that reside on the NIBIN.  Full Tech Beat story

Commerce Department Scientists Earn Presidential Honor for Early Career Achievements

OSTP seal

Earlier this week, President Obama announced the 2011 recipients of the Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers, the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers. Six employees from the Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were among those honored on Monday.

The awards, established by President Clinton in 1996, are coordinated by the Office of Science and Technology Policy within the Executive Office of the President. Awardees are selected for their pursuit of innovative research at the frontiers of science and technology and their commitment to community service as demonstrated through scientific leadership, public education, or community outreach.

The scientists are recognized not only for their innovative research, but also their demonstrated commitment to community service.

NIST Visit to Chicago Spotlights Manufacturing Success

On Tuesday this week, Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Patrick Gallagher was in Chicago to visit two manufacturing companies to learn more about the best practices and challenges confronting U.S. manufacturers.

“Having the opportunity to hear directly from manufacturers and see their operations firsthand is invaluable to those of us working to support and increase the competitiveness of American manufacturing,” said Gallagher.

The trip was coordinated by the Illinois Manufacturing Extension Center (IMEC), the Illinois center for the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program. “NIST is a critical resource for advanced manufacturing competitiveness,” said David Boulay, president of IMEC. “We were pleased to show the director the great prospects for American manufacturing success.”

Gallagher, along with representatives from the City of Chicago including Housing and Economic Development Commissioner Andrew Mooney, toured PortionPac Corporation. The company is a sustainability-focused manufacturer of highly concentrated, pre-measured cleaning products. President Burt Klein and other company leaders got the chance to showcase their manufacturing processes. With its commitment to workforce excellence, recognized by INC. magazine’s 2010 Winning Workplace, and its values of innovation, environmental leadership and social responsibility, the company highlights the keys to success for the next generation manufacturer.

NIST: University, Industry Experts Recommend Steps to 'Invigorate' U.S. Manufacturing

Alternate TextReport: University, Industry Experts Recommend Steps to Invigorate U.S. Manufacturing (cover of report)

A new report by a national committee of U.S. industry and university leaders details 16 recommendations "aimed at reinventing manufacturing in a way that ensures U.S. competitiveness, feeds into the nation's innovation economy, and invigorates the domestic manufacturing base."

The report was prepared by the 18-member steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership (AMP) that was launched by President Obama in June 2011 and co-chaired by Susan Hockfield, now president emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Andrew Liveris, president, chairman and chief executive officer of The Dow Chemical Company.

The AMP Steering Committee Report to the President on Capturing Competitive Advantage in Advanced Manufacturing (PDF) was formally adopted today by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

It addresses needs in three broad categories:

  • enabling innovation,
  • securing the talent pipeline, and
  • improving the business climate.

The recommendations include a call to establish a national network of manufacturing innovation institutes; an emphasis on investment in community college training of the advanced manufacturing workforce; an approach to evaluate platform manufacturing technologies for collaborative investment; a plan to reinvigorate the image of manufacturing in America; and proposals for trade, tax, regulatory, and energy policies that would level the global playing field for domestic manufacturers.  Full NIST release

22 Ways the Department Of Commerce Is Supporting and Fostering American Innovation

RIANO logo

In an increasingly competitive world, the United States must invest in its best scientists, researchers and entrepreneurs so that they innovate here, make things here, and create good paying, high quality jobs for middle class families. The Department of Commerce and its bureaus are supporting and fostering innovation at all stages of product development, from original research through to final manufactured goods.

Commerce’s Economic Development Agency has launched two grant challenges, the i6 Challenge and the Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator, to move ideas from the lab and shop floor to the marketplace at an accelerated rate. Supporting this work is the Regional Innovation Acceleration Network, a web-based tool to help economic development professionals promote entrepreneurship, business development, and technology commercialization in their region.

In April 2010, the Commerce Department launched the Internet Policy Task Force to ensure that the Internet remains open for innovation. In doing so, it has produced the Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights, made important steps forward for a National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, started a conversation about privacy concerns within mobile apps, and worked to combat Botnets that threaten internet security. To ensure continued Internet security, Commerce has opened a Cybersecurity Center of Excellence.

NIST Kicks Off New National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence

NIST’s Curt Barker, Karen Waltermire, and Henry Wixon are seen explaining how interested parties can get involved

Guest blog post by Donna Dodson, Chief, Computer Security Division and Acting Director, National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, National Institute of Standards and Technology

This week, Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) hosted a workshop to kick off the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE), a new public-private collaboration that will bring together experts from industry, government and academia to design, implement, test and demonstrate integrated cybersecurity solutions and promote their widespread adoption.

IT is central to financial, communications, healthcare and physical infrastructures and even entertainment systems. It is also under constant attack by cybercriminals looking to steal business data, personal information and devices, or disrupt private and government business with malicious code, denial of service and Web-based attacks.

We were excited to bring together representatives from various industry sectors (health, utility, financial, and more), along with those from government agencies, academia and other organizations to learn how the center will operate and how the public can participate. In the photo here, NIST’s Curt Barker, Karen Waltermire, and Henry Wixon are seen explaining how interested parties can get involved.

The NCCoE will provide a state-of-the-art computing facility where researchers from NIST can work collaboratively with both the users and vendors of products and services on holistic cybersecurity approaches. NIST is hosting the center in collaboration with the state of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md.

By providing a test bed where new ideas and technologies can be tried out before being deployed, the center provides the opportunity to thoroughly document and share each solution, supporting specific industry sector business challenges. This will encourage the rapid adoption of comprehensive cybersecurity templates and approaches that support automated and trustworthy e-government and e-commerce.

NIST Goes the Distance for the Olympics

NIST technician Christopher Blackburn uses a microscope to precisely align a retroreflector over the center of a hash mark on a measuring tape. Photo credit: Bruce Borchardt

In yet another Olympian feat of measurement, researchers at Commerce's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) recently calibrated a tape that will be used to measure out the distance of this summer's Olympic marathon—a distance of 26 miles 385 yards—to 1 part in 1,000.

Measurement is a vital aspect of the Olympic Games. Officials measure the height of jumps, the speed of races, and the mass of weights to determine who wins a medal and who goes home. The marathon is no different. Because of the difficulties in measuring out the distance, the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) only recognized best times and didn't begin awarding world records for marathons until 2004 when a method using a device called a Jones Counter was officially recognized as sufficiently accurate.

Developed by a father-son duo in the early 1970s, the Jones Counter is a simple geared device that counts the revolutions of a bicycle wheel. To calibrate the device, course measurers lay out a calibrated measuring tape at least 30 meters in length. Once they have determined the number of revolutions that equal that distance—and a couple of successively longer distances—they follow painstaking procedures for laying out the rest of the course. The measurements, which can take hours to complete, will ensure that the shortest distance a runner will run will be at least the required distance and no more than about 40 meters over, corresponding to an error of about one part in 1,000.  Full story

NIST: Creating Jobs with Innovation

Image: NIST Under Secretary and Director Patrick Gallagher tours Omega Plastics

Guest blog post by Patrick Gallagher, Under Secretary  of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Director, National Institute of Standards and Technology

We’ve been hearing a lot about manufacturing, especially advanced manufacturing, these days. Things like U.S. manufacturing :

  • Is critical to innovation since it’s responsible for most of our private sector research and development;
  • Is increasingly about sophisticated computer-driven, highly productive worksites requiring skilled workers; and
  • Is a growing source of good jobs.

What we don’t hear about as often are specific cases where U.S. manufacturers are using new technologies to diversify their markets, improve their products, and create or retain jobs. I was fortunate today to visit one such company, Omega Plastics Inc., located in Clinton Township, MI, about an hour outside Detroit.

The event was part of a “Best Practice Tour” sponsored by the Michigan Manufacturing Technology Center (MMTC), an affiliate of NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP).

NIST Effort Could Improve High-Tech Medical Scanners

Microarrayer machines (A) now can mix colors and deposit them on microscope slides, which can be used to calibrate hyperspectral imagers (HSI) for use in medical applications. The finished slides can be custom-colored (B) to calibrate HSIs to find specific types of tumors or disease tissue. Close up, they resemble dot-matrix printwork (C). Photo: Clark/NIST

A powerful color-based imaging technique is making the jump from remote sensing to the operating room—and a team of scientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have taken steps to ensure it performs as well when discerning oxygen-depleted tissues and cancer cells in the body as it does with oil spills in the ocean.

The technique, called hyperspectral imaging (HSI), has frequently been used in satellites because of its superior ability to identify objects by color. While many other visual surveying methods can scan only for a single color, HSI is able to distinguish the full color spectrum in each pixel, which allows it to perceive the unique color "signatures" of individual objects. Well-calibrated HSI sensors have been able to discern problems from diseases in coral reefs to pollution in the atmosphere as determined by the distinct spectral signature at a location.  NIST Tech Beat item

Nationwide Adoption of NIST-Developed Test Predicted to Cut Death Toll Due to Cigarette-Caused Fires

Examples of results of the Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes (ASTM E2187) are shown. Non-filter (top) and filter (left) cigarettes "failed," having burned the full length in the test. The cigarette that extinguished before burning its full length (right) passed. The test calls for performing 40 such determinations for each cigarette and reporting the number of full-length burns. Cigarettes are positioned on the standard ASTM E2187 test substrate.

In 2003, New York became the first state requiring cigarettes sold within its borders to pass a fire safety standard based on a test developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to reduce the risk of igniting upholstered furniture and bedding, a major cause of residential fires.

Last year, when Wyoming enacted a law similar to New York’s, a milestone with lifesaving consequences was achieved: all 50 states had made the Standard Test Method for Measuring the Ignition Strength of Cigarettes (ASTM E2187) a regulatory requirement.

A new study projects that, with nationwide adoption, deaths due to fires ignited by cigarettes or other tobacco products will drop 30 percent below the total number of such fatalities in 2003, the last full year before the ASTM E2187 was first implemented in a state. The projected decrease translates into about 200 lives saved annually.  More from NIST