Posted at 10:17 AM
Guest blog post by Courtney Silverthorn, NIST Technology Partnerships Office
The United States spends over $130 billion each year on research and development (R&D), for everything from understanding disease to increasing cybersecurity. In addition to improving health, safety and quality of life, that investment can provide significant economic benefit from results that become commercial products.
But making that transition from “lab to market” is not easy. Often at federal agencies, these efforts are mandated, but not funded. In fiscal year 2015, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) received a rare opportunity to improve efforts to move the results of federal R&D from the lab to the market with $6 million in appropriated funds.
NIST’s work is part of a continuing focus by the President to ensure federal R&D lives up to its full potential. In 2011, the administration released a Presidential Memorandum on the commercialization of federal research results and “Lab to Market” is one of 15 Cross Agency Priority (CAP) Goals established by the White House.
With its first year of appropriated funding, NIST has already made important advancements in a number of its Lab to Market goals, which also align with the Innovation Goal of the Department of Commerce Strategic Plan: “America Is Open for Business.”
NIST is using its funding to promote the objectives of the Lab to Market CAP Goal: developing human capital, empowering effective collaborations, opening research and development assets, streamlining small business innovation research and evaluating impact.
To further the goal of developing human capital, NIST has formed two new partnerships. We’ve joined with fellow DOC agencies the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Minority Business Development Administration (MBDA), and with support from the Federal Laboratory Consortium we are promoting federal technologies, funding opportunities, education and training to MBDA’s network of Minority Business Development Centers. NIST has also partnered with the Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO) to provide entrepreneurial training opportunities for current NIST postdoctoral research fellows, allowing them to apply for a third year of fellowship funding in order to formulate a business plan to develop a NIST technology.
A number of interagency projects have also been funded to advance the goal of empowering effective collaborations. To improve employee collaboration between federal laboratories and the academic, non-profit and private industry sectors, NIST has tapped into the regulatory expertise of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). An EPA staff member will work with NIST, the Department of Energy, and the National Science Foundation to manage the regulatory and rulemaking process for the implementation of new personnel exchange programs. NIST has also arranged for a team of Presidential Innovation Fellows to evaluate ways to improve technology engagement with the investor and venture capital community to promote the use of private investment in advancing technologies. Additionally, the Lab to Market team is working with a number of university groups, including the Association of Public and Land Grant Universities and the Council on Government Relations, to brainstorm ways to address current challenges in government-university collaboration and to advance the commercialization of government-funded research from universities.
Two projects are being funded to improve access to information about federal technologies and resources under the opening R&D assets goal. NIST is funding improvements to the iEdison database, where recipients of federal funding report inventions made in the course of their funded research. The changes will help all agencies access and track their data on agency-funded research more efficiently. NIST funding will also help to update the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s FLCBusiness and Available Technologies tools. The website improvements, due in the 4th quarter of FY16, will allow both federal users and the general public to more easily find information about federal technologies and facility resources in a single location. It will also allow for better compliance with the White House’s Open Government Initiative, by automatically uploading machine-readable datasets on federal intellectual property and federal user facilities to data.gov.
Later this year, NIST will be releasing an expanded technology transfer summary report based on new metrics developed under the 2011 Presidential Memorandum. This more comprehensive set of metrics includes an evaluation of academic literature and other reports on economic analysis to develop a picture of the economic impact of technology transfer. NIST also funded economic research to look across federal agencies at technology transfer impacts in a single combined study, and will conduct economic studies evaluating the long-term impact of federal technology transfer efforts.
With all of these efforts, NIST is working to greatly improve how federal agencies move their technologies into the private sector. NIST is proud to play a key role in the important mission of ensuring we have strategic programs and dedicated funding so that the fruits of taxpayer investments benefit the American public through commercialization and economic growth.