R&D funding available for new infrastructure monitoring technology

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is seeking proposals for high-risk projects to develop innovative technologies for inspecting, monitoring and evaluating critical components of the nation's roadways, bridges, and drinking and wastewater systems.

NIST expects to award about $9 million in first funding for tools to help government keep tabs on what one official called 'an increasingly shaky platform of aging transportation and public utility systems.' The money is being awarded under NIST's Technology Innovation Program (TIP).

'It's estimated that nationwide we lose about 15 percent of our treated drinking water to leaky pipelines, and a major bridge collapse in Minneapolis last year that took 13 lives is a sobering reminder that infrastructure failures can cost far more than just money,' said TIP Director Marc Stanley. 'With this first TIP competition we hope to foster significant technology innovations to assist our nation's engineers in monitoring and maintaining these critical systems.'

Eligible projects will be focused on new, efficient, accurate, low-cost and reliable sensors and related technologies to provide assessments of the structural integrity or deterioration of bridges, roads, water mains and wastewater collection systems. The competition addresses what TIP officials called a critical national need for improved technologies to help local, state and national authorities monitor and maintain the nation's public infrastructure. Large portions of this infrastructure have been in place for many years and are dangerously aging.

Proposals must be received by NIST by 3 p.m. EDT, Sept. 4. Proposals may be submit on paper or electronically through the Grants.gov Web site. Review, selection and award processing is expected to be completed by the end of November 2008. Details on applying are available here.

NIST is holding a number of proposal workshops for the program, including:
  • July 17, 2008, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. EDT: Holiday Inn Atlanta Airport North, 1380 Virginia Avenue, Atlanta, Ga. (404-838-0029)
  • July 17, 2008, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. PDT: Holiday Inn Portland Airport, 8439 North East Columbia Boulevard, Portland, Ore. (503-914-5253)
  • July 18, 2008, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. PDT: Doubletree San Jose, 2050 Gateway Place, San Jose, Calif. (408-437-2124)
  • July 21, 2008, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. EDT: Boston Courtyard Downtown, 275 Tremont Street, Boston, Mass. (781-537-5594)
  • July 22, 2008, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. EDT: NIST Red Auditorium, 100 Bureau Drive, Gaithersburg, Md. (301-975-8910)

TIP was established by the 2007 America Competes Act to support and accelerate innovation in high-risk, high-reward research programs addressing critical national needs. It can fund cost-shared research-and-develop projects conducted by single small-sized or medium-sized businesses or by joint ventures. Small-sized and medium-sized businesses, institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations and national laboratories are eligible for TIP support.

There are some restrictions on the size of companies, ownership and the types of research that are eligible. TIP awards are limited to no more than $3 million total over three years for a single company project and no more than $9 million total over five years for a joint venture.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.


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