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Fact Sheet

Innovation for a Competitive Advantage

February 14, 2011

This material is available primarily for archival purposes. Telephone numbers or other contact information may be out of date; please see current contact information at media contacts.

Small businesses and high-tech manufacturing directly impact our nation's economic prowess and security. From lasers to MRI, Internet protocols, and automated systems, National Science Foundation- (NSF) supported research has been critical to technological leaps affecting health care, modern communications, and automotive safety and efficiency. In the 2012 budget, NSF will invest in hallmark programs designed to incubate small businesses; foster public-private partnerships; and catalyze the way our nation invents and manufactures high-technology products. Such investments are critical to revitalize existing manufacturing and to support the development of new products in emerging industries.

Advanced Manufacturing research goes beyond traditional manufacturing to create new methodologies, systems, and processes, as well as novel paradigms for transforming raw materials into finished products. NSF will pursue research advances in sensor and model-based smart manufacturing; cyber-physical systems such as advanced robotics; smart buildings and bridges; and nano-manofacturing, for example.

Engineering Research Centers (ERCs) and Industry/University Cooperative Research Centers have a strong legacy of innovation through partnering industry and academia to advance complex systems and systems-level technologies. These programs ensure that the resulting research leads to useful products that can be readily utilized by industry and society, including smart street lights, artificial retinas, and implantable defibrillators. ERCs have generated more than 1,700 invention disclosures, 600 patents, 2,000 patent and software licenses, and 140 spin-off companies. Research at these centers has radically transformed product lines, processing technologies, and service delivery methodologies.

NSF's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs have resulted in the creation of many firms that have successfully developed cutting-edge, high-quality technologies and products. The SBIR and STTR programs encourage the evolution from basic research to mature technologies with practical uses, offering an extremely efficient way to encourage the growth of technology and innovation. Government-wide, SBIR programs are now the largest single source of patents in the United States, and these programs result in a quarter of the most important technological innovations in the United States each year.

The National Nanotechnology Signature Initiatives (NNSI) will continue investments in nanotechnology research, development, and implementation. Entirely new classes of materials have been discovered and developed via investments in nanotechnology. This fundamental research must now be translated from research labs to practical use by enabling new industries such as energy generation, conservation, storage, and conversion; advanced medical diagnostics; nanoelectronics; and advanced manufacturing principles.



Media Contacts
Bobbie Mixon, NSF, (703) 292-8070, email:

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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