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NIST Releases 2013 Federal Tech Transfer Report


Greetings from D.C. In 2013, federal laboratories reported 8,703 CRADAs and 25,379 other types of joint research relationships, disclosed 5,307 new inventions, filed 2,507 patent applications, were issued 1,909 patents, and generated almost $185 million in income from 5,492 active income-bearing licenses.

These and other statistics on technology transfer efforts from 11 U.S. federal agencies in 2013 can be found in the recently released Federal Laboratory Technology Transfer Fiscal Year 2013 Summary Report to the President and the Congress. As in past years, this annual report highlights both quantitative (e.g., patents filed and issued) and qualitative measures (e.g., downstream outcomes associated with specific cases) of federal lab technology transfer.

The 2013 report, however, ushers in a new set of metrics further refining the implications of federal lab tech transfer. As noted in the report, in 2011 the President issued a memorandum to agency heads entitled "Accelerating Technology Transfer and Commercialization of Federal Research in Support of High-Growth Businesses" (see the DC on TT column from 12/7/11). That Presidential Memorandum “directed the Secretary of Commerce to improve and expand, where appropriate, the collection of metrics regarding the effectiveness of federal technology transfer activities.” In response to that directive, the 2013 report includes the following new metrics:

  • Number of science and engineering articles by agency and technology
  • Number of citations of U.S. patents by agency and technology
  • Number of small businesses involved in CRADAs
  • Number of licenses granted to small businesses
  • Number of startup companies supported by tech transfer activities.

In addition, and in an effort to better assess the economic impact of agency tech transfer activities, the current report also includes a compilation of published papers, reports and studies, based on data gathered outside the government, highlighting the economic impact of federally developed technologies transferred to the private sector.

These new metrics indicate that federal researchers “authored or co-authored 44,802 articles published in scientific or engineering journals, and 13,026 articles authored or co-authored by federal researchers were cited in patent applications.” And while not all contained data on small business interactions for the current report, “available data showed that small businesses accounted for 18 percent of 3,095 active CRADAs and 7 percent of active technology licenses.”

Similarly, while only three agencies had data documenting support for startups for the current report, data from those three agencies “identified 78 companies that opened for business between 2008 and 2013 and were or are receiving critical technical support from federal laboratories.”

The quantitative statistics—even as refined to include the new measures—still tell only part of the story. Looking behind the numbers to the actual technologies transferred helps illustrate the depth and breadth of the federal tech transfer mission, and its positive role in meeting U.S. economic, societal and competitive needs. Selected examples of technology transferred from federal labs include:

  • An advanced cybersecurity solution for wireless local area networks (LANs), from the National Security Agency
  • The Public Safety Broad Band Demonstration Network, which provides a viable platform where members of the telecommunications industry can work together to design, develop and implement a variety of public safety technologies for emergency service agencies nationwide, from NIST and several partners
  • A new software code for predicting the behavior and failure of materials and structures composed of at least two different materials, such as fiber and resin, by the Air Force and its industry partners
  • A battery technology licensed by a Massachusetts company to build an energy-storage platform for a broad variety of energy companies, including those involved in wind and solar power, from the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • A new medical device that uses magnets to stimulate the brain, which is being used as a non-invasive system for treating neuropsychiatric diseases, developed by scientists at the National Institutes of Health.

The report makes clear what our community well understands: that the federal lab technology transfer mission plays a vital role in ensuring the U.S. economy realizes the greatest results from its federal investment in R&D and supports the Nation’s economic and competitive strength.

Read more in the NIST press release for the report.

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