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Title: National Institutes of Health - Office of Technology Transfer
Author: Theodore Roumel
Published: 2003
Publication: Assistive Technology Transfer Update: Vol. 5 (Spring) Annual Report, 2001-2002

Dr. Theodore Roumel, Associate Director of NIH's Office of Technology Transfer, explains that projects related to assistive technology can be found in multiple agencies addressing human systems and functions. However, such work is focused in the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research (NCMRR), within the Institute of Child Health and Human Development (http://www.nichd.nih.gov/about/ncmrr/ncmrr.htm). The NCMRR's mission is, "to foster development of scientific knowledge needed to enhance the health, productivity, independence, and quality of life of persons with disabilities. This is accomplished by supporting research on enhancing the functioning of people with disabilities in daily life."

The NCMRR awards extramural grants and establishes priorities for the NIH's SBIR program. NIH also funds a Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) program. The SBIR program requires project staff to be funded more than half time through a for-profit company. This requirement forced academic researchers who wished to lead a new project, to either change their employment status or not lead SBIR projects. The STTR program permits a small business to sub-contract a majority of the work to staff within a not-for-profit research organization, as a joint venture.

Technology transfer issues for NIH/OTT:

  • Promulgate guidelines regarding Conflict of Interest and Business Ethics issues, particularly in areas of high financial returns.

  • Balancing the government's desire to obtain a return to taxpayer's on research investment, the private sector's need for confidentiality over competitive intelligence, the academic imperative to disseminate new discoveries, and the national interest in supporting domestic versus foreign programs.

  • Develop appropriate incentives to counter the loss of skilled faculty and student researchers to corporate incubators, which are designed to circumvent the university's desire to control intellectual property, the State government's desire to promote regional economic development, and the Federal (NIH) agenda to support a robust, global research enterprise.

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