15 CFR § 292.3 - Technical tools, techniques, practices, and analyses projects.

§ 292.3 Technical tools, techniques, practices, and analyses projects.

(a) Eligibility criteria. In general, eligible applicants for these projects include all for profit and nonprofit organizations including universities, community colleges, state governments, state technology programs and independent nonprofit organizations. However, specific limitations on eligibility may be specified in solicitations. Organizations may submit multiple proposals under this category in each solicitation for unique projects.

(b) Project objective. The purpose of these projects is to support the initial development, implementation, and analysis of tools, techniques, and practices which will aid manufacturing extension organizations in providing services to smaller manufacturers and which may also be of direct use by the smaller manufacturers themselves. Specific industry sectors to be addressed and sub-categories of tools, techniques, practices, and analyses may be specified in solicitations. Examples of tools, techniques, and practices include, but are not limited to, manufacturing assessment tools, benchmarking tools, business systems management tools, quality assurance assistance tools, financial management tools, software tools, practices for partnering, techniques for urban or rural firms, and comparative analysis of assessment methods. Projects must be completed within the scope of the effort proposed and should not require on-going federal support.

(c) Award period. Projects initiated under this category may be carried out over a period of up to three years. If an application is selected for funding, DOC has no obligation to provide any additional future funding in connection with that award. Renewal of an award to increase funding or extend the period of performance is at the total discretion of DOC.

(d) Matching requirements. Matching fund requirements for these proposals will be specified in solicitations including the breakdown of cash and in-kind requirements. For those projects not requiring matching funds, the presence of match will be considered in the evaluation under the Financial Plan criteria.

(e) Tools, techniques, practices, and analyses projects evaluation criteria. Proposals from applicants will be evaluated and rated on the basis of the following criteria listed in descending order of importance:

(1) Demonstration that the proposed project will meet the technical assistance needs of technical assistance providers and manufacturers in the target population. Target population must be clearly defined. The proposal must demonstrate that it understands the population's tool or technique needs within the proposed project area. The proposal should show that the efforts being proposed meet the needs identified. Factors that may be considered include: A clear definition of the target population, size and demographic distribution; demonstrated understanding of the target population's tools or technique needs; and appropriateness of the size of the target population and the anticipated impact for the proposed expenditure.

(2) Development methodology and use of appropriate technology and information sources. The proposal must describe the technical plan for the development of the tool or resource, including the project activities to be used in the tool/resource development and the sources of technology and/or information which will be used to create the tool or resource. Sources may include those internal to the proposer or from other organizations. Factors that may be considered include: Adequacy of the proposed technical plan; strength of core competency in the proposed area of activity; and demonstrated access to relevant technical or information sources external to the organization.

(3) Degree of integration with the manufacturing extension partnership. The proposal must demonstrate that the tool or resource will be integrated into and will be of service to the NIST Manufacturing Extension Centers. Factors that may be considered include: Ability to access the tool or resource especially for MEP extension centers; methodology for disseminating or promoting use of the tool or technique especially within the MEP system; and demonstrated interest in using the tool or technique especially by MEP extension centers.

(4) Coordination with other relevant organizations. Wherever possible the project should be coordinated with and leverage other organizations which are developing or have expertise on similar tools, techniques, practices, or analyses. If no such organizations exist, the proposal should show that this is the case. Applicants will need to describe how they will coordinate to allow for increased economies of scale and to avoid duplication. Factors that may be considered include: Demonstrated understanding of existing organizations and resources relevant to the proposed project; adequate linkages and partnerships with existing organizations and clear definition of those organizations' roles in the proposed activities; and that the proposed activity does not duplicate existing services or resources.

(5) Program evaluation. The applicant should specify plans for evaluation of the effectiveness of the proposed tool or technique and for ensuring continuous improvement of the tool. Factors that may be considered include: Thoroughness of evaluation plans, including internal evaluation for management control, external evaluation for assessing outcomes of the activity, and “customer satisfaction” measures of performance.

(6) Management experience and plans. Applicants should specify plans for proper organization, staffing, and management of the implementation process. Factors that may be considered include: Appropriateness and authority of the governing or managing organization to conduct the proposed activities; qualifications of the project team and its leadership to conduct the proposed activity; soundness of any staffing plans, including recruitment, selection, training, and continuing professional development; and appropriateness of the organizational approach for carrying out the proposed activity.

(7) Financial plan. Applicants should show the relevance and cost effectiveness of the financial plan for meeting the objectives of the project; the firmness and level of the applicant's total financial support for the project; and a plan to maintain the program after the cooperative agreement has expired. Factors that may be considered include: Reasonableness of the budget, both in income and expenses; strength of commitment and amount of the proposer's cost share, if any; effectiveness of management plans for control of budget; appropriateness of matching contributions; and plan for maintaining the program after the cooperative agreement has expired.