NIST Advanced Technology Program
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How ATP Works ...

How ATP WorksThe Advanced Technology Program (ATP) bridges the gap between the research lab and the market place, stimulating prosperity through innovation. Through partnerships with the private sector, ATP's early stage investment is accelerating the development of innovative technologies that promise significant commercial payoffs and widespread benefits for the nation. As part of the highly regarded National Institute of Standards and Technology, the ATP is changing the way industry approaches R&D, providing a mechanism for industry to extend its technological reach and push out the envelope of what can be attempted.

Technology research in the private sector is driven by today's global, economic realities. The pace of technological change is faster than ever before, and victory goes to the swift. These realities force companies to make narrower, shorter-term investments in R&D that maximize returns to the company quickly.

The ATP views R&D projects from a broader perspective - its bottom line is how the project can benefit the nation. In sharing the relatively high development risks of technologies that potentially make feasible a broad range of new commercial opportunities, the ATP fosters projects with a high payoff for the nation as a whole - in addition to a direct return to the innovators. The ATP has several critical features that set it apart from other government R&D programs:

  • ATP projects focus on the technology needs of American industry, not those of government. Research priorities for the ATP are set by industry, based on their understanding of the marketplace and research opportunities. For-profit companies conceive, propose, co-fund, and execute ATP projects and programs in partnerships with academia, independent research organizations and federal labs.
  • The ATP has strict cost-sharing rules. Joint Ventures (two or more companies working together) must pay at least half of the project costs. Large, Fortune-500 companies participating as a single firm must pay at least 60 percent of total project costs. Small and medium-sized companies working on single firm ATP projects must pay a minimum of all indirect costs associated with the project.
  • The ATP does not fund product development. Private industry bears the costs of product development, production, marketing, sales and distribution.
  • The ATP awards are made strictly on the basis of rigorous peer-reviewed competitions. Selection is based on the innovation, the technical risk, potential economic benefits to the nation and the strength of the commercialization plan of the project.
  • The ATP's support does not become a perpetual subsidy or entitlement - each project has goals, specific funding allocations, and completion dates established at the outset. Projects are monitored and can be terminated for cause before completion.

The ATP partners with companies of all sizes, universities and non-profits, encouraging them to take on greater technical challenges with potentially large benefits that extend well beyond the innovators - challenges they could not or would not do alone. For smaller, start-up firms, early support from the ATP can spell the difference between success and failure. To date, more than half of the ATP awards have gone to individual small businesses or to joint ventures led by a small business. Large firms can work with the ATP, especially in joint ventures, to develop critical, high-risk technologies that would be difficult for any one company to justify because, for example, the benefits spread across the industry as a whole.

Universities and non-profit independent research organizations play a significant role as participants in ATP projects. Out of 768 projects selected by the ATP since its inception, well over half of the projects include one or more universities as either subcontractors or joint-venture members. All told, there are more than 170 individual universities and over 30 national laboratories participating in ATP projects. For more information, see slide 8 of the ATP Director's executive briefing, "In Partnership with NIST and the Nation."

ATP awards are selected through open, peer-reviewed competitions. All industries and all fields of science and technology are eligible. Proposals are evaluated by one of several technology-specific boards that are staffed with experts in fields, such as biotechnology, photonics, chemistry, manufacturing, information technology, or materials. All proposals are assured an appropriate, technically competent review even if they involve a broad, multi-disciplinary mix of technologies.

The ATP accepts proposals only in response to specific, published solicitations. Notices of ATP competitions are published in Commerce Business Daily. You may also request to be placed on a mailing list to receive notification of ATP competitions and other events by calling the ATP automated hotline (1-800-ATP-FUND) or by sending e-mail to The ATP Proposal Preparation Kit may be requested at any time. In addition to the necessary application forms, the kit includes a thorough discussion of the ATP goals and procedures as well as useful guidelines in the preparation of a proposal. Further information can also be found on the program's web site.

Date created: September 1999
Last Update: July 29, 2010

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