• Join your peers at SSTI's 2024 Annual Conference!

    Join us December 10-12 in Arizona to connect with and learn from your peers working around the country to strengthen their regional innovation economies. Visit ssticonference.org for more information and to register today.

  • Become an SSTI Member

    As the most comprehensive resource available for those involved in technology-based economic development, SSTI offers the services that are needed to help build tech-based economies.  Learn more about membership...

  • Subscribe to the SSTI Weekly Digest

    Each week, the SSTI Weekly Digest delivers the latest breaking news and expert analysis of critical issues affecting the tech-based economic development community. Subscribe today!

ATP Shines in Latest Two Independent Reports

February 21, 2003

Editor's note: Few federal programs that fund research have undergone as much independent review and outside scrutiny as the Advanced Technology Program (ATP) within the National Institute of Standards and Technology and come out with high marks nearly every time. Yet two more independent papers described briefly below find that ATP funds make a positive difference for spurring innovation and commercializing technology. The program effects and encourages change that accelerates the development and adoption of technologies with large scale, national impact.

Given the great number of studies conducted on ATP since its founding more than a decade ago, it is clear that rigorous analyses from independent economists and highly respected organizations such as the National Research Council will not be enough to convince its detractors. Perhaps, Congress' action on the FY04 budget, future Administration budget requests and policy direction will be swayed by the continuingly growing mountain of evidence in support of ATP's effectiveness.

Universities, Joint Ventures and Success in the Advanced Technology Program

ATP participation has substantial positive effects on innovations in firms when compared to patenting levels prior to and after ATP funding. This is a major finding of the NBER working paper, Universities, Joint Ventures and Success in the Advanced Technology Program. The paper, written by Michael Darby, Lynne Zucker and Andrew Wang, supports the suggestion that ATP participation promotes organizational-wide changes that encourage an increased rate of innovation. ATP participants totaled more than 40 percent of all patents issued to U.S. entities from 1988 to 1996. An increase between 4-25 percent, or 5-30 patents, annually in patenting activity is seen in correspondence with ATP program participation.

One element stressed is the role ATP plays in increasing the social network of R&D for participating firms. The inherent design of ATP encourages firms to relax their boundaries, share knowledge and promotes access to intellectual property produced within a joint venture, the report states. "Spillover" or transfers of knowledge to other joint venture members occur within this framework and by fostering organizational exchanges; ATP helps to assemble the basis for innovation. From this interaction, firms gain access to complementary knowledge and business resources of R&D partners and collaborator firms.

With the goal of assessing whether ATP participation has an effect on the development of new intellectual property within a firm, the authors use firm-level patent data in the study. Various types of ATP arrangements are considered, including joint ventures, single participants and the effect of university partnerships. The study finds ATP project participation has a positive impact on the number of patents for a firm on a yearly basis. Furthermore, joint ventures have a positive effect in relation to single participants and joint ventures with university partners have an additional positive effect.

The results of the study also imply that the effect of ATP participation extends beyond the project and has an impact on the entire organization. ATP as a public-private partnership program plays a vital role in developing the institutions and social processes critical to innovation, the report concludes.

The report is available form the National Bureau of Economic Research: http://papers.nber.org/papers/W9463

The Advanced Technology Program: Assessing Outcomes

ATP is a successful federal partnership program that has a considerable positive effect on advancing technologies that can contribute to significant public objectives. This is one of the core findings of The Advanced Technology Program: Assessing Outcomes, a report prepared by the National Research Council’s (NRC) Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy. The National Institute of Standards and Technology asked the NRC to review the performance of ATP as part of a broader initiative to carry out an assessment of government-industry partnerships. The report was prepared through two major symposia, a workshop to review the program’s operation and a substantial review of a large body of independent analysis of the program.

Other core findings of the study include: the peer review process of applicants in the program enhances its goal of advancing new technologies; the program’s high standard for assessment provides confidence in the programs evaluation of its accomplishments; and extensive evaluation illustrates that the program has been successful in achieving its principal intention of advancing private sector R&D projects where social returns are likely to surpass returns to private investors.

Some recommendations provided within the report to improve the ATP program include: extend the window for award applications, accelerate the decision-making process, and extend the periods in which awards can be made; retain the debriefing process for unsuccessful applicants; concentrate a considerable amount of the awards in selected topical areas; expand existing efforts to integrate evaluation results into the decision process; increase the stability of R&D funding; and continue to focus on small business.

Additionally, increasing collaboration on national initiatives and pushing for matching grants by states were two new initiatives suggested for the ATP program.

The Advanced Technology Program: Assessing Outcomes is available at: http://www.nap.edu/catalog/10145.html