DC on T2

Capitol Corner — August 2019

Published monthly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective content, Capitol Corner focuses on one notable news item pertaining to the T2 community. The focus stems from agency publications, news sites and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided. For more information and Corner-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

On August 27, the Department of Energy (DOE) published a policy amendment to the Federal Register. This amendment, titled “Inclusion of Early Stage Technology Demonstration in Authorized Technology Transfer Activities,” revised its policy to be linked to the DOE Research and Innovation Act, which includes a provision to support early-stage and precommercial technology demonstrations. “Inclusion” amended the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to allow T2 funds for use in these early tech demos, modifying rules which only permitted T2 fund use for intellectual property (IP) activities. More broadly, the Federal Register lumps the original funding limits into three categories: obtaining, maintaining, licensing, and assigning IP rights; increasing the potential for technology transfer, and providing widespread notice of T2 opportunities.

The DOE Research and Innovation Act was signed into law in October 2018. Its Laboratory and Technology Transfer pillar provides authority to “the directors of the National Laboratories to use funds authorized to support technology transfer within the Department to carry out early stage and precommercial technology demonstration activities to remove technology barriers that limit private sector interest and demonstrate potential commercial applications of any research and technologies arising from National Laboratory activities.” Accordingly, the revised Energy Policy Act “welcomes information on the early stage and precommercial technology demonstration activities that may be enabled at the DOE National Laboratories through the use of funds available for technology transfer.”

“Precommercial technology” has a Technology Readiness Level (TRL) of 8, as it’s defined by the Department of Defense (DoD) as “technology [that] has been proven to work in its final form and under expected conditions.” Precommercial technology is, simply put, at the end of its development life cycle. Demonstrations of this near-complete technology would invite private-sector firms and investors to test and evaluate laboratory inventions and increase successful lab-to-market operations.

This new provision is conceptually similar to both the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Return on Investment (ROI) initiative and Cross-Agency Priority (CAP) Goal 14 from the President’s Management Agenda. The ROI initiative includes similar private-sector aims, such as establishing regulatory and administrative improvements that favor American technology manufacturing firms and methods, engaging the private sector through more flexible partnership authorities, and strengthening technology entrepreneurship programs. CAP Goal 14 is focused on T2 best practices and speedier lab-to-market innovations.

The full policy amendment can be read via the Federal Register here.

DC on T2