Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

Official websites use .gov
A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS
A lock ( ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Technology Transfer from Public to Private Sector on the Rise, NIST Reports

Government agencies “made steady progress to improve the transfer of technologies from federal laboratories” to the private sector between fiscal years 2011 and 2015, according to a new document published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The publication, Federal Laboratory Technology Transfer, Fiscal Year 2015, Summary Report to the President and the Congress, provides a comprehensive view of the state of technology transfer at the labs of eleven government agencies.

The private sector further develops and commercializes research that originates in government laboratories through a variety of technology transfer vehicles, including licensing and cooperative research and development agreements. Through these agreements, academic and industry researchers can gain access to federal laboratories and federal laboratories can partner with non-federal organizations. The new products and services enabled by federal research contribute to the nation’s economy and often provide solutions to pressing national needs. 

The report shows an increase over the fiscal years 2011 to 2015 in key indicators of successful technology transfer, including a 19 percent rise in federal collaborative research and development relationships, a 50 percent increase in the number of patents issued and a 38 percent increase in the number of new invention licenses granted. 

In FY 2015, government agency researchers participated in 4,710 traditional CRADAs and 27,088 other collaborative research and development agreements. They filed 4,830 new invention disclosures and 2,389 patent applications. Agencies received 2,182 patents, and earned over $202 million from active income bearing licenses. Federal researchers published approximately 44,483 scientific papers that year as well.

Examples of technology transferred by government agencies in FY 2015 included:

  • The world’s first reference material to help ensure laboratories accurately “map” DNA for genetic testing, medical diagnoses and potential customized drug therapies; 
  • A device integrated into a blood pressure cuff that measures plaque buildup in arteries, for use at home or in clinics; 
  • An inexpensive, easy-to-use and environmentally friendly disinfection system that uses a fine mist of a salt solution to kill 99.9999 percent of harmful microorganisms, including the flu and Ebola;
  • A low-cost device first responders can use to connect their radio frequency communications systems over the Internet, effectively extending the life of legacy systems by allowing them to work with newer and different brands of equipment; and
  • Next-generation “body armor” for the torso and limbs that consists of a one-piece blouse made of lighter, fitted, stretchable materials with fire and thermal protection properties. 

Although not all agencies tracked the number of small businesses participating in their technology transfer programs, of 4,710 cooperative research and development agreements, the report states that 16 percent involved small businesses.

This report, and other technology transfer publications, are available on the NIST website.

Released May 30, 2018