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R2: Public Policy Project



Research Questions

  1. What impact has technology licensed from universities had on the the assistive technology marketplace?
  2. What impact has technology licensed from Federal laboratories had on the assistive technology marketplace?
  3. What impact have technology license agreements and Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) with Federal laboratories had on the assistive technology marketplace?
  4. What impact have Small Business Innovate Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer Research (STTR) grants had on the assistive technology marketplace?
  5. What impact has the T2RERC program had on the assistive technology marketplace?

Data Gathered

The T2RERC will review reports produced by Federal agencies that sponsor technology transfer programs. A partial listing of key agencies includes: the General Accounting Office of the US Congress with oversight responsibility for all federal government spending; the Department of Commerce Small Business Administration which reports on all agencies with SBIR and STTR programs; and the Federal Laboratory Consortium which reports on ORTA activity. In addition, the T2RERC will review data on university-based technology transfer activities published by the Association of University Technology Managers; MIT Technology Review, and the Licensing Executives Society.

Large Federal agencies typically maintain records of their SBIR and STTR grant awards in online databases. Database examples include: Tech-Net, a cross-agency listing maintained by the Small Business Administration; FastLane maintained by the National Science Foundation; and CRISP maintained by the National Institutes of Health. T2RERC staff will review relevant SBIR and STTR databases to identify SBIR and STTR grants supporting research and development of assistive technology.

Large Federal labs generally have an Office of Technology Research and Applications (ORTA) representative whose responsibilities include technology licensing and CRADA development. More than 700 Federal laboratories are members of the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC), a "nationwide network of federal laboratories that provides the forum to develop strategies and opportunities for linking the laboratory mission technologies and expertise with the marketplace." The FLC is divided into six regions (North East, Mid-Atlantic, Mid-West, Mid-Continent, South-Central and Far-West). All Federal lab activities are tracked in the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) database. T2RERC staff will utilize the DTIC database and work with FLC representatives to identify technology licenses and CRADA for assistive technology applications.

There are approximately 250 US research universities in the United States. Research universities employ Technology Transfer Offices to evaluate the research carried out by their faculty and staff; identify research with significant market potential; file patents to protect intellectual property; identify potential business partners in the private sector; negotiate license agreements; and produce revenue streams back to the university via license royalties and equity in company startups. Perhaps 50 universities dominate in terms of the number of patents, licensed technologies, company startups and royalty revenue. T2RERC staff will survey university TTO to identify technologies licensed for assistive technology applications.

Factors affecting each program's impact on the availability of assistive technology in the marketplace will be determined through a review of policy literature; and surveys of and interviews with A/T manufacturers, SBIR/STTR program managers, ORTA personnel, and TTO representatives.

Data Analysis

Program outcomes will be used to gauge the impact of the associated Federal legislation on the availability of assistive technology in the marketplace. Each program differs in its mandate, scale, resources, approach, associated legislation(s) and federal agency(s). Programs will be evaluated by counting the number of license agreements; the number of commercialized technologies; public investment per license agreement or commercialization and trends across these variables.

For some programs (e.g. SBIR, STTR, T2RERC) Return On Investment (ROI) can be estimated. For example, Congressional GAO and Department of Commerce SBA reports suggest that about one-in-eight Phase I SBIR applicants are funded; four-in-ten successful Phase I applicants compete for and win Phase II SBIR awards; and four-in-ten Phase II award winners commercialize their technology. [1, 2, 4, 5, 6] If all Phase I winners receive a $50,000 award and all Phase II winners receive a $500,000 award then the public sector cost per commercialized technology is about $1.6 million. Information gathered from agency databases and manufacturer interviews will allow T2RERC staff to estimate ROI for assistive technology funded through Federal SBIR and STTR programs. [3]

Variations in longitudinal program performance will be examined to determine how new Federal legislation impacts established programs. Finally, data gathered through the literature review, surveys and interviews will be used to identify factors that limit the impact of programs and associated legislation on the availability of assistive technology in the marketplace.

Other Outcomes

A comprehensive listing of assistive technology manufacturers by industry segment is not readily available. While ABLEDATA provides a large online listing of manufacturers and product descriptions, many assistive technology industries (e.g. hearing) and newer products are under-represented. Manufacturer listings are available from industry association membership (e.g. Assistive Technology Industry Association); RERC projects (e.g. WheelchairNet), Federal publications (e.g. US Department of Commerce Assessment of the U.S. Assistive Technology Industry (2003)); Tradeshows (e.g. MedTrade); Conference listings (e.g. CSUN 2005 , Closing the Gap 2004); and Trade Publications (e.g. Hearing Product News). The T2RERC has identified a large number of assistive technology manufacturers through its Industry Profile Project. Additional information gathered in the Public Policy Project (SBIR and STTR grants, technology license agreements, and CRADA with assistive technology manufacturers) should significantly expand and clarify our understanding of assistive technology industry segments. An online manufacturer database will be developed as a secondary outcome of the Public Policy and Industry Profile Projects.

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