What Is the National Institute of Standards and Technology?

Issue Date: 
February 17, 2014

FoundedThe NIST campus in Gaithersburg, Md. in 1901 and now part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, the National Institute of Standards and Technology is one of the nation’s oldest physical science laboratories. The agency’s mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve our quality of life. Today, National Institute of Standards and Technology measurements support the smallest of technologies—nanoscale devices so tiny that tens of thousands can fit on the end of a single human hair—to the largest and most complex of human-made creations, from earthquake-resistant skyscrapers to wide-body jetliners to global communication networks.

From the smart electric power grid and electronic health records to atomic clocks, advanced nanomaterials, and computer chips, innumerable products and services rely in some way on technology, measurement, and standards that the agency provides. It implements its mission through the following programs:

  • the NIST Laboratories, conducting world-class research;
  • the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, a nationwide network of local centers offering technical and business assistance to smaller manufacturers;
  • and the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program, which promotes performance excellence among U.S. manufacturers, service companies, educational institutions, health care providers, and nonprofit organizations.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s FY 2014 budget includes $850 million in direct and transfer appropriations, an estimated $50 million in service fees, and $120 million from other agencies. It has campuses in Gaithersburg, Md., and Boulder, Colo.

In addition, the agency collaborates with several federal and state institutions to run the Hollings Marine Laboratory in Charleston, S.C., and jointly operates two fundamental physics institutes, JILA with the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the Joint Quantum Institute with the University of Maryland College Park.

The Institute for Bioscience and Biotechnology Research, headquartered in Rockville, Md., is a joint research center established by the agency, the University of Maryland College Park, and the University of Maryland Baltimore to foster multidisciplinary biotechnology and biomedical research. Also, in 2012, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, in partnership with the State of Maryland and Montgomery County, Md., established the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, a public-private collaboration for accelerating the widespread adoption of integrated cybersecurity tools and technologies.

Additional information is available at http://www.nist.gov/public_affairs/factsheet/overview-brochure.cfm