The work of groups like Technology Ventures Corp. helping private-sector companies commercialize technology developed by the national laboratories recently got a giant validation, as in White House giant.
The Obama administration has directed federal agencies with research facilities to take steps to accelerate the transfer of research and development from the laboratory to marketplace and making more efficient use of the $147 billion poured into federal research each year. The directive recognized that innovations in science and engineering can be foundations for new companies and jobs.
An Oct. 28 Presidential Memorandum detailed several directives:
⋄ Streamline and accelerate the process for private-public research partnerships, small-business research and development grants and university-start up collaborations.
⋄ Provide greater flexibility to partner with industry, support the growth of regional innovation clusters and share laboratories with local businesses.
⋄ Develop five-year plans with goals and metrics to measure programs, including tracking how many patents each lab is generating.
TVC CEO and President John Freisinger said the memorandum “brings focus” to legislation already on the books.
“But oftentimes, the labs will focus on that which is important to the administration and it is wonderful to see the president focus the nation’s attention on the wealth of resources that sit at the labs,” he said.
Technologies developed at Sandia, Los Alamos and Oak Ridge national laboratories, in fact, will be showcased by entrepreneurs seeking funding at TVC’s Deal Stream Summit in April. A company is marketing a more-efficient spark plug, for instance, that uses pulsed-power technology from Sandia.
“I think, fundamentally, we’ve always believed in trying to transfer technology,” said Sandia’s intellectual property and licensing manager, Mark Allen. “The memo, I think, has caused us to take a fresh look at how we do business and to be more effective. And toward that end, we’re participating in doing initiatives on the Start-Up America activity, and we recently updated our website to include available technologies.”
Freisinger said both Sandia and Los Alamos have “great” tech transfer programs, but that frequently, “those great programs aren’t well known within the community even.”
Presentations of scholarly papers on scientific breakthroughs are one way to spur tech transfer to occur, he said.
But, he said, “There are ways to cooperate with the labs in which they help you solve technical problems. Just being able to use a lab scientist to solve some of those problems is a very effective way to transfer lab technologies into the private sector.”
There’s a third way, he said – obtaining a license to an existing lab technology.
“If you look at something like the TVC’s Tech Whiteboard, it’s a listing of all the labs’ technologies available for license,” he said.
New Mexico’s senior senator, Jeff Bingaman, applauded the administration’s effort to streamline the tech transfer process.
“New Mexico’s national laboratories are responsible for some of the most important R&D happening in the world, and much of it has non-defense uses,” he said. “Two decades ago, Sen. (Pete) Domenici and I helped write a law that allows that some of the R&D to be used to create jobs outside the labs, and our state alone has benefited from more than 7,500 jobs.”