GAITHERSBURG, MD.-The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) today announced $9.1 million in cooperative agreements for 22 projects designed to enhance the productivity, technological performance and global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers.

Granted through competitive processes to nonprofit organizations, these projects will be implemented through MEP's national system of over 400 centers, field offices and partners. The funding will help encourage the creation and adoption of improved technologies and provide resources to develop new products that respond to changing market needs.

"A vibrant manufacturing sector drives American innovation and is central to our economic growth and global competitiveness," said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke. "With the right investments, we can continue to create highly valued manufacturing jobs building great products and sell them around the world."

The proposals selected represent a variety of compelling ideas for helping small and medium-sized U.S. manufacturers tackle a complex set of needs with cost-effective and innovative solutions.

The projects, described below, address one or more of five areas MEP has identified as vital for strategic growth in U.S. manufacturing. MEP's five strategic growth areas include:

  • Responding to evolving supply chains;

  • Accelerating the adoption of new technology to build business growth;

  • Implementing environmentally sustainable processes;

  • Establishing and enabling strong workforces for the future, and;

  • Encouraging cultures of continuous improvement.

    NIST MEP invited proposals for the projects earlier this year through two competitions announced in the Federal Register. Awards for both competitions are being announced today. In one competition, projects addressed the new and emerging competitive needs of manufacturers in areas consistent with the MEP program's five Strategic Growth Areas. This competition was open to existing MEP centers and groups of centers. In the second competition, projects focused on integrating two or more of MEP's strategic growth areas into client engagement models to effectively deliver services to U.S. manufacturers. This competition was open to all nonprofit organizations including universities, community colleges, state governments and state technology programs, as well as existing MEP centers.

    NIST received 68 proposals for the two competitions, which closed on July 15. The awards announced today provide funding for only the first year of each project. Continuation of funding for each subsequent year of a multi-year proposal will be at the discretion of NIST/MEP and contingent upon satisfactory progress and the availability of funds. Projects are expected to start within 30 days of the award notice. Funding for the projects came from MEP's fiscal year 2010 budget.