IDA report documents growth in DoD use of PIAs, issues recommendations

IDA report documents growth in DoD use of PIAs, issues recommendations

February 3, 2021

Use of partnership intermediary agreements (PIAs) within the Department of Defense (DoD) has grown considerably in the last five years, according to a report prepared by the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA) Science & Technology Policy Institute (SPTI). The report, which was posted on the IDA website on February 3, analyzed PIA utilization trends within the DoD and made recommendations to improve the T2 tool's use.

A PIA is an agreement between a federal government entity and a partnership intermediary. A partnership intermediary is defined as an “agency of State or local government, or nonprofit entity owned, charter by, funded, or operated on behalf of the State or local government” (15 U.S. Code § 3715 and 10 U.S. Code § 2368(f)). A partnership intermediary can engage in activities with academic institutions and industry or small businesses to increase the likelihood of successful cooperative or joint activities between the federal entity and those organizations.

In February 2020, the Office of Defense Laboratories and Personnel (ODL&P), under the DoD’s Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USDR&E), asked the IDA STPI to analyze and characterize the landscape of DoD’s PIAs. STPI used a multi-method approach, including document review and stakeholder interviews, to identify active DoD PIAs—meaning PIAs that were not expired during the study period between February 2020 and June 2020. STPI qualitatively coded and analyzed information regarding the PIAs, combining information across sources to fill gaps. Based on this analysis, STPI identified challenges and suggestions and developed a process to identify exemplar practices.

STPI identified 79 active DoD PIAs established across the Air Force, Army, Navy, and other DoD entities. The number of PIAs has grown significantly in recent years, from three in 2015 to 16 in 2019 and nine in the first half of 2020. In particular, since 2015, non-traditional DoD entities, such as combatant commands, service-level major commends, and military education institutions, have established their first PIAs.

Across all types of PIAs, STPI found that the majority of partnership intermediaries are located within a 100-mile radius of their DoD entity, indicating that DoD entities tend to work with organizations that are in close proximity. PIAs involve numerous activities in support of the broad technology transfer functions across DoD entities, including spin-in, spin-out, and dual-use activities. The distribution of PIA activities within the DoD has also evolved since 2015, from focusing on traditional spin-out activities to incorporating more spin-in functions.

In general, DoD entities are overwhelmingly satisfied with the performance of activities under each of their PIAs. Partnership intermediaries were also largely satisfied with the nature of the work they were asked to perform under the PIA. Yet, some stakeholders felt that improvements could be made to accomplish the activities under PIAs more efficiently and effectively in the future.

The growth in PIA utilization led some interviewees to note that there are “too many” PIAs, and that the number of PIAs is creating an environment of competition among the partnership intermediaries. Furthermore, interviewees mentioned a lack of awareness about the PIA landscape and the absence of a comprehensive list of PIAs and the types of activities that they undertake. Interviewees also noted confusion among stakeholders regarding what meets the requirement for a suitable state and local government affiliation for partnership intermediaries.

Based on the study findings, STPI suggested the following recommendations for USDR&E to improve the use of PIAs across DoD. Detailed study findings and recommendations can be found in the report, which is available to the public at