At the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Langley Research Center (NASA LaRC), technology transfer is a gift that truly keeps on giving. A new technology fair specifically for previous licensees has led to new agreements, additional royalties and stronger relationships with the lab’s industry partners.
In 2019, the NASA Spin-In Technology Fair was created in response to survey data collected from NASA LaRC licensees. The data indicated that most licensees had made advancements to their licensed technology that could be ready for NASA mission integration and were interested in sharing those advances with NASA LaRC subject matter experts (SMEs).
NASA Langley has hosted three Spin-In fairs. The first was held face-to-face at NASA LaRC in Hampton, Virginia, in 2019. In 2020, NASA’s inability to host events onsite because of the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a virtual fair.
With success and lessons learned from previous fairs, NASA LaRC held its third Spin-In Fair virtually in fall 2021. The 2021 fair hosted more than 40 actively partnered companies, via the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and NASA Tech Transfer programs, to present their technological advancements to NASA personnel for potential infusion opportunities, further collaboration and networking between NASA and other presenting companies.
Survey data indicated that most NASA LaRC licensees had made advancements to their licensed technology that could be ready for NASA integration and were interested in sharing those advances with NASA subject matter experts.
Three of the 31 participating companies in prior Spin-Ins successfully executed a technology license or other partnership agreement with NASA the following year. Licenses are inherently beneficial to the program; they are the first step to commercializing patents. However, the primary byproducts of Spin-In events have been Space Act Agreements (SAAs).
A licensee can bring capabilities, needs or both to a NASA SME via an SAA. In return, the licensee will gain access to unique talents, knowledge, resources or equipment during the SAA that should help ready a licensed technology for commercialization.
An ancillary Spin-In program benefit is the opportunity for potential partner companies to engage with NASA SMEs regarding the technology transfer processes, SAAs and intellectual property rights.
The lab has received about $90,000 in new royalty fees from a partially exclusive license executed from the first Spin-In Technology Fair and expects growth as the licensee’s business grows. These royalty funds enable the lab to protect future inventions via patenting, which will facilitate future partnerships and opportunities to commercialize those inventions to benefit society.
The SAAs provide different benefits to NASA and the participating companies. NASA was able to identify capabilities among existing partners for potential mission integration. Data from the research and NASA testing was shared with the partner companies, giving them a better idea of their products’ strengths and areas for potential improvement. Other SAAs led to both parties exchanging technical information, samples and methods used in addition to the resulting data.
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