With the Obama Administration continuing to push for funding in clean energy, green manufacturing, and advances in health care, the National Institute of Standards and Technology finds itself in the welcome position of trying to grease the wheels of all three. NIST works to forge common standards and measurement tools for everything from the weight of a kilogram to the best way to make cell-derived drugs. Those common standards are critical to pushing the growth of new industries, says NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. Case in point, Gallagher says, is so-called “smart grid” technology that's designed to integrate renewable power coming from wind turbines and solar cells with the nation's 9000 conventional power plants and 300,000 miles of transmission lines. Other NIST programs that got a favorable nod: green manufacturing (+$10 million), cyber security (+$10 million), disaster resilient buildings (+$5 million), and measurement and standards for manufacturing biologics, or cell-derived drugs (+$10 million).
With these and other additions, the Administration proposes increasing the budget for NIST's National Scientific and Technical Research and Services, which includes NIST's in house research labs, by 13%, to $584 million.
Construction money for lab upgrades is forecasted to decline $22 million compared with last year. But that is with last year's $47 million in Congressional earmarks zeroed out, a block of funds Congress is apt to restore. A final winner again this year is NIST's Technology Innovation Program, the successor to the controversial Advanced Technology Program, which congress almost killed during the previous Administration. Here the Administration proposes boosting funding $10 million, to $79 million.
Collectively, the additions bring NIST's FY 2011 budget request to $919 million, up 7.3%. That's also a raise of nearly 22% since 2008, and keeps NIST on a path to doubling its budget by 2017. "We're overjoyed with the budget," Gallagher says. "It shows that science and technology are really viewed through an economic lens."