For America to maintain its position as the global leader in innovation, bringing products to market more quickly, growing the economy, and maintaining a strong national security innovation base, it is essential to optimize technology transfer and support programs to increase the return on investment (ROI) from federally funded R&D. The Lab-to-Market initiative was identified as an Administration priority and funded by Congress to increase the economic impact of federally-funded research and development by accelerating and improving the transfer of new technologies from the laboratory to the commercial marketplace. As part of the Department of Commerce, NIST performs a critical role in coordinating interagency activities including development of standard tools and practices and the measurement and evaluation of results.
Interagency Lab-to-Market efforts focus on five strategy areas:
- Regulatory and Administrative Improvements - Identify regulatory impediments and administrative improvements in Federal technology transfer policies and practices.
- Private Sector Engagement - Increase engagement with private sector technology development experts and investors.
- Entrepreneurial R&D Workforce - Build a more entrepreneurial R&D workforce. Support entrepreneurial education and training to develop the next generation of skilled innovators and entrepreneurs, and enable technology transfer and start-ups.
- Tech Transfer Tools and Services - Support innovative tools and services for technology transfer. Improve and develop tools to support the discovery and transfer of technologies.
- S&T Trends and Benchmarks - Improve understanding of global science and technology trends and benchmarks to measure progress and achieve results.
Interagency Lab-to-Market efforts target problems in each of the five strategy areas:
- Regulatory and Administrative Improvements
- Technology transfer legislation was written in the 1980s and needs to be updated for the 21st century.
- Inconsistent interpretations of law, regulation, practices, and policies beyond the scope of agencies’ mission-specific differences.
- Inconsistent definition of technology transfer and stakeholder engagement across organizations, and inflexibility in adapting current tools to marketplaces.
- Partnerships not entered into due to unnecessary restrictions in policy, regulation, or statute.
- Leadership, management, or cultural impediments that hinder adoption of best practices.
Private Sector Engagement
- The private sector is a critical player in driving investment, but it can be challenging for them to engage with the Federal government.
- Improved understanding of how federally-funded technologies, knowledge, and capabilities can be made more attractive for private investment, particularly angel and venture capital.
- Improved systems usability so the private sector can find federally-funded technologies and key information (e.g. development stage, IP status) in their area of interest.
- Earlier stakeholder engagement along with market-needs analysis for proposed technologies.
- Increased stakeholder education of how federally-developed technologies and innovations are currently embedded and being used in technologies.
Entrepreneurial R&D Workforce
- The R&D workforce, including researchers and managers, lacks exposure and knowledge about and incentive to take the steps required in translating research from the lab to the marketplace.
- Conflict-of-Interest or other policies, culture, and processes that inadvertently discourage entrepreneurship or make it difficult to recruit and retain entrepreneurial employees.
- Attitude and resulting culture created by some R&D leaders that the government should not be involved in the commercialization of technology.
Tech Transfer Tools and Services
- Lack of awareness of tech transfer opportunities by the public.
- Private sector doesn’t know what is available nor that they have access to it.
- Correspondingly, agency/lab leadership have limited understanding the value of T2 to the mission.
- Complicated bureaucracy for citizens to navigate in order to engage in tech transfer:
- User experience to find technologies varies greatly by agency and even lab.
- Great diversity in approach for transfer process, agreements (terms & conditions), time frame, etc.
- Uncoordinated management and/or lack of tech transfer tools, services, and supporting infrastructure among Federal agencies. Resulting in:
- Too many duplicative tools and services that exasperate the user’s experience.
- Each set of tools & services only reflect a given agency and/or lab’s assets.
- Suboptimal use of resources and best practices in ‘back shop’ operations and management.
- Want to automate & standardize operations such that T2 SMEs can spend more time on engagement inside and outside Lab
S&T Trends and Benchmarks
- Increased need to demonstrate value of federal research investments to the Nation.
- Identifying metrics that take into account the variety of Agency missions and disciplines.
- Shifting the focus from technology transfer activities to impacts and mission-related outcomes.
- Balancing reporting burdens with measurement needs.
The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC)
The FLC was organized in 1974 and formally chartered by the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986, 15 U.S.C. 3710 (e), to promote and strengthen technology transfer nationwide. Today, more than 300 federal laboratories, facilities and research centers and their parent agencies make up the FLC community. Members of the FLC community include world–renowned scientists, engineers, inventors, entrepreneurs, academia, laboratory personnel, and T2 professionals.
The Interagency Working Group for Technology Transfer (IAWGTT)
The IAWGTT was established in 1987 by Executive Order 12591, Section 7, to "convene an interagency task force comprised of the heads of representative agencies and the directors of representative Federal laboratories, or their designees, in order to identify and disseminate creative approaches to technology transfer from Federal laboratories." The responsibilities of coordinating the IAWGTT activities, including the Annual Tech Transfer Report to the President and Congress required by the EO and by 15 U.S.C. 3710(g)(2), were delegated to NIST by Department Organization Order (DOO) 30-2A.
The Interagency Working Group for Bayh-Dole (IAWGBD)
The IAWGBD is a working group of tech transfer professionals responsible for managing extramural research activities, including Bayh-Dole policy and iEdison reporting. In consultation with the National Institutes of Health, which manages the iEdison reporting system for inventions funded by federal agencies, the Department of Commerce holds the responsibility for implementing regulations related to the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 (15 U.S.C. 202-209). This responsibility was delegated to NIST by Department Organization Order (DOO) 30-2A.
The Small Business Innovation Research Project Managers Working Group (SBIR PM WG)
The SBIR PM WG is a working group of project managers responsible for managing SBIR programs within their agencies, established by the Office of Science and Technology Policy in coordination with the Small Business Administration. The WG participants "make policy recommendations on ways to improve program effectiveness and efficiency" per section 5124 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, which re-authorized the SBIR program.