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The Origin Story of Consumer Technologies


Kelly M. Monterroso, Communications Specialist, National Science Foundation (NSF)
In world filled with reliable smartphones, apps, drones and other gadgets, it’s easy for the average person to forget how incredibly risky technological innovations can be when they’re in their infancy.

In fact, many of the technologies that make up today’s consumer devices may not have been possible without funding from the federal government.

For example, the National Science Foundation (NSF), a U.S. federal agency with a mission to advance the progress of science, invested in the basic research that eventually led to multitouch screens, improved batteries, graphics, chip design, wireless communications and more.

Moving discoveries out of the lab and into the marketplace is why NSF started the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which encourages domestic small businesses to engage in research and development of new products and services with the potential for commercialization.

Many of today’s tech giants, such as Symantec and Qualcomm, got a boost from NSF via the SBIR program in their early stages of development.  Similarly, IntraLase, which developed laser eye surgery, was supported by SBIR funding in its early years.

Through a competitive awards-based program, NSF SBIR enables small businesses to explore their technological potential and provides funding and validation as they seek to profit from the commercialization of disruptive technologies. By including qualified small businesses in the nation's research and development arena, the United States gets a high-tech innovation boost — and consumers get the next “big thing” on the horizon.

In the last three years alone, there have been
  • 1,190 high-tech startups and small businesses funded by NSF.
  • $700 million in published value of initial public offerings of three NSF-supported high-tech small businesses.
At CES 2017, more than 20 startups and small businesses funded by NSF will showcase their early-stage technologies at Eureka Park, which NSF has sponsored since its inception in 2012 to help emerging technology gain marketplace exposure at the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow.

Visit the NSF booth in the Sands, Level 1, Hall G, #50013 to see the broad array of technologies funded by NSF.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) awards nearly $190 million annually to startups and small businesses through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, transforming scientific discovery into products and services with commercial and societal impact. The SBIR program’s mission is to support scientific excellence and technological innovation through the investment of federal research funds in critical American priorities to build a strong national economy.

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