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Blog Category: Willie May

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.

Connecting Minority Serving Institutions with Research and Entrepreneurship Opportunities

Earlier this month, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) hosted a special event for minority serving institutions to foster collaborations that could increase minority participation in scientific research and entrepreneurship. Representatives from large and small colleges and universities across the country gathered to learn about NIST’s national research priorities and about “lab-to-market” opportunities from both NIST and the MBDA.

MBDA National Director Alejandra Castillo explained why the event was timely in her opening remarks when she said, “Wealth creation is happening in the high technology sector, but only four percent of those businesses are minority owned. Minority serving institutions are not only positioned to educate scientists and engineers, but to create partnerships for the businesses of tomorrow.”

Attendees learned about the many opportunities for partnering with NIST from Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May, who explained the importance of collaboration to NIST’s world-class research. NIST collaborates with a number of organizations and institutions of higher learning as it addresses national priorities including cybersecurity, manufacturing, communications, forensics, disaster resilience and healthcare and bioscience. “Last year, we provided about $200 million in grants to institutions of higher education that can collaborate with us and assist us in carrying out our mission,” said May.

May highlighted the variety of opportunities at NIST for undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral, associate and visiting researchers. Of NIST’s approximately 1,600 associate researchers who come from academia, about one quarter are from Historical Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) or Minority Serving Institutes (MSIs).

The event was initiated by George Cooper, director of the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), who said he realized there was great potential at NIST for supporting partnerships between HBCUs and the federal government.

Day two’s agenda focused on moving research and technologies out of the lab and into the marketplace. Participants learned about the federal government’s role in technology transfer and the Lab-to-Market Programs in NIST’s Technology Partnerships Office and the MBDA’s San Francisco Business Center. A panel discussion including representatives from industry and non-profit and advocacy groups that support emerging businesses offered best practices for getting from lab to market.

Throughout the event, participants were encouraged to develop relationships not only with NIST and the MBDA, but also with one another. As Cooper put it, their partnerships could “leverage the strengths of multiple institutions” to increase engagement with federal agencies.

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.