ATP was initiated as a means of funding high-risk R&D with broad commercial and societal benefits that would not be undertaken by a single company, either because the risk was too high or because a large enough share of the benefits of success would not accrue to the company for it to make the investment. ATP lacked the straightforward national security rationale that had underpinned many postwar U.S. technology programs. It did reflect, however, a general trend away from purely mission-oriented research and development toward more broadly based technological advances.

For the 41 competitions held 1990-2000 ATP made 522 awards for approximately $1.64 billion. These awards went to 1,162 participating organizations and an approximately equal number of subcontractors. Universities and non-profit independent research organizations play a significant role as participants in ATP projects. Universities have participated in over half of the projects, involving more than 176 individual universities.99 Indeed, recent Administration proposals to improve the program call for a greater role for universities.100

With peer-reviewed competitions, the ATP supports the development of a wide variety of new technologies. These have included adaptive learning systems, component-based software, digital data storage, information infrastructure for health care, microelectronics manufacturing infrastructure, manufacturing technology for photonics, motor vehicles and printed wiring boards, new tissue-engineering technologies, bio-polymer repairs, and tools for DNA diagnostics.101 These technologies are technically promising but commercially risky. This means that significant portions of the ATP-funded projects are likely to fail.102 This is to be expected; no failures would suggest insufficient risk. At the same time, recent research suggests that a significant portion are succeeding.103 The results of some projects, such as ATP’s early support for extreme ultraviolet (EUV) lithography research, have made significant contributions to the development of next generation lithography.104


See Alan P. Balutis and Barbara Lambis, “The ATP Competition Structure” in National Research Council, The Advanced Technology Program, Assessing Outcomes, op. cit.


See U.S. Department of Commerce, “The Advanced Technology Program: Reform with a Purpose,” February 2002. The proposals made by the Secretary of Commerce do not call for the abolition of the program; instead, the report makes six proposals to improve the program. Most of these are consistent with the Committee’s assessment; others may prove difficult to implement. The administrative initiative represents a major step toward a positive consensus on the program’s value.


See Alan P. Balutis and Barbara Lambis, op. cit. See also Rosalie Ruegg, “Taking a Step Back: An Early Results Overview of Fifty ATP Awards” in National Research Council, The Advanced Technology Program, Assessing Outcomes, op. cit.


This federal partnership program is exceptional in that it identifies and declares failures.


See Rosalie Ruegg, op. cit.


Interestingly, the value of the ATP-funded work did not become immediately apparent. As such, it represents an example of the indirect path of a project ‘s trajectory. See the paper by Rosalie Ruegg in National Research Council, Advanced Technology Program; Measuring Outcomes, op. cit.

The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement