Success Story

MATTR service connects MEP industry clients with NIST expertise

Since 2016, a unique service from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has provided the manufacturing companies in its Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) program with meaningful technical assistance from NIST laboratory experts.

The MEP-Assisted Technology and Technical Resource (MATTR) service offers wide-ranging, world-class technical expertise to clients of MEP Centers, small and medium-sized manufacturers (SMMs). A partner to the U.S. manufacturing sector for more than a century, NIST has a proven track record of collaboration with existing manufacturers and aspiring startups.

“A key to manufacturing is the ability to make accurate and precise measurements. MATTR creates a bridge between the small manufacturers served by MEP Centers, and the world-class measurement resources and capabilities at the NIST laboratories, providing a resource to help empower U.S. manufacturers,” said Carroll Thomas, Director, Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership Program.

So far, MATTR has been used in 55 instances originating from MEP Centers and 15 instances originating from NIST. Two of those interactions have resulted in Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs).

MATTR engagements occur as facilitated conversations between the SMM client and NIST researchers knowledgeable in the area of interest. In addition, MATTR is a mechanism for NIST researchers to reach out to MEP Center clients about potential areas of research, such as areas where standards or novel technologies need to be developed.

MATTR engagements can be brief or more extensive. One example of a relatively brief interaction involved a request from the Virginia MEP Center, which led to a NIST researcher spending about an hour on the telephone with a startup company that had developed novel technologies to help remove pollutants from municipal and industrial wastewater. This small tech company needed help from an expert in water reclamation to understand potential market applications for the technologies. The researcher made several suggestions and shared contacts in the wastewater-treatment industry who might be interested in commercializing this product. The company was grateful for the brief interaction. Read more about MATTR successes.

If more extensive interactions are needed, a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) can be established between the client and NIST/NIST MEP. Under a CRADA, NIST MEP/MATTR can cover costs, potentially up to $50,000, for activities on the NIST campus involving NIST staff and facilities. These activities can include more extensive NIST staff consultations with a company, as well as services such as special measurements, special tests and NIST user facility access.

An example of a MATTR engagement that resulted in a CRADA involved scientists in the NIST Physical Measurement Laboratory (PML) and an SMM client of California Manufacturing Technology Consulting, the California MEP Center. The company produces a device that generates variable dynamic force over a range of operating conditions. Establishing an accurate measurement of the force generated in relation to device settings is critical for the successful application of this device. The needs of this MATTR request, force measurements and calibration for dynamic forces, align with PML’s interests in understanding these types of measurements, so both the SMM and NIST will benefit from the interaction.

Although not every technical problem submitted by MEP Centers on behalf of SMM clients has a solution at NIST, the MATTR staff make every effort to find NIST lab expertise appropriate to each submission. When the solution is not found at NIST, the MATTR service tries to provide the SMM with guidance on where they might find useful non-NIST solutions.

For more information about MATTR, please contact Marlon Walker at marlon.walker@nist.gov.