Science Support

500-20-H, Technology Transfer Handbook

Date: 5/5/2020

Instruction: This handbook is issued as procedural guidance to Survey Manual chapter 500.20, Technology Transfer Authority.

OPR: Office of Policy and Analysis



This “Technology Transfer Handbook” provides detailed processes, guidance, and templates to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) offices to implement the Bureau’s Technology Transfer (TT) program. The USGS TT program enables the USGS to make its technologies available to the non-Federal sector, which includes industry; State, local, and tribal governments; and academic institutions. Through the TT process, the USGS science programs and offices share the benefits of the national investment in research and development with all segments of society.

The USGS encourages the adoption, use, and commercialization of its research products and actively seeks potential users of USGS technologies. The USGS uses multiple authorized TT mechanisms to share USGS technologies with the commercial, academic, and non-Federal government sectors. These mechanisms include cooperative research and development agreements, and intellectual property (IP) licenses. These same mechanisms are used to accept funds, which can help offset a center’s operating expenses (OE).

Many benefits result from TT. State, local, and tribal governments as well as private industry gain access to USGS innovative and improved products, processes, and services. These benefits lead to increased efficiency and effectiveness, greater market share, and increased profits, all of which help strengthen the U.S. economy. The USGS benefits by the opportunity to pursue research that may otherwise not be funded from traditional government budgets. Through the TT program, the USGS may receive revenues and royalties that can be applied toward discretionary research and science activities. An additional benefit of TT is that it allows the USGS and its individual employees to share in the recognition of intellectual discoveries and scientific advances. TT mechanisms provide a vehicle for commercialization of employee inventions through patents, licenses, and other awards, including receiving a percentage of any royalties generated. Similarly, USGS collaborators on TT agreements are able to protect their IP and share in royalties.

To take full advantage of these TT benefits, USGS offices should engage the Office of Policy and Analysis (OPA) early in the TT decision-making process. OPA’s early involvement ensures the protection of critical inventions when scientific results are published. The guidance in this handbook is intended to help USGS science programs and offices with implementing the TT program to the fullest extent possible.


/s/ Katherine M. McCulloch                                                       May 5, 2020

Katherine M. McCulloch                                                            Date

Associate Director for Administration


A printable version of this handbook is available below:

Contact should you require additional assistance.





This “Technology Transfer Handbook” provides detailed processes, guidance, and templates to U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) offices to implement the Bureau’s Technology Transfer (TT) program. This Survey Manual (SM) handbook implements SM 500.20, “Technology Transfer Authority,” and Part 761 of the Department of the Interior (DOI) Departmental Manual, “Technology Transfer.” TT mechanisms are not used to provide funds to non-USGS entities. Contacts and subcontracts are used to provide funds to entities and are subject to Appropriations Law or Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) (



The Federal Government recognized the need for expanding TT efforts, ensuring the widest possible use of its technological achievements. Examples of Federal efforts to expand TT include the establishment of the National Science Foundation in 1950, the Defense Technical Information Center in 1951, and the National Technical Information Service in 1970. By 1968, Members of Congress wanted to better use Federal laboratories to solve national problems. As a result, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act of 1968 encouraged interagency cooperation and authorized Federal agencies to provide services to State and local governments. The Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 authorized the use of cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs), officially recognized the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC), and established royalty sharing with Federal inventors. This Act instituted and promoted collaboration with industry. Some important statutes related to TT are summarized in Appendix C.

The USGS TT activities must be consistent with the USGS mission to protect and manage the Nation’s natural resources and cultural heritage; provide scientific and other information about natural resources and natural hazards to address societal challenges and create opportunities for the American people; and honor the Nation’s trust responsibilities or special commitments to American Indians, Alaska Natives, and affiliated island communities to help them prosper.

For more information, see the DOI TT website at and Part 761 of the DOI Departmental Manual at  




Validity of a Potential Partner

Within the USGS, most Technology Transfer (TT) activities occur at the laboratory, science center, program office, and mission area levels. The scientist or principal investigator (PI) may be the first point of contact for a potential collaborator (partner). The PI should determine if the prospective partner is technically and financially suitable. Refer to SM 500.20, Technology Transfer Authority, for more information.

The suitability of potential partners must be considered from ethical and public perception points of view. The System for Award Management ( lists entities that are ineligible for partnerships. The USGS is prohibited from partnering with these entities, unless waived by the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI). The PI must carefully and thoughtfully consider the validity of a potential partner and consult with his or her supervisors and (or) the Administrative Officer (AO) before proceeding further toward an agreement. 


Fairness of Opportunity

In compliance with the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986, the USGS practices and promotes fair access to CRADA opportunities. The USGS strives to ensure that outside organizations have fair access to collaborative opportunities, licensing of Federal technologies, and USGS scientific expertise. When possible, special consideration is given to small businesses and to those located in the United States. Partners should agree to manufacture TT products. Fair access to CRADAs is not synonymous with the term “open competition,” as defined for procurement contracts. Evidence of fair access and discussion of unique resource requirements are maintained as part of the official CRADA file.


Public Release

The USGS and its partners should determine if they will release a public statement regarding their partnership. If both parties agree to release a statement, the OPA and the Office of Communications and Publishing (OCAP) will help to ensure that the statement is in accordance with USGS policies and practices by using the template Public Release Statement form. Prior to releasing a statement, all parties must sign the form. If the statement contains scientific information (for example, data), the Office of Science Quality and Integrity is also consulted. Additionally, the USGS will not release partner names, descriptions of work, and (or) funding amounts without written consent from the partners.




Technology Transfer Mechanisms

Congressional legislation (15 U.S.C. 3710a) authorized the use of agreements to establish partnerships or collaborations between Federal agencies and other parties. These agreements include Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs), Technical Assistant Agreements (TAAs), Facility Use and Service Agreements (FUSAs), License Agreements (LA), and Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs). This chapter provides an overview of legally enforceable technology transfer (TT) mechanisms per SM 500.20.

The USGS can have agreements with the following entities:

  • Other Federal agencies;
  • State or local governments;
  • Industrial organizations (including corporations, partnerships, limited partnerships, and industrial development organizations);
  • Public and private foundations;
  • Nonprofit organizations (including universities);
  • Foreign entities; and
  • Other persons (including licensees of inventions owned by a Federal agency).

Short descriptions of the TT agreement mechanisms are provided below:

  • Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA). A CRADA is a written agreement between the USGS and one or more other parties to exchange technology and technical expertise and collaborate on a project where the expected result is the development of intellectual property with commercial potential. Federal Government parties cannot transfer funds to non-Federal parties under a CRADA. Data produced under a CRADA may be protected to the extent permitted by law (up to 5 years). A CRADA contains extensive intellectual property provisions; however, partners can negotiate patent and intellectual property rights. CRADA also enables the Government to protect the partner’s trade secrets and proprietary data.
  • Technical Assistance Agreement (TAA). A TAA is like a CRADA, but it allows exchange of more focused technical or research efforts between one or more parties. The USGS and the other party must mutually benefit from this collaboration, and the project must have a mission value to the USGS. Unlike a CRADA, the development of intellectual property is not anticipated. Therefore, extensive intellectual property provisions are not included in a TAA.
  • Facility Use and Service Agreement (FUSA). A FUSA allows a non-USGS party to use readily available from the private sector for use in research activities or technology development.
  • Material Transfer Agreement (MTA). An MTA allows for the exchange of materials between the USGS and another party for research purposes only. It is not used to exchange personal or controlled property as defined by the Property Management Branch. It does not transfer title to the material, and, at the conclusion of time-limited use, the material is either returned or destroyed, as specified in the MTA. An MTA requires compliance with all applicable Federal standards for handling biological, radiological, and other hazardous materials. An MTA does not allow for the transfer of funds except for shipping or preparations costs.
  • Inter-institutional Agreement (IIA). The USGS may enter an IIA with a non-USGS party to specify which party is the lead on commercialization and which party will be responsible for patent prosecution, marketing, licensing, and distribution of royalties if a resulting invention is licensed to a company.
  • Data Use License Agreement (DULA). A DULA should be used when either party provides data or datasets that include trade secrets or proprietary or confidential information for use in a study. The agreement cites the authority of 15 U.S.C. 3710a, which protects the collaborator’s confidential, proprietary, or trade secret information under the meaning of 5 U.S.C. 552(b)(4). The confidential information that results from the study will remain confidential for up to 5 years after development, per 15 U.S.C. 3710a(c)(7)(B).
  • Non-disclosure Agreement (NDA). An NDA (also known as a confidentiality agreement or confidential disclosure agreement) is a legal contract between at least two parties to discuss confidential knowledge or information, not tangible research property or material, that the parties wish to share with one another for a defined purpose but restrict access to or by third parties. Collaboration or exchange of materials (for example, equipment, data, or samples) cannot occur under an NDA. There are three possible avenues for exchanging proprietary information with a non-Federal entity: (1) the USGS receiving information, (2) the USGS providing information, and (3) the USGS both receiving and providing information
  • License Agreement (LA). An LA is an agreement between the owner of an invention or other intellectual property and another party for commercial purposes. Other intellectual property may include intangible property, including mask works, ideas, processes, and discoveries that are protected by a trademark, copyright, or trade secret. The USGS can grant licenses to a party for the right to practice, make, and/or sell a patented invention. Licenses may be granted in specific fields of use. The USGS licensing policy typically requires that the party develop and execute a plan for commercializing the invention. The USGS gives preference to partners who develop products manufactured substantially in the United States. Patents owned by the USGS are offered for licensing through the OPA.




Technology Transfer Agreement Process

A.  General Information.

Each USGS office is fully responsible for its Technology Transfer (TT) agreements and must adhere to Appendix A of SM 205.13, Delegations of Authority to Enter into Agreements and to Accept Contributions. The Office of Policy and Analysis (OPA) may review and approve agreements and aid USGS offices, ensuring the interests of the USGS office and the USGS are protected; however, each USGS office takes ownership of its agreements. For example, USGS offices must ensure that TT agreements are not revised further by the collaborators prior to execution. This chapter provides guidance on agreement mechanisms and the approval process.

1.  Grants (Funds-In).

Grants are funds disbursed or awarded by one party (grantor) to a recipient (grantee). Under the TT authority, the USGS and its scientists may apply for grants that are publicly announced and open to Federal agencies and their employees. If a USGS employee is applying for a grant and is named as the PI or co-PI by an outside entity, he or she must adhere to USGS grant policy (Form 9-3090, as applicable). The USGS is authorized to accept funds provided as a prime recipient or awardee or as a subaward.

2.  Ethics Office Review.

The Departmental Ethics Office, Office of the Solicitor at USGS reviews matters of Conflict of Interest (COI) for all USGS employees. The USGS office entering the agreement fills out the COI webform (Form 9-3142) during the initial stage of the partnership as part of the Ethics review process and may contact the Ethics Office with questions. This form identifies any potential conflicts that the principal investigator (PI) may have, other than possible patent royalties. If the PI changes during the execution of an agreement, the new PI must fill out the COI form.

3.  Obligations, Activities, and Tasks of Parties.

The Statement of Work (SOW) defines project-specific activities, roles and responsibilities, deliverables, and timelines.  The SOW must support the USGS mission and objectives. It is the basis to determine if the USGS can proceed with an agreement. The SOW must be short enough to encourage swift review and action but long enough to allow a review of its merits. Information within the SOW from the obligated parties should be complete and clear enough to permit the PI and the partner to independently evaluate the success of the project. The goal must be verifiable, and the objectives must be measurable.

The PI must keep his or her supervisor apprised of discussions with the potential collaborator because all proposed agreements must be supported by the PI’s immediate supervisor and the USGS Cost Center Manager. The PI must follow any applicable mission area policies on the submission of agreements.

Once the PI determines that both the technical and economic objectives of an industrial partner match the needs of the research program, the PI should work with the potential collaborator to draft an SOW that describes the effort and its outcomes. The SOW should be concise and clearly state the exact responsibilities of the USGS and the collaborator. The SOW should provide enough detail, outlining who will do what, when, and where. See Appendix A for additional information. 

Do not publicly release the SOW without prior consent from all parties. The U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) Office of the Solicitor (SOL) strongly recommends protecting the SOW from public release. Contact the OPA with questions regarding public release of any TT agreement or SOW.

4.  Sharing the Agreement Templates.

The USGS office may provide the potential collaborator with a copy of the appropriate agreement template. The agreement templates are preapproved by the DOI SOL for legal sufficiency and are available on the OPA Technology Transfer site. The USGS office may wish to indicate to the collaborator that certain elements of the agreement are not negotiable. If the potential partner has any questions or wishes to change any of the terms and conditions, the USGS office should discuss and (or) negotiate the proposed changes with the collaborator. If the collaborator proposes changes to the approved legal provisions or provides their own agreement, the agreement is nonstandard. The USGS office should contact the OPA for assistance with nonstandard agreements. Certain provisions and agreements can be revised only by the DOI SOL. If applicable, the OPA will coordinate with the DOI SOL.

5.  Office of Policy and Analysis Approval.

The USGS office shall consult Appendix A of SM 205.13 to determine when agreements should be submitted to the OPA. Agreements revised by the collaborator must contain tracked changes. The USGS office shall enter revised agreements into the agreement review system.

6.  U.S. Trade Representative Concurrence Review.

Before entering into an agreement with a foreign-owned or -controlled party, the OPA must consult with the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). This requirement also applies if the agreement is with a subsidiary of a foreign party. The purpose of the consultation, per Executive Order 12591, is to determine if the foreign entity does the following:

  • Permits and encourages U.S. agencies to enter into agreements on a comparable basis,
  • Has policies to protect U.S. intellectual property rights, and
  • Adopts adequate measures to prevent transfer of technology to prohibited entities.

Consultations begin upon receipt of the agreement in the agreement review system. The USTR requires 2 weeks for this consultation process, and the OPA will begin reviewing the agreement after the USTR provides concurrence.

7.  Negotiating Agreements.

Upon receiving comments and (or) revisions from the collaborator, the USGS office begins the negotiation process. The USGS office generally leads the negotiations of the terms and provisions of the agreement. The USGS office shall adhere to guidance provided by the OPA in this handbook and applicable policies. As necessary, the OPA helps during negotiations. Occasionally, the DOI SOL’s assistance is required during negotiations with the collaborator. See Appendix B for guidance on negotiable terms and provisions.

8.  Export Controls.

If the USGS is working with a foreign entity and providing or exporting U.S. information, the USGS is responsible for following export control laws. The USGS office must apply for an export license; however, this requirement is waived if it is found that the work falls under an exemption (for example, fundamental research per 15 CFR 734.8). The USGS office must contact the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security at (202) 482–0707 to determine if the work (for example, software development) meets the requirements under 15 CFR 734.8. If the work is not exempt, the USGS office should contact the OPA at for guidance.

9.  Proprietary Information.

All employees must exercise due care to ensure that proprietary information is not disclosed to the public. Proprietary information may not be used by the Government for any purpose other than activities agreed upon by both parties. Proprietary information must be clearly marked as proprietary at the time of delivery to the USGS. If oral presentations contain proprietary information, the submitter should identify the proprietary information in writing.

The Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C. 1905) imposes nondisclosure obligations on all Federal employees. This Act penalizes unauthorized disclosure of confidential information of non-Federal entities outside the Government; penalties include imprisonment, fines, and loss of employment. Considering the substantial penalties USGS employees are subject to for the unauthorized disclosure of proprietary information, the execution of a nondisclosure agreement (NDA) is unnecessary.

Federal entities may use NDAs to identify confidential or proprietary information shared between Federal parties. This information must be properly marked per the records management policy. Contact the USGS Records Officer for more information.

10.  Dispute Resolution.

Agreements may contain provisions requiring the resolution of legal disputes in State courts or provisions requiring the USGS to indemnify a non-Federal Government entity. Because provisions of this type violate Federal law, the USGS cannot comply with them.

11.  Unauthorized Signatures.

If unauthorized employees sign an agreement, be advised that they personally, not the USGS, may be bound by the conditions of the agreement. If litigation is initiated by a party, the Government may opt not to defend employees where they exceeded the scope of their employment authority. Consequently, employees may have to defend themselves at their own expense and pay any applicable judgment.

12.  Equipment or Property Transfer.

The USGS may be able to transfer equipment to a non-USGS entity via a technical assistance agreement (TAA) by using the TT authority. For assistance regarding this activity, contact the OPA at . For more information regarding equipment and property transfer without a TT agreement, contact the Chief of the Property Management Branch at (703) 648–7322 or


B.  Cooperative Research and Development Agreements.

There are several steps for developing and executing a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA). Contact the OPA if you need further assistance completing the following steps:

Step 1.  Enter into an NDA. See Section H of this chapter for more information.

Step 2.  Develop the CRADA document. A CRADA consists of three major components: SOW, Resources, and General Provisions. The USGS office must enter the agreement in the agreement review system for OPA review and approval.

a.  Statement of Work (SOW)—The CRADA development begins with the SOW. See Appendix A in this handbook for more details.

b.  Resources (staffing, funding, equipment, and materials)—Provide a list of all resources supplied to the CRADA by all parties. Cash contributions and an estimate of in-kind expenses must be included. 

c.  General Provisions (legal terms and conditions)—The business practice framework of a CRADA partnership is outlined in 13 articles that constitute the “General Provisions” section of a CRADA:

  • Article 1. Introduction
  • Article 2. Definitions
  • Article 3. Cooperative Research and Development
  • Article 4. Financial and Equipment Contributions
  • Article 5. Intellectual Property
  • Article 6. Licensing
  • Article 7. Generated Information Use, Proprietary Information and Background Intellectual Property, Protected Information, Presentations and Publications, and Software
  • Article 8. Rights in Generated Information
  • Article 9. Warranties
  • Article 10. Expiration and Termination
  • Article 11. Disputes
  • Article 12. Indemnification and Liability
  • Article 13. Miscellaneous

The USGS office, in discussion with the partner, provides requested information in the CRADA template. If the partner wants to revise the terms and provisions, the USGS administrative contact should ask the partner to edit the document based on negotiations and indicate the required changes using track changes. The revised document is sent to the OPA for review and, if needed, assistance with negotiations.

Step 3.  Complete the Ethics review. See Section A.2 of this chapter for more information.

Step 4.  Complete the U.S. Trade Representative review. See Section A.6 of this chapter for more information.

Step 5.  Negotiate the CRADA terms (articles). See Appendix B for more information.

Step 6.  Prepare the CRADA package for OPA approval. The USGS office prepares the final documents for signature by following the steps below:

a.  The USGS office submits the final negotiated version of the CRADA (with all tracked changes and comments) to the agreement review system for OPA approval. This version includes the SOW, the “Resources” section, and any other documents pertinent to the CRADA.

b.  The OPA approves the agreement in the agreement review system and routes it back to the USGS office.


1. Preparing the CRADA Package for Signature.

(a)  The USGS office prepares the OPA-approved CRADA for collaborator signature by meeting the following criteria: 

i.  Remove tracked changes or comments from the final version. 

ii.  Provide copies of the final version for signature (or eSignature). An eSignature is acceptable if using a Personal Identity Verification (PIV) card.

iii.  Include the SOW (Appendix A of the CRADA); the “Resources” section (Appendix B of the CRADA); public release statement (if applicable), and any other appendices, exhibits, or attachments.

iv.  Prepare the Associate Director/Regional Director (AD/RD) transmittal letter to the partner.

v.  Ask the collaborator to sign the copies and return the signed copy to the USGS.

(b)  The USGS office prepares the collaborator’s signed CRADA for AD/RD signature.

i.  The USGS office must ensure the CRADA was not revised by the collaborator prior to the AD/RD signature.

ii.  If the CRADA was revised, the USGS office must provide the revised agreement to the OPA through the agreement review system for review and re-approval.

iii.  The USGS office prepares the Correspondence Brief and uploads it to the agreement review system for OPA review.

  • The template Correspondence Brief is available to USGS employees internally.
  • The Correspondence Brief should include information regarding unique provisions, partnership opportunity announcements, history with the partner, Industrial Participant Questionnaire, Ethics review, and the U.S. Trade Representative concurrence review, as applicable.

iv.  The OPA reviews the Correspondence Brief and provides the approved copy to the USGS office through the agreement review system. 

v.  The Cost Center Manager signs the Correspondence Brief.

vi.  Provide the CRADA package and the Correspondence Brief to the AD/RD for review and signature.

(c)  For hardcopies, the USGS office retains one fully signed copy and provide the other fully signed copy to the OPA. For electronically signed CRADAs, the fully signed agreement is uploaded to the agreement review system.


2.  Post Execution.

(a)  Public Release Process (Optional).

During CRADA negotiations or after signing a CRADA, the collaborator and the USGS may determine that it would be mutually beneficial to prepare and jointly approve a public release statement describing the collaboration activities. Releasing a statement would permit easy access to an approved description of the project in the event the information is needed by either party. The final version of the statement is releasable to the public after the CRADA is executed, without further consultation with or the permission of either partner. 

Both parties must agree to use only the approved statement. Consistent with the CRADA General Provisions (see articles 13.8 and 13.9 in the CRADA template), release of the statement does not directly or indirectly imply approval or endorsement of the collaborator’s or the USGS’ work product or services.

The process to complete the public release statement is summarized below. A template public release statement form is available internally to USGS employees.

  • All parties must agree to the public release statement (PIs, USGS Public Affairs Officer, and USGS and collaborator signatories). 
  • The USGS PI prepares the draft public release statement for review and approval by the USGS Public Affairs Officer. The USGS Public Affairs Officer’s contact information is included in the public release statement.
  • The USGS PI sends the approved draft statement to the collaborator for review and comment.
    • The collaborator must provide contact information for its public affairs officer or equivalent in the public release statement.
    • If the collaborator provides comments, the USGS PI reviews the comments and provides the revised public release statement to the USGS Public Affairs Officer for approval.
  • The USGS PI uploads the collaborator-approved public release statement to the agreement review system for OPA review. The OPA provides concurrence through the agreement review system.
  • The USGS PI or administrative officer sends a copy of the final version of the public release statement to the collaborator for signature.

  • The authorized USGS representative signs the collaborator-signed public release statement.

  • The signatures are removed from the public release statement prior to release to the public. 

(b)  CRADA Amendments.    

If an extension or modification of the CRADA is needed, the Agreement Amendment form (USGS form 9-3143), located on the OPA SharePoint site, is used. The changes are listed on the form in the space provided, and the amendment number is placed in the space provided. Modifications to the scope of work require OPA review and approval.

If protected information not previously identified in the CRADA is generated, amendment of the FOIA submitter notice is required. 

All amendments (such as extensions, modifications, payment schedules, FOIA submitter notices) should be numbered consecutively. For example, if a CRADA was extended once (Amendment No. 01) and is subsequently modified, “Amendment No. 02” is typed on the revised cover sheet. Amendments are signed by the same CRADA signatories. All amendments are uploaded to the agreement review system for OPA approval.

3.  Closing Out a CRADA. The USGS must satisfy all appropriate requirements at the end of an agreement. The process for closing out a CRADA is summarized below:

(a)  Final Project Evaluation Report and completion of finance steps.

(1)  The USGS PI is responsible for tracking progress and ensuring that expenditures of any incoming collaborator funds are reported as per financial policy. 

(2)  The CRADA Annual and Final Report includes generated information, protected information, progress, expenditures, milestones, intellectual property, and deliverables. This type of reporting satisfies USGS records management requirements.

(b)  Expiration or termination notice.

(1)  The USGS office drafts a notice informing the collaborator that the USGS intends to terminate the agreement. Notices are optional for agreements that are set to expire.

(2)  The USGS office provides the letter to the collaborator.

(3)  The USGS office uploads the termination notice to the agreement review system.

(c)  Agreement terminations require an amendment to the agreement in order to capture the change in the terms of the agreement as a result of the termination. Once the agreement is amended, the termination letter is issued to the collaborator.

4.  Key Documents for a CRADA.

The following is a list of key documents and forms, some of which are detailed in section B, needed for a CRADA:

  • Industrial Participant Questionnaire (suggested but optional)  
  • Partnership opportunity announcements, as applicable  
  • Federal Register Notice, as applicable    
  • Technical Announcements, as applicable
  • USGS PI’s Conflict of Interest (COI) form         
  • CRADA document: General Provisions, Statement of Work, and Resources       
  • CRADA Decision-Tree and Criteria Checklist, as applicable
  • Correspondence Brief      
  • Public release statement (optional)         
  • Amendments        
  • Final Project Evaluation Report  
  • Expiration or termination letters

C.  Technical Assistance Agreement.

A TAA is like a CRADA, but TAAs are used for projects where the intent is not the development and (or) commercialization of intellectual property. The steps followed to develop a TAA are comparable to those for a CRADA and are outlined below. For additional details, see Section A and B of this chapter.

1.  The USGS office confirms the validity of the potential partner.

2.  The USGS office develops the TAA package (SOW, budget worksheet, other relevant documents).

(a)  A template TAA is located on the Technology Transfer Website.

(b)  Sharing the budget worksheet with the partner must not violate personally identifiable information (PII) policies.

3.  The USGS office conducts the Ethics reviews, if applicable.

4.  The OPA coordinates with USTR for concurrence reviews, if applicable.

5.  The USGS office discusses and negotiates the TAA with the potential partner. 

(a)  The USGS office works with the partner to confirm acceptance of the agreement.

(b)  The OPA can assist the USGS office with negotiations upon request. The OPA involves the DOI SOL as necessary.

6.  The USGS office uploads the TAA package to the agreement review system.

7.  The OPA reviews and approves the TAA package, once the agreement follows policies.

8.  The USGS office prepares the TAA for collaborator and USGS office Director signature.

D.  Facility Use and Service Agreement.

The USGS has established a policy and process for development and execution of facility use and service agreement (FUSAs). A FUSA formalizes and authorizes the use of unique laboratory facilities, specialized equipment, and (or) capabilities by non-Federal entities if those resources are not readily available from the private sector for use in research activities or technology development.

USGS offices should do the following:

1.  Verify that the work is eligible for a FUSA and does not substantially compete with the private sector;

2.  Determine special circumstances that may require special legal provisions;

3.  Develop a pricing structure; and

4.  Provide information to the OPA for help with marketing the laboratory. Provide the completed worksheet to the OPA prior to executing a nonstandard FUSA.

-- Standard FUSA.  When the FUSA template is used without revisions and the other party is fully U.S.-owned or -controlled, the USGS office may sign the FUSA without OPA review and approval. All USGS offices must keep a list of all standard FUSAs and provide the OPA with the number of FUSAs executed each fiscal year.

-- Nonstandard FUSA.  There are two types of nonstandard FUSAs:

1.  If legal provisions in the OPA FUSA template are revised, then the OPA must review and approve the revised FUSA prior to signature.

2.  A FUSA for multiple laboratories and capabilities that is set up as a master FUSA that allows for individual project orders is considered nonstandard.

The OPA must approve the nonstandard FUSA legal provisions template (which does not include the financial terms and provisions) before it can be approved by the Office of Accounting and Financial Management/Funds Management. Once the initial agreement provisions are approved by the OPA as a standard template for a USGS office, the template may be used without further review, unless it is affected by policy changes.

The scope of work, funding amount, and (or) period of performance can be changed without OPA review and approval. Every 3 years from the initial OPA approval date, the administrative officer and (or) administrative staff, in coordination with the Science Center Director and the PI, will determine whether the USGS office will continue to use the nonstandard template. If the USGS office continues to use the nonstandard template, the OPA must ensure that the template is valid.

E.  Material Transfer Agreement.

Material transfer agreements (MTAs) govern the transfer of tangible research materials between two or more organizations for research purposes. An MTA contains provisions that define the rights of the provider and the recipient of the original materials and any derivatives made from those materials.

An MTA is generated by one of the two organizations transferring the material. It is recommended that USGS offices use the USGS MTA template to expedite the review and approval time. Use of the other party’s agreement template requires extensive review time and often results in modifications and negotiations.

The MTA may be edited by both parties. The agreement typically covers whether the receiver may sell or distribute the material, the scope of research, and the purpose of the request for the material.

SM 500.20 specifies when USGS offices must use an MTA. The transfer of USGS samples between USGS offices does not require an MTA; however, chain-of-custody documentation may be required per science center policy.

The provider of material or data may require an MTA in the following circumstances:

  • The material or information is proprietary.
  • The material or information is being maintained as a trade secret or invention.
  • The material is infectious, hazardous, or subject to special regulations.
  • The provider is concerned about potential liability.
  • The provider wishes to obtain rights to the results of the research in which the material or information is to be used.

A recipient may use an MTA under the following circumstances:

  • The material or information is proprietary or is being maintained as a trade secret or invention, resulting in provisions protecting the material or information.
  • The material is infectious, hazardous, or subject to special regulations, and the conditions for use are outlined.
  • The recipient wishes to obtain rights to the results of the research in which the material or information is to be used.

Once the parties agree on the provisions and the OPA reviews and approves the agreement, the MTA is executed by all parties. The approval time may be longer if the material provider is a foreign entity because USTR concurrence review is required. See Section A for details on USTR review.

An MTA does not allow for the transfer of funds, except for shipping or preparations costs (for example, consumables such as bags, bottles, and equipment utilization costs). These provisions must be stated in the MTA.

Once the MTA is executed by all parties, the material can be transferred by either party. If the USGS is the recipient, the PI may follow up with the provider to ensure that the materials are sent and that all packages are assigned a tracking number. 

F.  Inter-Institutional Agreement or Intellectual Property Plan.

The USGS may enter into an inter-institutional agreement (IIA) with the technology transfer office of another organization when scientists collaborate on a project that is likely to lead to the development of intellectual property. The IIA specifies which organization is the lead on commercialization and which party will be responsible for the patent prosecution, marketing, licensing, and distribution of royalties if a resulting invention is licensed to a company. The USGS office, in consultation with the OPA, negotiates the IIA or intellectual property (IP) Plan. The Office of Administration executes the agreement.

G.  Data Use License Agreement.

The USGS may use a data use license agreement (DLA) when a collaborator is providing data or a dataset for USGS use. A DLA may prohibit disclosure to the public. The collaborator agrees to provide the USGS with a nonexclusive, nontransferable, paid-up license to use the collaborator’s data or dataset. In return, the USGS agrees, where applicable, to keep the information confidential as per Federal law. The agreement specifies the USGS’ permitted use of the data during the period of performance of the agreement.

H.  Nondisclosure Agreement or Confidential Disclosure Agreement.

A nondisclosure agreement (NDA), also called a confidential disclosure agreement (CDA) and other agreements that protect confidential or proprietary material are legal contracts to share and (or) discuss confidential knowledge or information for a defined purpose. An exchange of materials or in-kind resources (for example, equipment, data, samples, and so on) cannot occur under an NDA. The party receiving confidential information agrees to protect this information as proprietary. This type of agreement restricts access to or by third parties, unless specified in the NDA. An NDA may be used in conjunction with other agreements, such as CRADAs and TAAs, to maintain confidentiality of third parties.

See Appendix A of SM 205.13 for information on the proper signatory authority to bind the USGS. Other USGS employees are not authorized to sign NDAs purporting to bind the USGS under any circumstances. If unauthorized employees sign an NDA, be advised that they personally, and not the USGS, may be bound by the conditions of the NDA. If litigation is initiated by a party, the Government may opt not to defend the employees where they have exceeded the scope of their employment authority. Consequently, employees may have to defend themselves at their own expense and pay any applicable judgment.

If asked to sign an NDA by a non-Federal entity, inform the entity that the Trade Secrets Act (18 U.S.C. 1905) imposes nondisclosure obligations on all Federal employees. If an entity insists on signing an NDA, use the NDA template located at OPA Insight SharePoint.

Although signing an NDA is a common accepted business practice throughout private industry, this practice is applied differently for Federal agencies and their employees. NDAs raise issues related to the following:

1.  Binding the USGS’ ability to disclose information,

2.  The practicality of complying with specified nondisclosure provisions,

3.  Assessing the liability for accidental breaches,

4.  The time period the agreement is enforced, and

5.  The unnecessary redundancy of such agreements.


General Steps for NDAs

1.  The USGS PI and (or) staff member must complete the NDA. The authorized representative executes the NDA. 

2.  The template NDA located on the internal OPA site should be used.2

3.  If the other party uses a nonstandard NDA, the PI submits the NDA to the agreement review system for OPA review.

4.  Submit all NDAs through the agreement review system. Doing so can help eliminate the potential for loss of intellectual property rights.


There are three possible avenues for exchanging proprietary information with a non-USGS entity: (1) the USGS receiving information, (2) the USGS providing information, and (3) the USGS both receiving and providing information.

1.  The USGS receiving information (one-way).

The USGS has a continuing interest in new ideas, suggestions, innovative concepts, and knowledge that may benefit its mission and scientific objectives. USGS employees may need to access proprietary information from non-USGS entities in order to evaluate or test such information. Before releasing their proprietary information, private companies generally require an NDA to protect and prevent their proprietary information from public disclosure, which could hinder their ability to commercially exploit the information to its full potential. 

2.  The USGS providing information (one-way).

The USGS may need to provide proprietary information (for example, a nondisclosed invention) to a non-USGS entity during a project. When it becomes necessary for the USGS to disclose confidential, sensitive, or proprietary information to another party, the USGS requires the other party to sign an NDA before participating in meetings or discussions with other parties. 

3.  The USGS receiving and providing information (two-way).

If both parties need to share proprietary or confidential information to determine if there is enough interest to pursue a patent license or other TT agreement, a two-way or mutual NDA is needed.




James R. Balsley, Jr. Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer

The James R. Balsley, Jr. Award for Excellence in Technology Transfer recognizes outstanding contributions that further technology innovation and transfer. The award is named for James R. Balsley, Jr., a USGS geophysicist and the Assistant Director for Research from 1972 to 1979. The purpose of this award is to recognize USGS scientific, engineering, technical, and science support employees for the following accomplishments:

  • Inventions or other outstanding scientific or technological contributions of value to the United States due to commercial applications.
  • Exemplary activities that promote the domestic transfer of science and technology developed within the USGS and used by American industry or businesses, universities, state or local governments, or other non-Federal entities.

For information regarding the award, please contact the USGS Technology Transfer Office at or visit the internal USGS award site.




Statement of Work

The Technology Transfer (TT) agreement mechanism and the terms and provisions of the agreement are determined by the Statement of Work (SOW). The SOW is developed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) office entering the agreement in collaboration with the other party. 

The SOW comprises several components, outlined below. Write the SOW in broad terms, allowing both parties flexibility in case of delays or unforeseen circumstances. Avoid using pronouns, such as “we” and “our.”  Also avoid using names of the people involved; use positions or titles. If possible, provide the required information in less than five pages. To help expedite the review process, submit an SOW no longer than five pages. Avoid using a grant proposal as the SOW.

1.  Background.

a)  Include information on any of the following: history of the opportunity or problem; the market demand, industry need, or commercial potential of the idea; earlier attempts to solve the problem or exploit the opportunity; and (or) projections of increasing need or demand. 

b)  Describe how the project is mutually beneficial to the USGS and the partner and how it benefits the scientific community and the people of the United States. 

c)  If applicable, describe innovations, circumstances that might have changed since related work was done, or unique aspects of the proposed research.

d)  This section can also identify the party or parties involved and the types of entities, including third parties. Describe the relationships between parties, including subsidiary or parent relationship structure. For clarity, also include descriptions of the parties.

2.  Purpose.

a)  This section defines the “why” of the project.

i.  Why is the work being done?

ii.  Why is the work important?

b)  Discuss the specific benefits or importance of the work.

3.  Objectives.

a)  Include the specific measurable goal (aim) of the research and development (or evaluation) project.

b)  Consider the problem to be solved; the device to be designed, enhanced, tested, or refined.

c)  Focus on the aims of the activity, not the processes. Examples are listed below.

i.  Aim—To identify the causative agent allowing infestation of an invasive species of fish.

ii.  ProcessTo run several chemical analyses on selected water samples collected in areas where the invasive fish are prevalent.

d)  Use active, measurable terms, such as “to identify” or “to characterize,” not “to study.”

4.  Term/Project Schedule.

a)  Provide the specific schedule of the activity, including milestones, intermediate deadlines, and critical go/no-go points.

5.  Collaborator’s and USGS’ Roles and Expertise.

a)  Describe the experience, expertise, and skills that the collaborator provides to the partnership/research effort. This description should contain more detail than the “whereas” clauses in the preamble section of the agreement.

b)  Clearly define each Party’s roles and tasks.

i.  Who will conduct and coordinate meetings?

ii.  Who will develop protocols?

iii.  Who will take samples?

iv.  Who will conduct the analysis?

v.  Who will analyze and review the data and results?

vi.  Who is responsible for securing permits?

vii. Who is responsible for providing and taking training?

c)  Avoid using pronouns such as “we” and “our.”

6.  Anticipated Outcomes and Deliverables.

a)  Define the tangible outcomes, results, products, or deliverables, including publications, intellectual property, training, conferences, workshops, and (or) reports.

7.  Economic Value and Contributions (for CRADAs).

a)  Provide evidence that the CRADA has economic value. Value is not necessarily quantitative.

b)  Describe the contributions of the USGS and the collaborator, such as the following:

i.  Resources (for example, equipment or tools), if needed.

ii. Funding, including time of staff, in-kind resources, and outside expenses.

iii.  Funding assumptions, such as fixed fee, time and materials, indirect costs, how outside expenses are handled, payment terms including a payment schedule, and payment basis (milestone, deliverable, or schedule).

c)  The USGS generally uses a date-based (monthly, quarterly) or scheduled payment process. The other party may prefer milestone-based or deliverable-based payments. For guidance, contact the USGS Receivables Management Section.

Below is an example of an economic value and contribution statement:

The issue of invasive species is growing in the United States and many other nations, resulting in strong negative effects to the agricultural sector of the economy. The results of this work can help to conserve natural resources through invasive species management, which will help to balance economic gain with environmental degradation. Further, such tools can enhance and protect our quality of life and the environment, ensuring the survival of native species.

8.  Additional Contacts (for CRADAs).

a)  Provide a list of all contacts pertinent to the CRADA, including technical experts, financial contacts, and administrative contacts.

b)  Contacts are generally provided in Section 9 of a TAA; however, a list of contacts may be provided in the SOW, like a CRADA.




Negotiable and Nonnegotiable Terms

When developing Technology Transfer (TT) agreements, individual U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) offices lead the negotiations with the collaborators. The first opportunity to negotiate with the other party is during the development of the Statement of Work (SOW). The next opportunity is during the development of the agreement provisions. The USGS office entering the agreement can provide the other party with a copy of the USGS template agreement (for example, technical assistance agreement, cooperative research and development agreement [CRADA], facility use and service agreement, and material transfer agreement).

If the collaborator revises any provision(s) in the template agreement, the USGS office should determine why the collaborator revised the provision(s). Contact the Office of Policy and Analysis (OPA) for assistance. As noted in chapter D of this handbook, the provisions and formats for all template agreements are legally approved by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Office of the Solicitor (SOL). Revisions to the template agreement may necessitate additional DOI SOL review, delaying the review process.

Audits—Parties may wish to audit the USGS’ expenses related to the agreement. Contact the Office of Accounting and Financial Management to determine if the USGS can agree to financial audits. 

Third parties—Collaborators may also request that the USGS be responsible to other parties. The USGS cannot agree to be responsible for other entities not party to the agreement.

Indemnification/liability—The Federal government may not agree to indemnify or hold harmless third parties (that is, insure the other party against losses). The USGS may only agree to be liable for its own actions to the extent allowed by law.

Insurance—The USGS is part of the Federal Government of the United States. It may not use appropriated funds, without express statutory authority, to purchase insurance. As a result, the Government is self-insured with respect to (1) loss of, or damage to, Government property and (2) damage to persons or property caused by employee acts or omissions while acting within the scope of their employment in accordance with the Federal Tort Claims Act (28 U.S.C. 2671 et seq.). The USGS warrants that it is self-insured for the purposes of workers’ compensation (5 U.S.C. 81 et seq.).

Choice of law/jurisdiction—The USGS cannot agree to have agreements governed by State law and cannot agree to the jurisdiction of a State. The USGS may agree to remain silent on the choice of law, which usually resolves the issue. Contact the OPA for other language options if the collaborator requests these conditions in the agreement.

Arbitration/disputes—The USGS is a Federal agency and may not agree to binding arbitration. The USGS prefers to settle disputes (1) directly with the collaborator, starting with the principal investigators (PIs), and then (2) raising the concern through the proper management chain to be resolved between the USGS Director and the collaborator equivalent, if necessary. The USGS may agree to nonbinding arbitration where the collaborator pays for arbitration.

Derivatives or modifications—Collaborators may request that they own all modified derivatives of the material or data modifications, which may include an invention. PIs should be aware that the USGS could be prevented from using its own research results. Contact the OPA for guidance.

Intellectual property provisions—Some agreement terms provided by a collaborator may state that the collaborator owns all results and inventions arising out of the research. The USGS cannot agree to such terms. If an intellectual contribution is made by a USGS employee, the USGS has ownership. If collaborators assert ownership over results and inventions, the PI may be prevented from using the results in future research or publications. This outcome could restrict the PI’s ability to interact with a future sponsor or may prevent the USGS from conveying rights in inventions to future licensees.

The USGS may grant the collaborator an option to elect a nonexclusive, partially exclusive, or exclusive license on any subject invention made solely by USGS employees or made jointly by USGS and collaborator employees. Any license granted shall be subject to negotiation of reasonable license terms and shall be substantially in the form of the model USGS license agreement. To exercise this option, the collaborator shall submit a written notice to the USGS OPA after notification by the USGS of a subject invention. Typically, the collaborator agrees to pay reasonable patent costs. At the discretion of the parties, they will execute an amendment, if applicable, to the agreement that defines marketing and licensing roles and responsibilities. Pursuant to 15 U.S.C. 3710a, the Government shall have a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice or have the invention practiced throughout the world by or on behalf of the Government for research or other Government purposes that are conceived or first reduced to practice in the performance of the agreement. The license agreement may be a supplemental amendment to an agreement (for example, a CRADA), or a stand-alone agreement.

Publication restrictions—Some agreements require that the PI obtain written consent from the collaborator to publish, or the collaborator may request co-authorship based on the data provided. Such terms violate USGS policy and may conflict with agreements and journal requirements. Publication restrictions may also affect the PI’s ability to report results to sponsors or funding agencies. Publication release dates may be negotiated if delays are reasonable; acceptable to the PI; and consistent with the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986, the Freedom of Information Act, the USGS Fundamental Science Practices, and other applicable laws and regulations. In limited cases, publications may be prohibited based on the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 if exempted by the Freedom of Information Act.

International entities—The USGS may enter into agreements with most foreign entities. The USGS office responsible for the agreement must complete the Foreign Entity Determination and Partnership Worksheet (FEDPW) Form and upload the Statement of Work to determine if review is provided by the OPA or the Office of International Programs (OIP). Based on the SOW, the effort may have foreign policy implications. For questions regarding foreign policy implications, contact the OIP. For questions regarding the FEDPW, contact the OPA. For international entities entering into a Technology Transfer agreement, the OPA follows the process outlined in this handbook regarding concurrence of the U.S. Trade Representative. The foreign entity must agree that U.S. laws and regulations govern the agreement. Contact the OIP if the international collaborator requests terms based on international law or foreign law.

Reporting inventions to other party—Whenever a USGS employee develops an invention, either at home, while on active duty status, or under an agreement (for example, a CRADA), the employee is obligated to report the invention to the OPA. USGS employees must use DOI Form DI-1215 (internal to the USGS) to report the invention. If an employee believes the invention does not belong to the USGS, they must fill out DOI form DI-1218 for the DOI SOL to determine the inventor’s rights.

Under the terms of a CRADA, each party to the agreement is obligated to report inventions to the other partner. It is the PI’s responsibility to ensure that these disclosures follow the provisions in the CRADA.




Statutes Related to Technology Transfer


Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 (Public Law 96–480)

  • Focused on dissemination of information.
  • Required Federal laboratories to take an active role in technical cooperation.
  • Established Offices of Research and Technology Applications at major Federal laboratories.  At many laboratories and agencies, these offices are simply called technology transfer offices.
  • Established the Center for the Utilization of Federal Technology within the National Technical Information Service.

Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 (Public Law 96–517)

  • Permitted universities, nonprofit organizations, and small businesses to obtain titles to inventions developed with Federal Government support.
  • Allowed Government‑owned, Government‑operated (GOGO) laboratories to grant exclusive licenses to patents.

Trademark Clarification Act of 1984 (Public Law 98–620)

  • Primarily pertained to non-U.S. Department of the Interior laboratories, such as U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories, which are Government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) facilities.
  • Permitted decisions to be made at the laboratory level in GOCO laboratories regarding the awarding of licenses for patents.
  • Permitted contractors to receive patent royalties for use in research and development (R&D), awards, or education.
  • Permitted private companies, regardless of size, to obtain exclusive licenses.
  • Permitted laboratories run by universities and nonprofit institutions to retain titles to inventions, within limitations.

Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 (Public Law 99–502)

  • Made TT a responsibility of all Federal laboratory scientists and engineers.
  • Mandated that TT responsibility be considered in performance evaluations of Federal laboratory employees.
  • Defined a new kind of collaborative agreement to encourage partnerships between Federal laboratories and the private sector: the cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA).
  • Established royalty sharing for Federal inventors (15 percent minimum) and set up a reward system for other innovators and support.
  • Chartered the FLC.
  • Provided specific requirements, incentives, and authorities for Federal laboratories.
  • Empowered Federal agencies to give the directors of GOGO laboratories the authority to enter into CRADAs and negotiate licensing agreements for inventions made at their laboratories with streamlined headquarters review.
  • Allowed Federal laboratories to make advance agreements with large and small companies on titles and licenses to inventions resulting from CRADAs.
  • Provided for the exchange of GOGO laboratory personnel, services, and equipment with research partners.
  • Made it possible to grant and waive rights to GOGO laboratory inventions and intellectual property.

Executive Orders 12591 and 12618 (1987): Facilitating Access to Science and Technology

  • Promoted the commercialization of Federal science and technology.

Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 (Public Law 100–418)

  • Placed emphasis on the need for public/private cooperation to assure full use of research results.
  • Established centers for transferring manufacturing technology.
  • Established industrial extension services within States and an information clearinghouse for successful State and local technology programs.
  • Changed the name of the National Bureau of Standards to the National Institute of Standards and Technology and broadened its TT role.
  • Extended royalty payment requirements to non‑Government employees of Federal laboratories.
  • Authorized training TT centers administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

National Competitiveness Technology Transfer Act of 1989 (Public Law 101–189)

  • Permitted GOCO laboratories to enter into CRADAs and other agreements with universities and private industry partners in essentially the same ways as those authorized for GOGOs by the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986.
  • Allowed information and innovations brought into and created through CRADAs to be protected from disclosure.
  • Provided a TT mission for nuclear weapons laboratories.

American Technology Preeminence Act of 1991 (Public Law 102–245)

  • Extended the FLC mandate, removed FLC responsibility for conducting grant programs, and required that the results of an independent annual audit be included in FLC annual reports to Congress and the President.
  • Included intellectual property as a potential contribution under CRADAs.
  • Required the Secretary of Commerce to report on the advisability of authorizing a new form of CRADA that would permit Federal contributions of funds.
  • Allowed laboratory directors to give excess equipment to educational institutions and nonprofit organizations as gifts.

National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (Public Law 104–113)

  • Guaranteed CRADA industrial partners the option to choose an exclusive license to the resulting invention in a field of use.
  • Clarified that agencies may use royalties to hire temporary personnel to assist in CRADAs or related projects.
  • Granted the first $2,000 of royalty income to inventors and increased an inventor’s maximum royalty award to $150,000 per year.
  • Allowed Federal laboratories to use royalties for related research.
  • Refined the laws concerning excess scientific equipment.