DC Dispatch

T2 Touchpoint — May 2, 2018

Published biweekly as part of the FLC’s DC Perspective news content, T2 Touchpoint gathers updates from inside and around the technology transfer (T2) community. News is collected from agency publications, news sites and DC-central organizations, with original sources, contacts, and links provided in addition to our streamlined synopses. For more information and Touchpoint-related inquiries, please contact dcnews@federallabs.org.

Budget Bulletin

Energy Update: $19 Million to Fund Electric Car Research, Battery Storage

2018’s Tech Focus centers on energy and its available technologies, R&D, and innovation. To quote the official Tech Focus page, “…the energy system plays an essential role in driving our nation’s prosperity and security…The energy R&D conducted at federal laboratories is crucial to meeting our nation’s energy objectives in security, economic growth, and environmental accountability.”

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently approved several projects—totaling $19 million in funding—to boost R&D to improve the speed and capacity of electric car batteries. (The FLC recently held a webinar series on the DOE’s energy priorities; the most recent focused on energy storage and occurred just before this announcement.) The funding comes from the Department’s Vehicle Technologies Office in the hope that American energy security, consumer costs of electric car adoption, and economic competitiveness will be strengthened and encouraged through this initiative.

Although the funds were awarded from the fiscal year (FY) 2017 pool, the Trump administration proposed to eliminate the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Program in FY 2018. This DOE program serves a similar purpose to these projects’ scopes.  This initiative is split between battery technology research and charging infrastructure teams in order to create batteries that can prioritize speed without sacrificing performance or longevity.

Policy Pulse

House Science Committee: The NASA Authorization Act of 2018

The House Science Committee on Science, Space, and Technology convened to deliberate the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) authorization bill. As with other budget requests introduced in recent months, the bill suggests cutting the earth science research arms of the agency, as well as capping the development of NASA’s Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope (WFIRST) at $3.2 billion. The bill also suggests boosting funding for the planetary science portfolio and the transition plan for the International Space Station to transfer operations to the private sector, prototype a nuclear electric power reactor, and fund a space-based near-earth object camera mission. A summary of the bill will be available here once Congress makes it available.

House Science Committee: The Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act

During the same Committee session mentioned above, the Innovations in Mentoring, Training, and Apprenticeships Act was also introduced. The Act would allow and direct the National Science Foundation (NSF) to give grants to institutions that support and create programs in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) disciplines. The Act would also support funding for STEM internships and apprenticeships, as well as online STEM courses and research into best practices.

Agency Activities

Introducing NIST’s ROI Initiative

The National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST) introduced its  Return on Investment (ROI) Initiative at the agency’s Unleashing American Innovation symposium last month. NIST Undersecretary Walter G. Copan offered a presentation on this Initiative at the FLC national meeting. Slides from that discussion are available here.

This initiative is linked to the 14th cross-agency priority (CAP) goal, which we previously reported: “seeks to solidify technology transfer best practices across the agencies, which will increase and expedite lab-to-market innovations.” The initiative is founded on the following assessment objectives, which have informed NIST’s ongoing efforts to bring it to fruition.

  • Identifying core federal technology transfer principles and practices to protect and/or modify.
  • Identifying approaches to improve efficiency and reduce regulatory burdens to attract private sector R&D investment.
  • Creating new partnering models with the private sector, academia, other federal agencies, and other public sector entities.
  • Implementing new approaches to enable accelerated technology transfer.
  • Introducing better metrics and methods to evaluate ROI outcomes and impacts from federal R&D.
  • Implementing new approaches to motivate significantly increased tech transfer.

NIST announced a Request for Information on Monday to gather market research on the state of federal tech transfer. The agency will hold four public forums across the country, with a white paper published after the conclusion of each event. The series of forums concludes on NIST’s campus at Gaithersburg, MD, on June 14.

The Battle for Innovation Heads to DOD, Pentagon 

Department of Defense (DOD) Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (R&E) Mike Griffin testified in a House hearing on “Promoting DOD’s Culture of Innovation” last month alongside Google CEO Eric Schmidt.  Griffin is the first Undersecretary of R&E since its phaseout in the 1980s. In his opening remarks, Griffin argued that the DOD needs to ensure that “greater speed in translating technology into fielded capability is where we can achieve and maintain our technological edge” on the battlefield and beyond. Both Schmidt and Griffin agreed agile development processes—including prototyping processes—would solidify the solution. Schmidt, as chair of the Defense Innovation Board, suggested that the DOD should promote the agency’s in-house computer scientists and move toward iterative development to boost the creation of defense technologies—a suggestion that Griffin agreed with when asked by Armed Services Committee Chair Mac Thornberry.

Griffin and Schmidt’s remarks follow those made by Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics Ellen Lord last December. Testifying about the current state of reforms before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, she said “the current pace at which we develop advanced capability is being eclipsed by those nations that pose the greatest threat to our security”—a tone we’ve echoed in previous reporting. Lord’s criticisms relate to the Pentagon’s reluctance to adopt and support Silicon Valley firms that could develop crucial warfighter technology. Beside expanding its focus in that region, the Pentagon should exercise Other Transactional Authority (OTA), which allows firms to expedite through the contracting process to quickly pilot new technology, as well as using follow-on authority to speed up a prototype’s move to production. Pentagon incubators, such as those already installed in Tampa and Las Vegas, also need to be promoted and broadened to allow smaller firms to help resolve military pain points. All of these DOD-targeted suggestions, when combined, should continue American innovation in the face of international competition.

DC Dispatch