The Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology is putting up big money to tackle infrastructure problems like leaking main water lines and damaged bridges.
For years, the Gaithersburg, Maryland-based NIST and its congressional allies fought bitterly with Republicans in the Bush White House and on Capitol Hill over the Advanced Technology Program, which supported some $31 million in industry-government research partnerships to help support U.S. firms doing risky research in areas ranging from material science to genomics. Conservatives thought the program amounted to corporate pork. While ATP, as it was called, was shut down in 2006, Democrats in Congress resurrected the program last year as the Technology Innovation Program, which was to focus on particular areas of national interest.
The first round of projects, announced today, focuses on infrastructure. It includes studies to develop sensors to continually monitor concrete bridges and radar systems to inspect buried municipal water pipes. The projects will be funded over 5 years at a level of $88 million, with industry shouldering about half the cost.