New NTIS director lays out goals, timeline for joint venture partnerships

With a new director and a new initiative to support data-driven joint venture partnerships with an aggressive timeline, the National Technical Information Service is fast-tracking its rebranding.

With a new director and an aggressively paced new initiative to support data-driven joint venture partnerships, the National Technical Information Service is fast-tracking its rebranding.

Come September, NTIS plans to have selected its new joint venture partners that will help the agency pivot to focus on its data-driven mission.

As NTIS looks to become the focal point for federal data products and services, officials — including new NTIS Director Avi Bender — unveiled more plans for its new joint venture partnerships Thursday at an informal information session.

The new partnerships would focus on creating new business models — not singular projects — that provide services to federal agencies, Bender said. The partnerships could work on services to help agencies with data discovery, consumption, analytics, visualization, smart city initiatives and more.


Nonprofit, for-profit and research organizations have until Aug. 1, a mere three weeks, to submit their proposals.

NTIS announced last month that it was accepting proposals for joint venture partnerships that would “collect, connect, access, analyze, or use Federal data and data services.” Along with the notice of the new initiative, NTIS also announced that former Census Bureau CTO Avi Bender would head NTIS.



The agency already has joint venture partnerships, but those will end once the projects are completed.


At the session, Bender outlined the goals for the new partnerships and also discussed why he made the move to NTIS.

“I had to pause, really before joining NTIS, because the work there was really interesting,” Bender said of his time at the Census Bureau. “But when I personally found out about this opportunity and the joint venture status I thought: My God, what an incredible opportunity!”

While the JVP initiative might sound similar to the General Services Administration’s 18F or other startup-like programs in government, NTIS partnerships will focus specifically on data, not IT services broadly, said Sivaraj Shyam-Sunder, senior science advisor to the deputy secretary of the Commerce Department and the chair of the NTIS Oversight Board.

He said NTIS officials have spoken with people from these other innovative teams about the JVP mission.

NTIS views them as partners, Bender added.


The goal of the partnerships, Bender said in his presentation, is to create a “Federal Data JV Boutique” of organizations that would help the government solve problems efficiently.

“All this talk about industry and government working together — let’s do it,” he said, adding that the partnerships would provide a faster time to market and work on creating a sustainable business model. “We can make this happen.”

“You are here because we are actually, in a way, selling to you,” Bender said. “We want you to join us in this new industry-government partnership to transform data into insights and actions.”

Proposals should focus on an organization’s technical and business capabilities — not necessarily on a specific project — officials said at the info session. The first phase of the initiative will be selecting partners, and the next phase will be working with agencies to identify the problems they need to solve, Shyam-Sunder said.

“It’s a partnership agreement, it’s not a project agreement,” he said of the initial phase.


If organizations have an easily adaptable commercial solution to a problem, Bender said they should go the route of a contract.

“If you’re thinking that this is a contract vehicle, that this is some kind of a pass-through, you’re probably in the wrong building,” he said.

Samantha Ehlinger

Written by Samantha Ehlinger

Samantha Ehlinger is a technology reporter for FedScoop. Her work has appeared in the Houston Chronicle, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, and several McClatchy papers, including Miami Herald and The State. She was a part of a McClatchy investigative team for the “Irradiated” project on nuclear worker conditions, which won a McClatchy President’s Award. She is a graduate of Texas Christian University. Contact Samantha via email at, or follow her on Twitter at @samehlinger. Subscribe to the Daily Scoop for stories like this in your inbox every morning by signing up here:

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