The Director shall establish within the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership under section 278k of this title and section 278l of this title a program of competitive awards among participants described in subsection (b) of this section for the purposes described in subsection (c).
Participants receiving awards under this section shall be Centers, or a consortium of Centers.
The purpose of the program established under subsection (a) is to add capabilities to the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, including the development of projects to solve new or emerging manufacturing problems as determined by the Director, in consultation with the Director of the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, the MEP Advisory Board, other Federal agencies, and small and medium-sized manufacturers.
The Director may identify 1 or more themes for a competition carried out under this section, which may vary from year to year, as the Director considers appropriate after assessing the needs of manufacturers and the success of previous competitions.
Centers may be reimbursed for costs incurred by the Centers under this section.
Applications for awards under this section shall be submitted in such manner, at such time, and containing such information as the Director shall require in consultation with the MEP Advisory Board.
The Director shall ensure that awards under this section are peer reviewed and competitively awarded.
The Director shall endeavor to have broad geographic diversity among selected proposals.
Recipients of awards under this section shall not be required to provide a matching contribution.
In making an award under this section, the Director, in consultation with the MEP Advisory Board and the Secretary, may take into consideration whether an application has significant potential for enhancing the competitiveness of small and medium-sized United States manufacturers in the global marketplace.
The terms used in this section have the meanings given the terms in section 278k of this title.