Twenty-six percent of the 50 projects were in the bottom group of performers. Although most of these produced technical outputs such as patents or papers, none of them were award-winning; all showed little or no further direct progress toward commercialization; and the outlook for the future through direct action of the award recipients was poor or uncertain at best.
Most of the 50 projects (58 percent) fell in the middle group of performers— they produced solid technical accomplishments but overall were not as strong as the top group. In some cases, these projects were strong technically but had not demonstrated robust commercial progress, and, in a few cases, they had produced a technology with commercial strength but had little else to show in the way of sharing knowledge with others—a public-interest goal of the program.
From a portfolio perspective, the results look strong for the ATP: the estimated net benefits attributed to the program from the top performers of the first 50 completed projects exceed the cost of the entire program to date, suggesting that the program is on track to produce a high return for the nation.
These positive results are subject to an important caveat: The projects were assessed in two different groups in two different periods—38 of the projects were assessed two years ago and 12 more recently. Given that technology development and commercialization take time and are characterized by unexpected break-throughs and failures, future updates of these projects may alter the findings reported here.
From the moment the ATP funded its first group of 11 projects in the 1990 competition, program administrators, the Administration, Congress, technology policy makers, industry, and others in this country and abroad were keenly interested in the outcome. But technology development and commercialization are lengthy processes, and it takes time to produce results. Now, as the program completes its first decade of operation, there are a growing number of projects that have completed their ATP-funded research and moved into the post-project period. This group of completed projects makes it possible to measure project out