Government agencies “made steady progress to improve the transfer of technologies from federal laboratories” to the private sector between fiscal years 2013 and 2017, according to a new report published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The publication, Federal Laboratory Technology Transfer, Fiscal Year 2017, Summary Report to the President and the Congress, provides a comprehensive view of the state of technology transfer at the labs of 11 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 2013 to 2017 in key indicators of successful technology transfer, including a 24% rise in the number of new cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs), an 11% increase in the number of patents issued and a 37% increase in the number of new invention licenses granted.
In FY 2017, government agency researchers participated in 6,944 traditional CRADAs and 12,898 other collaborative research and development agreements. They filed 5,667 new invention disclosures and 2,615 patent applications. Agencies received 2,275 patents, and earned more than $180 million from active income bearing licenses. Federal researchers published approximately 60,000 scientific papers between September 2016 and December 2017 as well.
Although not all agencies tracked the number of small businesses participating in their technology transfer programs, of 6,403 traditional CRADAs from agencies that did track them, the report states that 23% percent involved small businesses. Of the 6,657 active federal licenses from agencies that identified company size, 10% were issued to small businesses.
Examples of technology transferred by government agencies in FY 2017 included:
A method for authenticating mouse cells for research, similar to the way that DNA evidence is used by forensic experts to confirm a person's identity;
A new type of nonskid surface coating that is more durable, more environmentally friendly and more effective when used on metals than traditional epoxy resins;
A system that harnesses solar energy via compact chemical reactors to produce hydrogen and other substances for potential industrial applications;
A personalized cancer treatment that uses the power of a patient's immune system to cure several types of deadly blood cancers
A rapid diagnostic test kit for detecting foot-and-mouth disease in livestock, with results available in 3 hours rather than the 18-20 hours required by conventional methods.
A portable water-treatment system for use by emergency responders after hurricanes and other natural disasters that contaminate or restrict access to clean water sources.