Michael Merriken

Award Year 

Michael Merriken has been the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center (SPAWAR) Atlantic’s “big bang” for technology transfer. He has sparked a virtually nonexistent technology transfer program to life, and is shaping and nurturing its notable growth with can-do personal energy, commitment, and creativity. Although there is a tremendous amount of engineering innovation and advanced technology development at SPAWAR Atlantic, technology transfer has never been a focus at the lab. Very (more) few employees were even aware that their intellectual property could be patented and commercialized. It is extremely difficult to set in motion anything new and unknown, and this can be particularly true in a government environment. However, in his goal to advance technology transfer at the lab, Mr. Merriken has pushed the ball off stasis and is applying his unwavering dedication to keeping it rolling. New to the field of technology transfer when he took his positions at SPAWAR in June 2011, Mr. Merriken realized early the great importance and value of tech transfer. He also knew immediately that he would have to be creative and strategic in order to leverage his efforts and advance tech transfer at the lab because he divides his time at SPAWAR Atlantic among several responsibilities, including as manager of the Office of Technology and Research Applications (ORTA). In the past two years, Mr. Merriken has leveraged his limited time, scarce funds, budding partnerships, and growing network of awakened tech transfer enthusiasts in the lab to create a partnership with the South Carolina Research Authority, a nonprofit, state-funded entity chartered to form early-stage companies that commercialize new technologies; initiating an Innovation Discovery Process (IDP) to identify intellectual property developed in typical SPAWAR Atlantic projects; and developing formal processes for patent applications, Cooperative Research and Development Agreements, and Education Partnership Agreements. Perhaps Mr. Merriken’s most important contribution is opening the eyes and minds of the SPAWAR workforce to the excitement and potential of technology transfer. He is literally creating a new culture at the lab with a promise of growth and productivity previously unseen. Sean Patten, Senior Technology Manager and Leader for Software Licensing with TechLink, who worked with him on IDP events, noted that “[Merriken] is laying the foundation for building innovation discovery and technology transfer at his lab. He’s creating a terrific sort of innovation ecosystem of partnerships where small high-tech businesses will start seeing SPAWAR Atlantic as having the technologies they are looking for.” (less)