The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) was founded in 1901 and is now part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. NIST is one of the nation's oldest physical science laboratories. Congress established the agency to remove a major challenge to U.S. industrial competitiveness at the time – a second-rate measurement infrastructure that lagged behind the capabilities of the United Kingdom, Germany, and other economic rivals.
From the smart electric power grid and electronic health records to atomic clocks, advanced nanomaterials, and computer chips, innumerable products and services rely in some way on technology, measurement, and standards provided by the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Today, NIST measurements support the smallest of technologies to the largest and most complex of human-made creations – from nanoscale devices so tiny that tens of thousands can fit on the end of a single human hair up to earthquake-resistant skyscrapers and global communication networks.
NIST is a unique federal agency. Its mission 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.