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NIST: Federal R&D Boosts Industry

In an annual report, The National Institute of Standards and Technology details innovations developed collaboratively by federal labs and organizations outside of government.

New software to support economical building techniques and technology to improve the quality of dairy products are just two of the projects inspired by federal research in 2008, according to a report the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released this week.

The annual Technology Transfer report details how the laboratories of key federal agencies collaborate with non-federal organizations to give social or economic purpose to research activities.

Eleven federal agencies have significant laboratory operations that engage in R&D and work with organizations in industry, academia, the non-profit sector, and state and local governments on improvement projects. They are: the Departments of Agriculture (USDA), Commerce, Defense, Energy, Heath and Human Services, Homeland Security, Interior, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and NASA.

The report gives the president and Congress some idea how the collaboration is affecting various industries. In addition to outlining specific projects, it also provides performance metrics for the last five years.

According to the 2008 report, collaboration between Federal labs and organizations outside the government was generally on the rise over previous years and resulted in technology that benefited various business sectors in the U.S.

One of the DOC projects outlined in the report produced software based on Microsoft Windows to help designers, builders, and product manufacturers choose environmentally friendly building products.

The software -- developed by NIST and called Building for Environmental and Economic Sustainability, or BEES -- includes environmental and economical performance data for more than 230 building products and is based on consensus standards. It's designed to reduce complex technical content about building materials and delivers results in a graphical interface, according to the report.

Another project teamed the USDA with Agriculture Research Service (ARS) researchers in Nebraska and Maryland to use technology called the BeadChip to design a chip to look at cattle's genetic makeup in order to create higher quality beef and dairy products.

ARS researchers then worked with Illumina to commercialize the tool developed based on the research, called BovineSNP50. The BeadChip was originally developed for the human genome project.

BovineSNP50 helps speed up the process of "progeny testing," which examines the genetic make-up of cattle to help produce the highest-quality beef. The way dairy farmers do it now is time-consuming and costly because they must wait for a particular bull to produce many offspring to clean glean information about its genetic make-up, according to the report.

The High-Tech Transfer report is available online on the NIST Web site.

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