[Excerpt] The Technology Innovation Program (TIP) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was established in 2007 to replace the Advanced Technology Program (ATP). This effort is designed "to support, promote, and accelerate innovation in the United States through high-risk, high-reward research in areas of critical national need," according to the authorizing legislation. Grants are provided to small and medium-sized firms for individual projects or joint ventures with other research organizations.
While similar to the Advanced Technology Program in the promotion of R&D that is expected to be of broad-based economic benefit to the nation, TIP appears to have been structured to avoid what was seen as government funding of large firms that opponents argued did not necessarily need federal support for research. The committee report to accompany H.R. 1868, part of which was incorporated into the final legislation, stated that TIP replaces ATP in consideration of a changing global innovation environment focusing on small and medium-sized companies. The design of the program also "acknowledges the important role universities play in the innovation cycle by allowing universities to fully participate in the program."
The elimination of ATP and the creation of TIP have renewed the debate over the role of the federal government in promoting commercial technology development. In arguing for less direct federal involvement, advocates of this approach believe that the market is superior to government in deciding technologies worthy of investment. Mechanisms that enhance the market's opportunities and abilities to make such choices are preferred. It is suggested that agency discretion in selecting one technology over another can lead to political intrusion and industry dependency. On the other hand, supporters of direct methods argue that it is important to focus on those technologies that have the greatest promise as determined by industry and supported by matching funds from the private sector. They assert that the government can serve as a catalyst for cooperation As the Congress makes appropriation decisions, the discussion may serve to redefine thinking about governmental efforts in facilitating technological advancement in the private sector.