DC Dispatch

DC Dispatch - August 9, 2017

(Another) House Science Committee Hearing on R&D

(on Energy Innovation and Tech Commercialization)

The House Science, Space and Technology (SST) Committee recently held a hearing on Energy Innovation – Letting Technology Lead (see link for video, charter and witness list) in its ongoing exploration of R&D policy and the respective roles of government and the private sector.  An earlier hearing focused on advanced materials (see Dispatch 7-14-17), with this second focused generally on energy innovation.  A third hearing is scheduled this week to cover biofuels technology.  From the energy hearing charter, “[T]he purpose of the hearing is to highlight private sector leadership on commercializing next generation energy technology to increase efficiency, environmental benefit, and consumer savings.  This hearing will also explore the impact of research infrastructure and federally funded basic and early stage research on technology innovation, and regulatory hurdles that limit the success of innovative technologies.”  Much of the discussion centered on DOE programs like ARPA-E and Energy Innovation Hubs, and the role of government in supporting later stage research projects (as opposed to tech transfer per se).  The comments from committee members suggest traditional positions on the subject.  As the American Institute of Physics (AIP) noted in its summary of the hearing, “[A]t a hearing last week dedicated to energy technology innovation, members of the House Science Committee staked out differing positions on federal strategies for supporting R&D and technology commercialization(my emphasis). … Federal R&D investment strategy has become a critical issue since the Trump administration justified proposals for extensive budget cuts across R&D programs on the basis that many government-funded activities, such as later-stage research and technology demonstration, should be supported by the private sector instead.”  (Original sources: House SST committee website, AIP website)


New From USPTO

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued a new report “synthesizing public comments on an important question for innovators in a wide variety of industries: What are the appropriate boundaries of patent eligible subject matter?”  From a post on the Director’s blog, “[B]etween 2010 and 2014, four opinions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court—Bilski, Mayo, Myriad, and Alice—significantly affected patent eligibility law.  Following these rulings, the USPTO provided updated guidance to patent examiners, initiated a nationwide conversation on patent subject-matter eligibility through a series of events and roundtables, and has now published a report presenting what we have learned from the public on this important issue.”  (Original source: USPTO website)


NAS Open Science Study

The National Academies initiated a study “on how to move toward an open science enterprise.”  From a summary of the kickoff meeting by AIP, the 18-month study will focus on “how to move the [scientific] research enterprise toward open science as the default for scientific research results.  The committee is chaired by Alexa McCray, co-director of the Center for Biomedical Informatics at Harvard Medical School, and most of its members are university professors.  The committee’s efforts will culminate in a report with findings and recommendations for the research enterprise. …  McCray began by reading the definition of open science provided in the study’s task statement: Open science is defined … as public access (i.e., no charge for access beyond the cost of an internet connection) to scholarly articles resulting from research projects, the data that support the results contained in those articles, computer code, algorithms, and other digital products of publicly funded scientific research, so that the products are findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable (FAIR), with limited exceptions for privacy, proprietary business claims, and national security.” (Original source: AIP website)


In Related News

Reps. Mike Doyle (D-PA), Kevin Yoder (R-KS), and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) introduced: legislation “to increase the openness, transparency, and accessibility of publicly funded research results.”  From the press release, “[T]he Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR) would require federal agencies with annual extramural research budgets of $100 million or more to provide the public with online access to research manuscripts stemming from funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.”  Granted, this is more of an extramural than an intramural issue, but may be of interest to some of our members nonetheless.  (Original source: Rep. Doyle website)


GAO Report on DOD Science Management 

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently published a report comparing DOD’s management approach to technology development with that of eight leading firms.  From the final report, “[DOD] relies on innovative technologies to ensure the superiority of its weapon systems and planned to invest about $12.5 billion in fiscal year 2017 to achieve this aim.  Recently, DOD’s leadership role in fostering innovation has been supplanted by the commercial sector.  This has changed DOD’s approach to technology development by relying more on commercial innovation. … This report assesses (1) the practices leading companies employ to manage technology development and (2) the extent to which DOD can incorporate these practices into its own. …  GAO recommends that DOD annually define and assess the mix of innovation investments and define, in policy or guidance, an S&T management framework that comprehensively employs leading commercial practices.  DOD did not agree with the recommendations, citing its ongoing deliberations on the new USD R&E’s role, but did identify some planned actions.”  (Original sources: GAO website)


GovExec Article on Impacts of Federally-Funded R&D

A recent article in GovExec noted the importance of federally funded research to both local and national economies.  From the article, “[B]y some tallies, almost two-thirds of the technologies with the most far-reaching impact over the last 50 years stemmed from federally funded R&D at national laboratories and research universities.  The benefits from this investment have trickled down into countless aspects of our everyday lives. Even the internet that allows you to read this article online has its roots in federal dollars: The U.S. Department of Defense supported installation of the first node of a communications network called ARPANET at UCLA back in 1969.”  Although much of the article is focused on federally funded university research, particularly in the author’s home state of Washington, he does give a nod to other agency inputs in program support and commercialization.  (Original source: GovExec website) 


Note:  The DC Dispatch is a periodic update of selected items of interest to the FLC and technology transfer community (i.e., current legislation, trends, reports, policy and other developments potentially affecting technology transfer or related activities) designed to keep the community informed of relevant issues on a timely basis.  Information is gleaned directly from a variety of sources (e.g., newsletters, email alerts, websites, direct participation at events from the D.C. Liaison’s office, etc.) with original sources, contacts and links provided.

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