NIST’s focal mission is to promote U.S. innovation and industrial competitiveness by advancing measurement science, standards, and technology in ways that enhance economic security and improve the quality of life. It takes an enormous effort across the country to better pursue innovation and industrial competitiveness and one of the ways this can be done is through federal technology transfer. To do so, the public and private sectors need to collaborate to maximize national output and to push these goals forward at a faster rate and more efficiently.
The cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) is the primary tool at NIST that is used to bridge together external parties with the government. The CRADA provides a partnership-building framework that allows federal laboratories to work with U.S. industries, academia and other organizations on cooperative research and development projects with benefits to include funding from external partners, transfer of materials, and transfer of personnel.
NIST researchers across the labs are diving into research within the top scientific/engineering fields of national focus, and in doing so, are inventing new technologies and making fresh discoveries. It is of utmost importance to transfer these technologies that are commercially viable, provide an opportunity in the market, and are beneficial to society. When collaborative efforts are not sought out, federal technologies may be put on a shelf and forgotten. It requires a significant effort to move a technology from academic research toward commercialization. When the process stalls out in between these two categories, a technology may fall by the wayside. There needs to be a driven push to get a technology over the hurdle and into the market.
External partnerships, initiated by CRADAs, open those doors needed to help avoid this issue. CRADAs provide an opportunity for a financial boost through an influx in capital to accelerate the technologies closer to the market. Additionally, external partners may be able to significantly ramp up operations and manufacturing capabilities to produce a product in volume.
The CRADA will continue to play a key role in maintaining industrial competitiveness and innovation in the future. Federal technology transfer professionals will need to continue to bridge the lines of communication between federal labs and industry/academia. This focus on partnerships, which is the backbone of technology transfer, will help pave the way for the U.S. to remain on the cutting-edge of innovation.