Title: Technology Transfer in Federal Laboratories
Author: C Dan Brand
Publication: Assistive Technology Transfer Update: Vol. 5 (Spring) Annual Report, 2001-2002
Dr. Dan Brand, Chair of the FLC from 1996-2001, explained that the FLC leadership
identified a cluster of strategic technology focus areas - including Assistive
Technology -- to encourage technology transfer
in these fields. However,
no formal mechanisms were installed
to facilitate work in
these areas. More importantly, sponsoring
laboratory managers have
endorsed or internalized
these FLC's priorities,
which limits their impact.
The promotional activities inherent in the FLC's
mission, appear to be running ahead of the Lab's internal
culture. According to Dr. Brand, there is an
operational disconnect between Lab Directors, the ORTA
staff, and the staff scientists/engineers. The Federal
Laboratory Consortium sends technology requests to the ORTA's, but the ORTA's
may not brief the
Lab Directors on requests, and may not actively
disseminate the request to the staff scientists/engineers.
Preparing requests in the language of
the scientists and engineers, then submitting them to
the Lab Director may result in more active dissemination,
if the Lab Director sees benefit and
understands the request to represent a national
A national call for advanced technologies to improve existing assistive products
in 2000, illustrated that the persistent barriers are organizational rather
than technological. Federal Labs submitted
relatively few technologies, none addressed the need,
yet all contained the boilerplate information characteristic
of ORTA technology summaries. In contrast,
small business spin-offs from Labs submitted
technologies that were focused and directly
to the described need. Lab entrepreneurs
to be using the private sector as a pathway to commercialize
promising technologies nurtured by their developers.
While essentially fulfilling the
FLC's stated purpose, the route taken falls outside
the FLC's framework and therefore does not
provide them with due credit or future returns.
Issues facing the Federal Laboratory Consortium are:
- Establishing protocols for sharing information and expertise with small
to medium sized industries, such as the Defense Technical Information Center,
the FLC's Locator Network, and information
- Developing mission statements and mechanisms within
Labs supporting the
FLC's strategic technology focus areas.
- Establishing incentives and rewards
for Federal Lab employees who successfully accomplish technology transfer
in these focus areas.
- Justifying a brokering role outside the primary
mission of Labs, which is currently being supplanted by spin-off enterprises.
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