The technology transfer program at the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) is designed to leverage the research capabilities of USGS scientists with the commercial development potential of the private sector. It encourages the adoption, use, and commercialization of USGS research products through partnerships and is oriented toward finding potential users of USGS technology.
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Technology Transfer is defined as “... the process by which existing knowledge, facilities, or capabilities developed under Federal funding are utilized to fulfill public and private needs. The goal of Federal technology transfer is to promote public/private sector partnerships that enhance U.S. competitiveness and leverage the Nation’s investment in Federal research and development.”
The main purpose of technology transfer is to aid the U.S. economy by making U.S. products more competitive in world markets. The concept of technology transfer from Federal laboratories is to get the ideas, inventions and technologies developed with tax dollars into the hands of the private sector as quickly as possible in a form useful to that community. The idea is to get the private sector involved in the development of Federal technology and technology products at an early stage so that the end result is a useful new U.S. product or service offered on world markets.
Technology transfer tools such as Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA), Technical Assistance Agreement (TAA), Facility Use/Service Agreement (FUSA), and patent licenses provide incentives to commercialization and use of USGS developed technologies. A CRADA allows Federal and non-Federal parties to share services, equipment, or other resources to accomplish a mutually beneficial R&D project. It can include funds in to the USGS, but not funds out to the partner. A CRADA may anticipate co-development of new intellectual property. Projects should have mission value to the USGS and commercial potential for the partner.
Additionally, the USGS can partner with outside organizations through a TAA or a FUSA. The TAA is similar to the CRADA, but is used when the USGS is providing more focused technical or research efforts to a non-Federal party. TAAs can also be collaborative with both parties providing technical or scientific expertise to accomplish a mutual objective. A FUSA allows a non-USGS party to use unique USGS laboratory facilities, equipment, or capabilities. This agreement may only be used for providing access that is not available from the private sector for use in research activities or technology development.
Patenting and licensing of intangible intellectual property are key components of a successful technology transfer program. The Federal government can grant non-exclusive, exclusive, and partially exclusive licenses within specific fields of use to companies interested in marketing, manufacturing, or using federally developed technology protected by a patent. These licenses are agreements between the government and the technology users that permit the licensees to make, have made, use, offer for sale, or sell a particular product or process.
The USGS also has authority through 43 USC 36c to work collaboratively with other agencies, public and private.
Advantages of Technology Transfer
- Develops a platform to share ideas
- Fosters scientific advances to enhance standard of living
- Protects intellectual property
- Promotes economic development through commercialization of innovative technology
- Enhances collaboration between the federal and non-federal science
- Provides non-federal entities the ability to access federal technical assistance and facilities