NIST Asks for Input on Emerging Tech Trends and Risks for Congressional Study

3D metal printer produces a steel part. A revolutionary technology for sintering metal parts.

3D metal printer produces a steel part. A revolutionary technology for sintering metal parts. Nordroden/istockphoto

Topics of interest include artificial intelligence, blockchain, quantum computing, autonomous delivery technologies—and more

Looking to push the development of future-facing technologies and fulfill a congressional mandate, the National Institute of Standards and Technology asked interested individuals to weigh in on current trends and impending demands associated with eight of the buzziest emerging technology areas.

Those areas, listed in a new request for information, include: artificial intelligence, internet of things in manufacturing, quantum computing, blockchain technology, new and advanced materials, unmanned delivery services, internet of things and 3-D printing.  

NIST specifically intends to gain feedback through the RFI on the “public and private sector marketplace trends, supply chain risks, and the legislative, policy and future investment needs” of the on-the-rise capabilities.

“These technologies will have tremendous impacts on all our lives, so we are really looking for broad input from anyone knowledgeable of, interested in, or concerned with these emerging technologies. That could include those involved in scientific research, standards, industry, advocacy and even non-scientific communities, including the general public,” NIST Spokesperson Chad Boutin told Nextgov on Wednesday. “Although NIST has a broad mission space, we are resource-limited in some of these topic areas and really need the help of those stakeholder communities to identify the critical issues that concern these emerging technologies.”

Boutin confirmed that the feedback NIST receives via the RFI will inform the “Study to Advance a More Productive Tech Economy” that was called for in the American Competitiveness of a More Productive Emerging Tech Economy Act, signed into law in 2020.   

That requirement is listed among provisions in the Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2021. The legislation directs a year-long, government-led survey into public-private collaboration to promote the tech’s adoption; needs for national strategies, standards and policies to govern the tech’s use; near- and long-term threats to related supply chains; potential industry industry impacts on the U.S. economy, and more.

In its RFI, NIST calls for detailed insights from agencies and others around those topics specifically, as well as other topics connected to the technologies’ development, applications and utilization. 

The agency has an incredibly broad mission space—spanning numerous research programs and projects that are linked to the topics found in this RFI like its entire quantum science portfolio, as well as those like metrology that are not related at all.

“That said, the study is not meant to be related ‘one-for-one’ to the priorities of our research portfolio,” Boutin explained. “Rather, we will use it as one of many ways in which our programs are informed and shaped.” 

In his view, the RFI is characterized as a data collection effort, as opposed to simply research.

“We are trying to synthesize numerous reports and inputs into one anthology which can be used by Congress and policymakers in the executive branch to identify where there are gaps in existing policy or standards,” Boutin noted. “It could also help foster strategic public-private partnerships to enhance adoption of these technologies, and help industry as it develops supply chains and identifies new applications.”

Responses to this RFI due to NIST by January 31.