CREC Project News and Updates

Technology Acceleration: Federal-State Economic Development Collaborations

December 9, 2015
  • Topic Overview

Technology acceleration is defined as integrating technology into the products, processes, services and business models of existing companies to solve existing problems in the commercial marketplace or to help the private sector pursue opportunities that will result in growth. Technology acceleration is an ideal for economic development that incorporates the entire innovation continuum, including technology transfer, transition, diffusion, deployment, and product or process implementation. The issue has focused largely on technology acceleration in manufacturing because that sector is so closely tied to research, development, and innovation. The nation’s long-term ability to innovate and compete in the global economy relies on the ability of companies to translate new technical ideas into product opportunities.

Technology acceleration has largely focused on efforts to move ideas, inventions, processes, and people from universities and the national laboratories to the marketplace. These institutions have tried to develop capacity to help companies access the knowledge and capabilities of their researchers and research. The challenge is that the core purpose for research in this environment tends to focus on basic research while companies need access to more well developed and focused research aimed at specific problems that they encounter. Another challenge is that commercial applications of technologies are often not apparent to business owners, and the complexity of identifying and deploying technologies from labs usually requires assistance form intermediaries.

  • Federal Role & Priorities

In 2007, Congress passed (and in 2010 reauthorized) the America COMPETES Act to provide a national policy focused on federal research and the importance of research in high-risk, high-reward areas as well as the need to commercialize that research into the private marketplace. With the Departments of Defense and Energy at the forefront of the effort, federal labs and universities have long sought to share their research with commercial actors (a “push” strategy) while retaining some ownership (and economic value) to demonstrate their worth to policymakers investing in that research. At the same time, a national effort has been underway to find a “pull-oriented” strategy for companies that have technical problems with existing or new products that may be solved with the help of researchers in labs and universities. In fact, the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) was created in 1988 as just such a vehicle until MEP found that most small manufacturers had many more significant challenges than required attention before seeking new technologies. More recent efforts have recognized that commercialization issues are typically technology specific OR are industry specific. Industry must be involved in setting the broader research agenda for scientists in government or academia in much more direct ways.

  • Major Federal Programs & Activities

Federal efforts currently are focused on creating a National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), funded with resources from DOD, DOE, and other agencies. The Institutes enable companies to collaborate with researchers to solve problems the impede “scale-up” of new technologies into products. The Federal government serves as a catalyst by helping to fund the NNMIs and coordinating public and private investment in targeted emerging advanced manufacturing technologies ( The Institutes are at America Makes (Youngstown, Ohio), Institute for Advanced Composites Mfg Innovation (Knoxville, Tenn.), The Digital Mfg and Design Innovation Institute (Chicago, Ill.), Lightweight Innovations for Tomorrow (Detroit, Mich.), PowerAmerica (Raleigh, N.C.), the American Institute for Mfg Integrated Photonics (Rochester, N.Y.), and Flexible Hybrid Electronics (San Jose, Calif.).

At the firm level, NIST MEP has invested in technology scouting and in matching services to help small firms make connections to technologies and related resources. MEP has explored alternative models for technology acceleration and invested in pilot projects (such as the Manufacturing Technology Acceleration Center/M-TAC) designed to encourage individual centers to explore technology needs in key industries.

Many agencies are sponsoring initiatives and have come together to create accelerator challenge grants to address multidisciplinary efforts to foster innovation (see For instance, the Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) focused on high-priority research challenges, and the Defense Innovation-Technology Acceleration Challenges (DI-TAC) focused on accelerating technologies in alignment with war-fighter needs.  Other approaches include DOE’s Small Business Voucher program that helps small and medium-sized enterprise access DOE labs.

  • State Role                       

NIST MEP is an on-going program and the efforts of the individual Centers are greatly influenced by state investments and state direction. Meanwhile, the NNMI network is industry-led but states are often directly involved as investors and partners. Each Institute is designed and implemented in partnership with industry, academia, non-profit organizations, states, and start-up federal funding. For both MEP and NNMI, this cost-shared, collaborative approach reduces the cost and risk of refining, validating and commercializing manufacturing technologies that will improve the competitiveness of existing industries and spur the creation of new industries. Further, some states have leveraged federal and other funding sources to advance innovation. For instance, Tennessee is collaborating with the University of Tennessee and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) on a $2.5 million voucher program (RevV) to make ORNL researchers and facilities available to private companies. Introduced in Connecticut and Minnesota, states provide these vouchers as small lines of credit or grants for small companies to purchase services from public knowledge providers to help introduce innovations into their business operations.

About This Project

DDAA Rural Broadband and EDA CARES Act Funding Peer Best Practices Research Report
Start Date: Oct 2020 — End Date: May 2021

The Development District Association of Appalachia contracted with CREC to gain insights about local development district efforts to improve their respective regions – specifically, to better understand local development district uses of CARES funding as well as to gain insights on best practices in promoting rural broadband.  The project will provide DDAA members with best […]

Early Childhood Education Pre-Apprenticeship Model Project
Start Date: Jan 2020 — End Date: Dec 2020

This report on the Early Childhood Education Pre-Apprenticeship Model was prepared for the Philadelphia Hospital and Health Care District 1199C Training and Upgrading Fund by the Center for Regional Economic Competitiveness and Center for Urban and Regional Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill with support from the Pennsylvania Key and the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development & […]

Community Indicators Consortium
Start Date: Jan 2021 — End Date: Dec 2021

The Community Indicators Consortium (CIC) is a global network that supports efforts to use community data to improve quality of life. CIC provides resources and tools to help communities and practitioners advance the practice and effective use of community indicators. The includes increasing the use of indicators for monitoring community conditions and advancing sustainability, promoting […]

Texas Research Differentiation Report, 2021
Start Date: Jan 2021 — End Date: Jun 2021

CREC is working with the Austin Technology Incubator, Texas Foundation for Innovative Communities, The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (TAMEST), and University of Texas at Austin to identify and document the state’s advantages in academic and applied research, including promising late-stage research relative to global innovation leaders. With this information, the project […]

Delta Workforce Program
Start Date: Jan 2021 — End Date: Oct 2021

The Delta Regional Authority’s Delta Workforce Program faces the dual challenge of developing new talent for the region’s leading industries while also supporting the retraining and reskilling of displaced and underutilized workers in distressed communities. With this Labor Market and Workforce Report, CREC aims to advance the Program’s goals of building a more prosperous Delta […]

Strategy Guidance Note on the Promotion of Public Sector Data Sharing
Start Date: Dec 2020 — End Date: Jan 2021

CREC developed a Strategy Guidance Note and related global case studies on data sharing as a principle of sound policymaking which can contribute to strengthening the effectiveness of institutions. The United Nations Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA) has developed a set of principles of effective governance for sustainable development to provide practical, expert […]

Developing a Community Empowerment Scorecard
Start Date: Apr 2020 — End Date: Mar 2021

CREC is assisting the Colorado Workforce Development Council (CWDC) in promoting economic mobility among the individuals that are receiving employment assistance.  CREC is developing a community empowerment scorecard to help CWDC monitor the various factors that contribute to jobseeker mobility.  The scorecard will focus on examining career pathways and partnerships in the retail sector that […]

Assisting College Leaders In Using Labor Market Data to Drive Education and Training Curriculum
Start Date: Feb 2020 — End Date: Oct 2020

CREC worked with FTCC leadership and staff to translate data about labor market trends into more demand-driven curriculum plans that recognize key labor market opportunities as an important criterion in allocating limited college resources. Through this effort, CREC reviewed how FTCC used data in its curriculum planning process and facilitated working sessions with the Board, senior staff, […]

Counting U.S. Secondary and Postsecondary Credentials, Phase III
Start Date: Jan 2020 — End Date: Nov 2020

CREC proposed to continue its work in counting credentials, but we also sought to generate a more thorough understanding of the accessibility of credentials for Americans by counting the number of credentials by state, examining the types of credentials offered, and better understanding what organizations offer these credentials.  In addition, CREC conducted preliminary research on […]

Developing Regional Ecosystems to Support Recovery-to-Work
Start Date: Nov 2019 — End Date: Apr 2021

CREC is providing technical assistance and generating lessons learned from the experience in local development districts (LDDs) in how to help businesses and individuals succeed in their recovery from substance abuse disorder.  Providing staff support to the Development District Association of Appalachia (DDAA), CREC is helping four LDDs through a year-long process of articulating the […]

About the Client

Appalachian Regional Commission

The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) is a regional economic development agency that represents a partnership of federal, state, and local government. Established by an act of Congress in 1965, ARC is composed of the governors of the 13 Appalachian states and a federal co-chair, who is appointed by the president. Local participation is provided through multi-county local development districts.