The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released the Federal Laboratory Technology Transfer, Fiscal Year 2013, Summary Report to the President and Congress.
The government-wide results include both quantitative measures (e.g., number of licenses, earned royalty income, etc.) and qualitative indicators (e.g., anecdotal evidence of downstream outcomes and benefits) of effectiveness, organized by agency and summarized at the national level.
In a memorandum issued Oct. 28, 2011, President Obama 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.
The memorandum also directed the Secretary of Commerce to improve and expand, where appropriate, the collection of metrics regarding the effectiveness of federal technology transfer activities.
These new measures include the:
- number of science and engineering articles by agency and technology;
- number of citations of agency patents, including by technology;
- number of small businesses involved in Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs);
- number of licenses granted to small businesses; and
- number of startup companies supported by tech transfer activities.
According to the report, federal laboratories reported 8,703 CRADAs and 25,379 other types of joint research relationships. There were 5,307 new inventions disclosed, 2,507 patent applications filed, 1,909 patents issued, and almost $185 million in income generated from 5,492 active income-bearing licenses.
Moreover, federal researchers authored or co-authored 44,802 articles published in scientific or engineering journals, and 13,026 articles authored or co-authored by federal researchers were cited in patent applications.
Not all agencies were able to tally their interactions with small businesses in time for this report; however, available data showed that small businesses accounted for 18 percent of 3,095 active CRADAs and 7 percent of active technology licenses.
Of the new data types collected, federal support for startup companies is the least documented because agencies had not specifically tracked their interactions with these types of businesses before. Preliminary data from three agencies identified 78 companies that opened for business between 2008 and 2013 and were or are receiving critical technical support from federal laboratories.
Examples of federal technologies that were developed and successfully transferred in FY 2013 include:
- cellulose nanofiber composites that can serve as substrates for flexible electronics, through a collaboration between the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Products Laboratory and the University of Wisconsin, Madison;
- the Public Safety Broad Band Demonstration Network, which provides a viable platform where members of the telecommunications industry can work together to design, develop and implement a variety of public safety technologies for emergency service agencies nationwide, from NIST and several partners;
- a new software code for predicting the behavior and failure of materials and structures composed of at least two different materials, such as fiber and resin, by the Air Force and its industry partners;
- a battery technology licensed by a Massachusetts company to build an energy-storage platform for a broad variety of energy companies, including those involved in wind and solar power, from the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; and
- a new medical device that uses magnets to stimulate the brain, which is being used as a non-invasive system for treating neuropsychiatric diseases, developed by scientists at the National Institutes of Health.
The effort to expand and accelerate federal technology transfer continues to be a major priority across agencies, as described in the administration's Lab-to-Market Cross-Agency Priority Goal. The new report will help to serve as a baseline to measure progress toward meeting this challenge while maintaining excellence in performing mission-focused research.
This and reports from past years are available on the NIST Technology Partnership Office website.