The predecessor of NIST, the National Bureau of Standards (NBS) was established in 1901.
Set up in 1988, the mission of NIST is broad—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.
An essential part of NIST's work is to anticipate the future. Fast-moving sectors such as nanotechnology, quantum information science, homeland security, information technology, and advanced manufacturing need sophisticated technical support systems to flourish and grow. NIST provides that support by continually improving the U.S. measurement system, developing new technologies, fostering standards, and providing both the business and technical evaluation tools needed to produce quality products and organizations.
NIST has long-standing research partnerships that have produced technical breakthroughs. Some of these institutes are in proximity to the NIST campuses in Maryland and Colorado but others are strategically located to leverage local expertise and resources.
There are a number of mechanisms for NIST to formally collaborate with industry, academia and other government agencies to perform research that furthers the NIST mission.
NIST also provides extramural research funding through competitive grants, the Small Business Innovation Research program and other programs.
NIST provides three important externally focused services: the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program (BPEP) and the Manufacturing USA program. These programs are public-private partnerships that fill the gap where precompetitive research—work that that is too expensive or specialized for any one company to undertake alone—can move a whole industry forward.