Technology Transfer

Technology transfer is the process by which technology or knowledge developed in one place or for one purpose is applied and exploited in another place for some other purpose.

The term "technology transfer" historically has been associated with federal activities; however, the process is not restricted to the government. The most common form of technology transfer occurs between federal laboratories and nonfederal organizations such as private industry, academia, and state and local governments.

The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) — formally chartered by Congress to facilitate technology transfer in the United States — developed the following definition that accommodates the technology transfer activities of a wide variety of federal agencies and their research and development laboratories and centers.

Technology transfer is the process by which existing knowledge, facilities, or capabilities developed under federal research and development (R&D) funding are utilized to fulfill public and private needs.

Technology transfer can also occur between federal agencies, although the primary emphasis is on transfers to all types of nonfederal organizations, but not necessarily from a federal facility to another party. There are opportunities that exist for technology to be transferred from outside organizations into the federal government to benefit the laboratories' missions.

Technology transfer can be described as market pull or technology push. Technology transfer occurs as a result of market pull when a need or problem causes companies to seek federal technology. Technology push occurs when innovations or inventions are used to create new markets or consumer needs. The overall objective is to get federally developed R&D out to the marketplace for commercialization; however, the opportunity exists for government to bring technology developed by industry into the federal R&D arena for further research, development, and commercialization to benefit all potential partners.

The various forms of technology transfer can be simple or complex depending on the resource (e.g., agency/laboratory), user (e.g., industry), and interface (e.g., mechanism) that connects the two and moves the technology from one organization to another. Examples of processes include:

  • Technology developed for nongovernment applications
  • Secondary applications of technology developed specially for government applications
  • Transfer of mission-related technology between government organizations
  • Technical assistance
  • Collaborative R&D between government and nongovernment entities
  • Commercial transfer of technology for use in government applications

Examples of forms of transfer technology include:

  • Commercial transfer - transfer of knowledge or technology from government to commercial organizations for potential or new/improved technologies
  • Exporting resources - collaborative agreements or volunteer services that provide expertise to outside organizations
  • Importing resources - a cooperative effort that brings outside technology (pull) into the agency/laboratory to enhance its mission
  • Dual-use - development of technologies that have "dual" or commercial/government applications
  • Scientific dissemination - the multidirectional sharing of government, industry, and academic publications (i.e., conference papers, working papers, etc.)

The long-term goal of technology transfer is to sustain economic growth in the foreseeable future through the development and commercialization of new technologies. In the global economy, the wealth of one nation is directly affected by its relationship with other nations. With the wealth of knowledge and expertise the U.S. has in its scientists and engineers, the U.S. is positioned to compete in the global marketplace. Federal technology transfer programs are intended to make the most of R&D and the expertise found in both government and nongovernment organizations.

UTRS has been involved with technology transfer since its inception. Our technology transfer team provides support to clients in government, industry, and academia. Our expertise has enabled our clients to take advantage of the technological and economic benefits of technology transfer, including:

  • Leveraging scarce R&D budget dollars
  • Maximizing return on R&D expenditures
  • Access to state-of-the art or unique expertise, technology, resources, and facilities
  • Rapid commercialization of new products or processes
  • Increased productivity, competitiveness, and cost-effectiveness
  • Patent, licensing, and royalty opportunities