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NIST Organizes Challenge to Uncover Impacts of Federal Lab Research

From GPS to genetics, sensors to cell phones, many of today’s technological advances have been enabled or developed through federal research programs. Of the $135 billion the federal government invests in research and development annually, about two-thirds supports “extramural” research performed by organizations outside the government. That means approximately $40 billion supports intramural research performed by researchers within federal laboratories.

While many studies have assessed the impacts of technologies developed in the extramural programs, surprisingly few have assessed the impacts of technology transferred out of federal laboratories. To fill this gap and help policy makers, taxpayers and other stakeholders understand the economic and societal impacts of that research, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the Journal of Technology Transfer are launching a prize challenge to encourage development of these impact studies.

The Federal Impact Assessment Challenge calls on participants to write an original paper describing a retrospective study of the economic or societal impacts (or both) resulting from any technology developed completely or in part by federal researchers and then transferred outside of their agency. The technology must have been transferred in a manner that can be traced back to that agency, for example through licensing, publications or collaborative research agreements.

Papers will be evaluated using a predetermined set of criteria. The authors of the top four papers will receive a $5,000 cash prize and an invitation to submit their paper to a special issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Technology Transfer. This is the official journal of the Technology Transfer Society and provides an international forum for the exchange of ideas to enhance and build an understanding of the practice of technology transfer.

The ultimate goal of the challenge is to develop metrics that measure economic and societal impacts at the local, regional, national or global levels. These metrics will then be available to policy makers and stakeholders to evaluate the net impact of federally developed technologies.

The challenge is being organized by NIST’s Technology Partnerships Office, which works with public and private organizations across the country to facilitate the transfer of technologies developed within NIST laboratories to private and nonprofit sectors through licensing and collaboration.

Full details can be found in a Federal Register Notice and on the challenge website. Submissions will be accepted through March 31, 2017. NIST expects to announce the challenge winners in the spring of 2017.

Released September 27, 2016, Updated February 8, 2019