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500.20 - Technology Transfer Authority



Issuance Number:     500.20

Subject:                       Technology Transfer Authority

Issuance Date:            10/3/2019

Expiration Date:        10/2/2024

Responsible Office:   Office of Administration; Office of Policy and Analysis

Instruction: This supersedes Survey Manual (SM) chapter 500.20 dated June 6, 2012. This revision includes Department of the Interior (DOI) delegation of authority.

Approving Official:     /s/ Katherine M. McCulloch

                                       Associate Director for Administration


1.    Purpose.  This SM chapter establishes the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) policy for engaging in technology transfer under the provisions of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, as amended.  Within the USGS Office of Administration, the Office of Policy and Analysis (OPA) is responsible for implementing the objectives of technology transfer.  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. 

2.    Scope.  This SM chapter applies only to technology transfer agreements under the general legislative authority described in this SM chapter and does not encompass a procurement contract or cooperative agreement as those terms are used in Sections 6303, 6304, and 6305 of Title 31.  This SM chapter deals with one type of funds-in authority available to the USGS and does not allow for the transfer of funds from the USGS.

3.    Authority.  The Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 (15 U.S.C. 3710a) as amended in 1986, 1988, 1989, 1995, and 2000, and Executive Order 12591, Facilitating Access to Science and Technology, authorizes each Federal agency to permit the director of any of its Government-operated Federal laboratories to enter into: (1) cooperative research and development agreements, on behalf of such agency, with other Federal agencies; units of State or local government; industrial organizations (including corporations, partnerships and limited partnerships, and industrial development organizations); public and private foundations; non-profit organizations (including universities); or other persons (including licensees of inventions owned by the Federal agency); and (2) to negotiate licensing agreements under Section 207 of Title 35 or under other authorities for inventions made or other intellectual property developed at the laboratory and other inventions or other intellectual property that may be voluntarily assigned to the Government.  

4.    Delegation of Authority.  DOI, 207 DM 8, delegates the authority for Federal technology transfer and negotiation of licenses of USGS-owned intellectual property, to the Director of the USGS and allows for further re-delegation to Federal laboratory directors, or their equivalent.  The equivalent entity to a Federal laboratory in the USGS is defined as centers and offices that use a facility or group of facilities owned, leased, or otherwise used by USGS, a substantial purpose of which is the performance of research, development, or engineering by employees of the Federal Government.  The delegation of authority to execute technology transfer agreements is listed in SM 205.13, Delegations of Authority to Enter into Agreements and to Accept Contributions.

5.    Definitions.

A.  Technology Transfer.  Technology transfer is the process by which existing knowledge, facilities, or capabilities developed under Federal funding are utilized to fulfill public and private needs.  

B.  Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs).  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 other non-Federal parties in the CRADA.  Data produced under a CRADA may be protected to the extent permitted by law (up to 5 years).  The CRADA contains extensive intellectual property provisions; however, partners can negotiate patent and intellectual property rights.  The CRADA also reiterates the Government’s ability to protect the partner’s trade secrets and proprietary data.

C.  Facility Use and Service Agreement (FUSAs).  A FUSA allows a non-USGS party to use unique USGS laboratory facilities, specialized equipment, and (or) services that are not readily available from the private sector for use in research activities or technology development.

D.  Laboratory.  Pursuant to the statute, the term laboratory may encompass an entire Federal agency, or a facility or group of facilities owned, leased, or otherwise used by a Federal agency, a substantial purpose of which is the performance of research, development, or engineering by employees of the Federal Government.  For purposes of technology transfer, the USGS designated itself as a single laboratory in 1987, thereby, permitting any USGS office (for example, a USGS Science Center) to enter into technology transfer agreements.

E.  License Agreements (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 ideas, processes and discoveries that is 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.  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 OPA.

F.  Material Transfer Agreements (MTAs).  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.  The MTA requires compliance with all applicable Federal standards for handling biological, radiological, and other hazardous materials.  The MTA does not allow for the transfer of funds except for shipping or preparations costs.

G.  Principal Investigator.  For the purposes of this SM chapter, the principal investigator is defined as the research and development employee with the primary responsibility for carrying out the technical work outlined in the technology transfer agreement.

H.  Technical Assistance Agreement (TAAs).  A TAA is similar to a CRADA.  It allows an exchange of more focused technical or research efforts between parties.  The USGS and the other party must mutually benefit from this collaboration.  Unlike the CRADA, the project does not anticipate intellectual property.  Therefore, extensive intellectual property provisions are not included in the TAA.  The TAA requires that the project have a mission value to the USGS.

6.    Policy.

A.  It is USGS policy to participate in technology transfer with private and public sources that support scientific research and (or) data systems and technological developments that serve national needs.  Technology transfer proposals must meet the criteria found in SM 500.2, Policy on Work for Non-Federal Agencies.

B.  No work will begin on a project until there is an executed technology transfer agreement in place. 

C.  The USGS interest and expertise in conducting technology transfer projects is openly disseminated.  The USGS uses multiple approaches to promote its technology transfer capabilities and interests, including the issuance of public announcements; statements on its Web sites and through its various publications; and by the continued participation of its researchers in scientific, technical, and educational presentations and programs.

D.  The USGS adheres to 15 U.S.C. 3710a (Federal Technology Transfer Act) by protecting trade secrets, commercial or financial information, and privacy concerns. Information may include names of other Parties, funding amounts, the description of work, and the term of the Agreement.  USGS Partners may want this information protected, since it may pose a negative impact to their operations.  Therefore, the USGS cannot released this information to the public without the other Party’s written permission.

7.    Responsibilities.

A.  Principal Investigator (PI).  The PI develops the technology transfer proposal in accordance with the policies set forth in this SM chapter.  After consultation with OPA, the PI may draft the agreement, subject to OPA review.  The PI conducts the work according to the USGS scientific guidelines, adheres to the requirements of the agreement, communicates with the partner on the progress of project work, and promptly brings issues related to the agreement to the attention of their supervisor and OPA.  The PI is required to sign a conflict-of-interest statement for all CRADAs.  For TAAs, a conflict-of-interest statement is required when:

(1)  The Partner in the TAA is listed on the USGS prohibited or limited source list.

(2)  The USGS PI has any official or personal relationships with the partner in the TAA.

B.  Technology Transfer Office (TTO), OPA.  The TTO assists the USGS Offices in selecting the appropriate technology transfer mechanism, reviewing the agreement, assisting in negotiations, and coordinating with the U.S. Trade Representative, if applicable.

C.  Intellectual Property Licensing Officer (IPLO), OPA.  The IPLO prepares license agreements and maintains official agreement records. 

D.  Science Center Directors and Cost Center Managers.  Science Center Directors and Cost Center Managers ensure that all technology transfer agreements are prepared in accordance with the policy set forth in this SM chapter. Science Center/Cost Center coordinates the review of agreements, internal ethics reviews, and funding reviews, and final signatures. 

E.  Associate Directors and Regional Executives.  Associate Directors and Regional Executives are authorized to approve CRADAs (refer to SM 205.13, Appendix A). 

F.  USGS Ethics Team.  The USGS Ethics Team, DOI Office of the Solicitor, reviews all proposed technology transfer agreements with non-Governmental and non-educational partners for a determination that they are in compliance with conflict-of-interest regulations.

G.  Records Retention.

(1)  For TAAs, FUSAs, and MTAs, the Science Centers/Cost Centers will retain the original executed agreement and will provide a copy to OPA.  The official agreement file will contain records relevant to executing the agreement, including records on work product details and funding transaction details.

(2)  For CRADAs and their modifications, the Science Center/Cost Center retains the official agreement file, containing records on work product details, related funding transaction details, and copies of the CRADA and respective amendments.  Science Center/Cost Center must provide copies of fully-executed CRADAs and respective amendments to OPA.

8.    Technology Transfer Mechanism Selection.  Additional guidance on agreement formulation processes and sample agreements used in developing technology transfer projects is available internally to USGS employees.  Agreement templates are available on the OPA website.

9.    Funding.  The USGS preferred business practice is for the non-Government partner to provide advance funds before work on an agreement is initiated.  However, since the legislation authorizes cooperative research with and without reimbursement, the Science Center Director or the Cost Center Manager may execute a technology transfer agreement that omits the requirement of an advance payment.  The Cost Center Manager must ensure that reimbursement for an activity is received before the end of the fiscal year.  If reimbursement is not received by the end of the fiscal year, the Cost Center Manager must cover the expenses with appropriated funds.  The Cost Center Manager is also responsible for all billings in accordance with SM 336.2, Billing Non-Federal Customers and Former and Current Employees.