Tech Transfer Stars highlights those making a difference in the federal tech transfer community. As the Software Release Authority and Licensing Manager at NASA Ames Research Center in California’s Silicon Valley, Kimberly Minafra uses her communications expertise to work with NASA software developers, industry, academia, entrepreneurs and government agencies to turn out-of-this-world innovations into tech that improves the lives of everyday people.
How did you get involved in technology transfer?
I was working in the Office of Communications (for over 20 as a contractor) and newly converted to Civil Service, when I was informed of a six-month detail opportunity opening up for the position of Software Release Authority in the Technology Transfer Office in January 2018. Once I reached the one-year mark as a Civil Servant, I was able to accept the detail position and started learning the role quickly, with a great mentor leading the way.
I felt very comfortable working with the hundreds of NASA Ames software developers and inventors, as I had been working with them in my role as a Public Affairs Specialist/Communications, promoting their work. I had already developed a great rapport with our Center community of innovators. I fell in love with the aspect of enabling the process of releasing software for the benefit of users outside of NASA, so they could use it for research and evaluation.
What does a typical “day at the office” look like for you?
My primary roles are the Ames Software Release Authority and Ames Awards Liaison Officer. Both activities allow me to engage and train software developers on the process for releasing their software and encourage/persuade candidates to participate in NASA’s Quarterly Inventions and Contributions Board and annual Invention of the Year and Software of the Year Awards.
I work with developers on the process of software release, publish their software codes in NASA’s Software Catalog and coordinate the distribution of software codes to users who request them.
As a License Manager, I have the privilege of working with license applicants and learning about the company's abilities and plans for licensing NASA technology/software. I spend the time familiarizing myself with NASA technologies to better assist with the license process and matchmaking to ensure a successful license agreement execution.
I also work with universities that participate in NASA Technology Transfer University, which allows students to assess NASA technology and software for their entrepreneurial projects and degree programs.
What do you love about your job?
I love working with Ames innovators and companies who license NASA technologies for commercialization, and I love participating in marketing and outreach activities to show off the cool NASA innovations that have contributed to making a difference in our everyday lives. It’s fun to see people’s faces light up with I tell them about NASA innovations – like LASIK (from NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope innovation) and the cameras on all smart devices (from Nokia licensing NASA’s camera-on-a-chip technology). People usually tell me they thought NASA was all about launching rockets.
What do you wish more people knew about your office?
I wish that NASA was able to do ads (TV and print media) to showcase the technological innovations so more people would know the huge impacts to society that NASA innovations are making – not only in the United States but globally. NASA is everywhere you look! NASA is in our homes and cities!
How does your unique background and experience help you do your job?
As a communication expert, I have the blessing of using my skills in strategic communications to support both internal NASA Technology Transfer efforts and external – stakeholders, industry, academia, start-up accelerators and other government agencies. I have the understanding and bandwidth to connect people to our NASA technology, per their needs.
What do you do for fun?
Traveling and attending concerts.
What’s the best thing about FLC or your favorite memory from a past FLC event or initiative?
There are so many really great benefits to participating in the FLC. I am learning a lot about other federal labs and the innovations coming out of them. I also enjoy the opportunity to participate on the Communication Subcommittee, under the PROMOTE committee. The team is always working hard to inform and educate people on technology transfer benefits from participating agencies that make up the FLC.
What advice would you give to someone who is new to the tech transfer profession?
Learn the technology innovations and don’t be afraid to promote them! Our U.S. taxpayers need to know!