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NIST Centers of Excellence (+$20 million)

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James Chin-wen Chou with quantum logic clock

image: J. Burrus/NIST


NIST's mission to use measurement science and services to support innovation and industrial competitiveness covers an incredible breadth of topics—from pharmaceuticals based on nanotechnology to standards and fire codes for skyscrapers to quantum computers that use individual atoms to store information. To accomplish this mission efficiently, NIST must continually scan the horizons for emerging technologies and maintain excellent ties with both the industry and academic community. 

Currently, NIST has collaborative research centers—JILA, the Joint Quantum Institute, and the Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research—established on campuses of the University of Colorado and the University of Maryland, near its primary campuses. These centers have demonstrated how participation by NIST experts at multiple venues can leverage federal investments and enhance the value of public funding.

Cutting-edge research requires detailed, one-to-one exchange of technical know-how and often familiarity with one-of-a-kind instrumentation. To ensure that NIST’s work intersects with the nation’s most productive regional innovation centers, it needs “on the ground” resources near or at those centers. Research universities, in particular, offer settings that combine the expertise of senior faculty members with the creativity and diversity of talents of graduate students and post-doctoral researchers.

Proposed NIST Program

With the requested funding, NIST will provide grants to establish four competitively selected Centers of Excellence in measurement science areas defined by NIST. The grants to multi- or single university centers will be awarded for 5 to 7 year periods. Each Center of Excellence will provide an interdisciplinary environment where NIST, academic, and industry researchers would collaborate on basic and applied research focused on innovations in measurement science and new technology development. Examples of priority research fields for the new centers may include: 

  • Advanced communications
  • Advanced manufacturing 
  • Biomanufacturing
  • Cyberphysical systems
  • Forensic science
  • Human-robotic integration
  • Materials modeling/design
  • Quantitative biology
  • Telecommunications  

Expected Impacts

This initiative will help to:

  • more rapidly meet national needs by focusing the best experts in key technical fields on measurement science research that accelerates innovation;
  • speed up technology transfer and allow industry to more efficiently collaborate at regional centers to improve their products and processes; and
  • ensure NIST programs and research priorities are as closely integrated as possible with advanced manufacturing and other industry needs regardless of their geographic location.


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