The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released the Federal Laboratory Technology Transfer, Fiscal Year 2012, Summary Report to the President and Congress. The report provides government-wide results of federal technology transfer activities in 2012. It includes both quantitative (e.g., number of licenses, earned royalty income, etc.) and qualitative (e.g., anecdotal evidence of downstream outcomes and benefits) measures of effectiveness, organized by agency and summarized at the national level.
According to the report, federal laboratories reported more than 8,812 research agreements and 21,677 other collaborative research and development-related relationships in FY 2012. There were 5,149 new invention disclosures, 2,346 patent applications filed, 1,808 patents issued, and more than $166.8 million in income generated from 5,451 active income bearing licenses.
Examples of federal technologies that were developed and successfully transferred in FY 2012 include:
- a platinum-chromium alloy for improved coronary stents developed by scientists at the National Energy Technology Laboratory, which is part of the Department of Energy's national laboratory system;
- high-performance instruments for the detection of infectious bacterial developed by scientists at the Food and Drug Administration, the National Center for Toxicological Research, and the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research;
- diagnostic technologies for the treatment of cervical cancer, developed by scientists at the National Human Genome Research Institute which provide a new test that improves the ability to identify women at increased risk of developing cancer after receiving unclear results for cervical cancer risk from other standard tests;
- a post-event gamma radiation sensor network, Radiological Emergency Management System, designed by scientists at the Department of Homeland Security for response and recovery after release of radiation in an urban area; and
- nanoparticle-based methods for remediating and destroying organic and inorganic environmental contaminants in the subsurface and in water, developed by scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency's National Risk Management Research Laboratory and VeruTEK Technologies.
"Technology transfer" is a legal mechanism by which results of federally funded research are transferred to the private sector where they may be further developed into consumer products and services. Technology transfer statutes also allow the use of federal laboratory facilities by academic and industry researchers and enable the establishment of research partnerships between federal laboratories and nonfederal institutions and businesses.
On Oct. 28, 2011, President Obama in a memorandum cited the importance of invention and technological innovation as drivers of economic growth and challenged federal laboratories to accelerate technology transfer operations over the next five years.
In addition to directing agencies to accelerate technology transfer activities, the memorandum directed the Secretary of Commerce to improve and expand, where appropriate, the collection of metrics regarding the effectiveness of federal technology transfer activities.
This effort continues to be a major priority across agencies, as described in the Lab-to-Market Cross-Agency Priority Goal in support of the President's Management Agenda issued in 2014. The present report will help serve as a baseline to measure progress toward meeting this ambitious challenge while maintaining excellence in performing mission-focused research.
In the report's foreword, Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Willie May notes, "We will use future editions of this report to continue to keep the President and the Congress informed of the ongoing efforts of federal laboratories to expand our technology transfer efforts in partnership with U.S. industry; academic institutions; nonprofit foundations; and state, local and tribal governments. These efforts will continue to play a vital role in building the nation's economic strength."
This and reports from past years are available on the NIST Technology Partnership Office website.