Small- and medium-sized manufacturing enterprises (SMEs) often have limited resources to manage daily operations and prioritize product development to meet customers’ changing needs. As a result, they struggle to identify and pursue opportunities to grow their businesses.
To enhance the productivity and technical performance of U.S.SMEs, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) network provides consulting services to these companies. Since 2008, RTI Innovation Advisors has supported the NIST MEP program. We have taught MEP center staff how to help SME clients find technologies to solve their technical challenges and seize opportunities to bring new products to market.
Training nationwide in technology scouting
The NIST MEP program needed a partner to establish technology acceleration services that the MEP network would provide to these small and medium companies. We introduced two new services - technology scouting and technology-driven market intelligence - and deployed a nationwide training and mentoring program to build capacity within the 50+ MEP centers. Together with MEP staff trainees, we delivered these new services to SMEs.
Increasing sales, reducing costs, creating jobs
As of 2017, our experts have trained more than 980 MEP staff and directly assisted hundreds of SMEs. Survey responses from MEP clients who received technology scouting or technology-driven market intelligence services between 2011-2017 show that, on average, each project generated:
- $ 848,572 in increased sales
- $ 75,108 in cost savings
- $ 382,586 in investments
- 5.3 jobs created or retained
Our work with MEP centers has led to other projects that foster collaboration between local, state, and regional partners and MEP centers. In 2016, we began work in five states to forge new partnerships between state-level MEPs, federal labs, SMEs, large companies, and government stakeholders to strengthen regional manufacturing industry clusters through technology and innovation.