From Lab to Market

Tech transfer: moving ideas from lab to market

The FLC and its members work to bring new technologies out of government labs and into the marketplace—where they can help improve the economy, society, and national security—by partnering with universities, businesses, or state and local governments. This collaborative process is called technology transfer (T2).

Electric car batteries, airport screening devices, lifelike artificial limbs, and vaccines that protect humans and animals from disease—these are all examples of the thousands of technologies developed by researchers in federal laboratories each year that positively impact our lives and our planet.

It takes a village

Federal laboratories have decades of experience turning taxpayer dollars into revolutionary inventions—but an invention in a laboratory won’t make the world a better place on its own. For those innovations to reach the people who can use them, federal labs need help from businesses and other organizations with expertise in manufacturing, distribution, sales, and communications.

Technology transfer makes all that possible. The right partner—or partners—can transform a federal invention from a great idea into a life-changing product or service, while at the same time creating new jobs, new markets, and new revenue streams.

Making it happen

Technology transfer professionals at federal labs facilitate that process by:

  • Forging connections with businesses and other partners,
  • Licensing lab-developed technologies to those partners,
  • Crafting legal agreements to allow a lab and its partners to collaborate on research and development, and
  • Helping innovators and partners work together to realize a technology’s full potential.

The payoff

The benefits of technology transfer can be appreciated on many levels. For example, solar technologies developed by federal labs help individual homeowners save on heating and cooling bills, but the process of transferring that technology also generates job opportunities with industry partners, expands the market for alternatives to fossil fuels, and helps reduce the nation’s carbon footprint.

And those new jobs and new revenue streams contribute to the nation’s economic health in a big way. Companies that licensed federal laboratory technologies contributed up to $83.6 billion to gross industry output and up to $41.3 billion to gross domestic product between 2008 and 2015.

For more information, visit the NIST Reports and Publications.

To learn more about tech transfer, watch this video!