Technology Transfer:

Federal Efforts to Enhance the Competitiveness of Small Manufacturers

RCED-92-30: Published: Nov 22, 1991. Publicly Released: Nov 22, 1991.

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Victor S. Rezendes
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the: (1) technology needs of small manufacturers to improve their competitiveness; and (2) effectiveness of four federal programs, especially the Department of Commerce's Manufacturing Technology Centers Program, in addressing those needs.

GAO found that: (1) most state-of-the-art automated technologies developed at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and other federal laboratories cannot effectively be used by small manufacturers, since such manufacturers generally do not have the resources or trained personnel to incorporate such technologies into their operations; (2) the four federal programs have been only somewhat effective in addressing the technological needs of small manufacturers to improve their competitiveness; (3) three centers initially proposed to transfer advanced technologies from federal laboratories to small manufacturers, but found that their clients primarily needed proven technologies; (4) the three centers initiated 1,336 projects emphasizing proven technologies and saving several firms $139 million through improved operations; and (5) only seven states provided direct consultation to manufacturers, the type of assistance experts considered most effective in helping manufacturers, and three of those states recently substantially reduced funding for their programs because of budget constraints.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The proposed National Competitiveness Act of 1993 was not passed by the 103rd Congress. No similar legislation is currently being considered by the 104th Congress.

    Matter: Because the primary need of most small manufacturers for improving their productivity is to adopt proven technologies, Congress, in considering whether to expand existing, or initiate new, federal technology assistance programs, may wish to refocus the emphasis of such programs from transferring advanced, laboratory-based technologies to transferring proven, off-the-shelf technologies.


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