National MedalThe Secretary of Commerce has delegated responsibility for administering the National Medal of Technology and Innovation to the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).  The Medal, presented each year by the President of the United States, is the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement.

The Medal is awarded to innovators whose efforts have made profound and lasting contributions to the U.S. economy and quality of life.  In its new role, the USPTO will replace the Technology Administration, which was abolished by Congress on August 9, 2007.

Established by the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, the Medal was first awarded in 1985.   On August 9, 2007, the President signed the America Creating Opportunities To Meaningfully Promote Excellence In Technology, Education, And Science Act (America COMPETES).

This abolished the Department of Commerce Office of Technology Administration, which gave out the award previously.  The COMPETES Act does double the funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF), to “encourage scientists to explore promising and critical areas such as nanotechnology, supercomputing, and alternative energy sources.”

The Act also changed the name of the Medal from “National Medal of Technology” to the “National Medal of Technology and Innovation.” Not to be confused with the National Medal of Science or the National Medal of Arts.

No word yet on how this changes the scope of the award.

tech·nol·o·gy [tek-nol-uh-jee] 1. the branch of knowledge that deals with the creation and use of a technological process, invention, method, or the like.

in·no·va·tion [in-uh-vey-shuhn] 1. something new or different introduced; 2. the act of innovating.

In 1992, the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation became the meta-organization over both the National Medal of Science and the very similar National Medal of Technology.  Who knew medals were this big?

Since 175 individuals, teams (of up to four individuals) and companies have received the Medal including Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Herbert Boyer and Stanley Cohen. 

More about the National Medal of Technology and Innovation here.

Summary of the America Competes Act of 2007

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