Federal Research:

Challenges to Implementing the Advanced Technology Program

RCED/OCE-98-83R: Published: Mar 2, 1998. Publicly Released: Mar 25, 1998.

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Victor S. Rezendes
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) administration of the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) under recently revised regulations.

GAO noted that: (1) the ATP program's recently revised regulations appear to be more closely tied to addressing the underlying economics of market failure than they have been in the past; (2) for example, the project selection criteria now explicitly consider the potential spillover benefits of proposed projects; (3) spillover benefits are the benefits that accrue to those who are not involved in the support or performance of a particular research project; (4) however, significant challenges remain in connection with NIST's ability to identify the projects in which market failure has occurred; (5) the consideration of spillovers may not provide much useful guidance to actually selecting research projects; (6) spillovers that have already occurred are difficult to identify, and predicting future spillovers is even more difficult; (7) NIST must rely on applicants for information about the willingness of private sector sources to fund projects; (8) the information they provide is likely to be presented in such a way as to increase their chances of receiving public funding; (9) the program's objectives may work against each other and hinder the program's ability to identify and address market failure; (10) for example, NIST selects projects that are expected to be commercially successful but would not be performed without public funding; and (11) however, projects that are likely to be commercially successful are also likely to have incentives for private investment.

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