Box H. Critical Characteristics of the Advanced Technology Program

Independent researchers have summarized ATP’s “critical characteristics” that differentiate it from other government R&D programs.

  • A focus on developing the economic benefit of early-stage, high-risk, enabling innovative civilian technologies.

  • Emphasis on the formation of partnerships and consortia that facilitate the diffusion of innovation.

  • Rigorous, competitive selection process with an independent evaluation of the project’s technical merit, commercial worthiness, and potential for broad-based economic benefits.

  • Debriefings for those firms that apply but are not selected.

Research led by Professor Maryann Feldman of Johns Hopkins University and Maryellen Kelly, formerly of Carnegie Mellon University, is particularly important in that it focuses on the ATP contribution to private-sector innovation.105 Feldman and Kelly identify the following characteristics of ATP:

ATP funding does not displace private capital. Using data from a survey of 1998 ATP applicants, the study finds that most of the non-winners did not proceed with any aspect of their proposed R&D project, and of those that did, most did so on a smaller scale than initially proposed. This suggests that ATP funding is not simply displacing private capital.

The program received high marks from its users. A substantial majority of the applicants surveyed by Feldman and Kelley considered ATP’s application process fair and rational.

High spillover potential. The survey finds that the projects and firms selected by ATP are more willing than those not selected to share their research findings with other firms and tend to be collaborative in new technical areas and form new R&D partnerships—findings consistent with ATP’s goal of selecting projects with high spillover potential.

“Halo Effect.” The study also finds that the ATP award can create a “halo effect” for recipients, increasing the success of award recipients in attracting additional funding from other sources, an effect documented by several earlier researchers.106

Feldman and Kelley conclude that the ATP is leveraging activities that have the potential to contribute to broad-based economic growth.


See Maryann P. Feldman and Maryellen R. Kelley, “Leveraging Research and Development: The Impact of the Advanced Technology Program,” in National Research Council, The Advanced Technology Program: Assessing Outcomes, op. cit., pp. 189-210.


See Silber & Associates, Survey of Advanced Technology Program 1990-1992 Awardees: Company Opinion about the ATP and its Early Effects, NIST GCR 97-707, February 1996; and Solomon Associates, Advanced Technology Program: An Assessment of Short-Term Impacts—First Competition Participants, February 1993. Based on his research on the SBIR program, Joshua Lerner describes this as a “certification effect.” See J. Lerner, “‘Public Venture Capital’: Rationales and Evaluation,” in National Research Council, The Small Business Innovation Research Program: Challenges and Opportunities, op. cit., pp. 115-128.

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