DC Dispatch

DC Dispatch - June 10, 2016

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Update on COMPETES Reauthorization

(Senate ready to act – maybe; could include tech transfer - possibly)

The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee recently held: a hearing on “Leveraging the U.S. Science and Technology Enterprise”, signaling a ‘possible’ break in the effort to reauthorize one of the key legislative vehicles to support broad federal S&T policy over the past few cycles – the COMPETES Act. As reported by AIP, “[T]his month also marks just over one year since the House passed its version of a COMPETES reauthorization bill. Since then, the Senate has not indicated any desire to pick up the House’s bill, which the chamber passed on a mostly party line vote after a series of contentious hearings” [see Dispatch June 2016]. Instead, the Senate opted to take a more bipartisan approach, launching an ‘Innovation and Competitiveness Working Group’ last July … [and in the following months], held a series of three closed-door roundtables focused on basic research, STEM education, and technology transfer to inform their drafting process.” AIP reports that “much of the hearing focused on how the federal government should decide what types of R&D to support rather than how best to allocate a hypothetical increased amount of spending. Other topics discussed included how to reduce administrative burden, better match STEM job demand and supply, increase retention of students in STEM majors, improve technology transfer from universities and the national labs (emphasis added), and distinguish healthy competition from duplicative research.” Initial reports suggest that the Senate will begin consideration of its COMPETES bill in early June. See the hearing information here. (Original Sources: AIP web site, Senate CST web site)

SBIR and STTR GAO Update

The GAO has issued: its latest report on agency compliance with SBIR/STTR reporting requirements.   As noted in their report, “[F]ederal agencies have awarded contracts and grants totaling more than $40 billion through the SBIR and STTR programs to small businesses to develop and commercialize innovative technologies. The Small Business Act requires agencies with extramural R&D obligations that meet certain thresholds - $100 million for SBIR and $1 billion for STTR - to spend a percentage of these funds on the programs. The agencies are to report on their activities to SBA, and in turn, SBA is to report to Congress. The 2011 reauthorization of the programs includes a provision for GAO to review compliance with spending and reporting requirements and other program aspects.” They found “[A]gency data indicate that 9 of the 11 agencies participating in the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program and 4 of the 5 agencies participating in the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program complied with spending requirements in fiscal year 2014.” See the link for more details on their specific findings and recommendations. (Original Sources: GAO web site)

NSTC Report on National Security Strategy

(Includes technology transfer)

The National Science and Technology Council, Committee on Homeland and National Security has released: a document titled A 21ST Century Science, Technology, and Innovation Strategy for America’s National Security. It states, “[T]his Strategy sets forth how the U.S. national security science, technology, and innovation enterprise should evolve to address the challenges and opportunities imposed by a new landscape of national security technology concerns in the 21st century. … The Strategy calls for modernization of the enterprise to ensure: (1) The ability to access the best talent in the world for the national security mission; (2) Proactive and collaborative investments in specialized facilities necessary for critical national security science and technology needs; (3) Intelligent management of the business of national security science and technology, and associated risks, to achieve the best outcomes as an enterprise; and (4) Adoption of transformative frameworks and innovative practices from the private sector, where it makes sense to do so for the national security mission.”

Of potential interest to the tech transfer community are the following sections:

“Recognizing the realities of budget constraints, the ST&I enterprise has an opportunity to do better than simply rebuilding or expanding existing physical infrastructure. While security issues must be carefully managed, the enterprise now has the opportunity to reconsider the concept of the walls and fences around facilities. Can the enterprise protect what needs to be protected while cooperating effectively with universities and industry? Can the enterprise build the sorts of physical and cyber infrastructure that promote scientific and technical collaboration, promote meaningful technology transfer (emphasis added) for the creation of economic value, and allow entrepreneurs and industry to share facilities, equipment, and production capacity? In some cases, efforts similar to the Army Research Laboratory’s Open Campus Initiative or the Department of Homeland Security’s National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility might serve to increase the effectiveness of U.S. national security ST&I facilities by co-locating and integrating academia, industry, and traditional defense laboratories.” (Top page 6)

And 

Accelerating transitions from lab to market. The cost, time, and risk to develop and commercialize innovative technologies may prohibit market-driven development of new tools and technologies in areas of critical importance to national security. The enterprise must ensure that taxpayers can benefit from Federally-funded research and development by maintaining timely, effective, and coordinated intellectual property and technology transition programs (emphasis added) that provide incentives for innovation and the development of technology. The transition of the results of Federally-funded research and development from laboratory to market can be accelerated by enhancing successful programs, such as the Small Business Innovative Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, and by promoting government-sponsored venture capital funds, such as those pioneered by the intelligence community.” (Bottom page 11)

(Original Sources: White House web site)

Short FY 2017 Budget Update

AAAS has provided: a quick update of the FY 2017 budget process (focus on the R&D component). From their FY 2017 appropriations tracker you can see that as of June 6, one bill had cleared the full House and three the full Senate. Their current R&D funding scorecard compares House and Senate limits to 2016 actual and 2017 proposed limits. For those interested, as noted earlier, AIP also provides up-to-date info on the R&D funding process. Finally, see an article in GovExec on the overall budgeting process this year. (Original Sources: AAAS web site, AIP web site, GovExec web site)

Spotlight on Member Labs

Pacific Northwest National Lab – Exploratory License

DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Lab recently: began offering a new type of license agreement -- called an exploratory license -- to potential partners. From their web site, “[S]igning a two-page agreement and paying just $1,000 can get U.S. companies an opportunity to test drive promising technologies through a new, user-friendly commercialization option being offered at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. PNNL is the only DOE lab to offer this option, called an exploratory license, which gives companies six months to try out a technology before deciding whether or not to pursue a full license so they can create a product with the technology. … The short, inexpensive exploratory license is in contrast to standard technology transfer license agreements, which can be tens of pages long, cost tens of thousands of dollars and take months to negotiate. On the other hand, PNNL exploratory licenses are finalized within less than five business days and are written as-is, without any negotiation. Similar temporary, non-exclusive research licenses are also available at some universities, but haven't been an option at DOE labs until now. So far, PNNL has executed three exploratory licenses.” (Original Sources: PNNL web site)

Argonne National Lab – Tech Incubator

DOE’s Argonne National Lab has established: “a new innovation accelerator program for science and energy entrepreneurs called Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI). From the press release, “[C]hain Reaction Innovations will provide access to Argonne's deep network of 1,400 multidisciplinary researchers and engineers as well as unique tools, including the Mira supercomputer and the nation's highest-energy X-ray source, the Advanced Photon Source. The commercialization of complex science and energy technologies requires hefty capital investment, access to world-leading scientific tools and facilities and lengthy development timescales beyond the typical software startup and venture capital models. To help entrepreneurs bridge this commercialization valley of death, CRI will support cutting-edge innovators to work on early-stage technologies that can deliver game-changing impact to the energy industry. Selected innovators will benefit from up to a two-year engagement, including a fellowship, seed funding for technical collaboration with the laboratory, access to space at Argonne, guidance in using the R&D tools and expertise housed there and connections to the Midwest's rich network of business mentors and investors.” (Original Sources: ANL web site)

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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 (newsletters, email alerts, web sites, direct participation at events from the FLC DC Representative’s office, etc.) -- with original sources, contacts and links provided.

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