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projects are not risky enough, and whether ATP is skimming the cream of investments that would be more appropriately made by the private sector.

Incorporating Evaluation Results

Rosalie Ruegg rose to clarify several points, in particular the observations about the project termination statistics:

  • the two projects terminated because they succeeded earlier were cases in which the teams found better ways to get to the projects' goals; and

  • ATP funds were never released to the two joint ventures that were terminated because they failed to reach agreement.

Taking up Dr. Feller's question about whether the ATP uses its evaluation results to refine the program's selection criteria and its other operations, Ms. Ruegg said the answer to that question is that the ATP devotes a great deal of attention to feeding its evaluation results back into the selection process. Three economists from the evaluation staff, for example, provided training to the FY2000 selection boards, drawing specifically on evaluation results for their material. As more evaluation results are accumulated, this interaction becomes richer and its impact on the selection process greater.

Even project failures can have successful elements, she stressed, because they result in additions to the knowledge base. The “indirect path” may mean that other companies carry certain aspects of a project forward into the market. Many of the terminated projects, for example, had patenting activity before they ended, and evaluators can often discern signs of knowledge from those patents being exploited by others.

Jim Turner observed that another indirect impact of the projects was its benefits for NIST. The ATP helps keep the agency on the cutting edge of technology and reinforces its ability to perform its mission.



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