Original Date: 04/26/1999
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : New Technology Transfer Program
Technology transfer has always been a major thrust for the NASA Centers. In the past, Marshall Space Flight Center (MSFC) focused its technology transfer resources on assisting industry and small businesses, whereby NASA field agents located industry problems and provided companies with up to 40 hours of free technical assistance. However, such services eventually put a strain on MSFC’s resources and detracted from the Center’s primary mission focus areas. Inadequate resources were applied to technology development and deployment partnerships, intellectual property management, patent licensing, technology transfer education and outreach, and success story case studies. To better meet the needs of internal and external customers, MSFC restructured its technology transfer program in 1997.
The structure of the New Technology Transfer program was changed from a hierarchical, stovepipe framework with little communication/interaction among units to a flat organization with an integrated, cross-trained team. In addition, the Center shifted its primary focus away from gratuitous extension services and set up eight interdependent mission areas: Technology Development; Small Business Programs; New Technology Reporting; Facilities Commercializations; Technology and Software Commercialization; Technology Deployment Partnerships; National, Regional, and Local Strategic Alliances; and Technology Education and Outreach Projects for Economic Development. These areas provide MSFC with a more cost-effective, balanced portfolio of quality products and services. New objectives were identified to help U.S. industry become more globally competitive, specifically through national goals for the civilian space program and responsibilities associated with transferring NASA technology. Under this new approach, MSFC applied business principles to government technology transfer processes to gain efficiencies, improve performance, and align with mission requirements. The infusion of this strategy into NASA’s traditional technology transfer mechanisms revitalized the overall program. As a result, numerous methods and agreements now exist for transferring NASA technology to the private sector: Research and Development Agreements Arrangement between NASA and private companies, whereby the expenses associated with NASA facilities, personnel, equipment, technology, and/or capabilities are fully reimbursable, partially reimbursable, or non-reimbursable by the private companies.
Joint Research Agreements Arrangement that is jointly funded and undertaken by NASA and one or more private sector companies.
Small Business Innovation Research Program and Small Business Technology Transfer Contracts Programs designed to benefit small and disadvantaged businesses.
Cooperative Agreements, Grants, and Contracts Methods used to stimulate technology development and commercialization. Many NASA technologies are available for licensing with flexible agreements and mutually beneficial exclusive and non-exclusive arrangements.
NASA uses various publications to highlight its technology transfer opportunities and success stories. NASA Tech Briefs is a monthly magazine that features technical articles on emerging technologies from the NASA Centers. This magazine is published electronically (http://www.nasatech.com) and in hard copy. Aerospace Technology is a bi- monthly news summary on how NASA technology is being applied, and covers the intricacies of actual technology transfer. This news summary is accessible at http://www.nctn.hq.nasa.gov. NASA Spinoffs is an annual compilation of success stories of NASA technology being applied to improve medical, environmental, manufacturing, construction, transportation, safety, consumer, and computer products. This publication is available electronically (http://www.sti.nasa.gov/tto) and in hard copy. Users who visit the website will find a searchable database for browsing technology transfer case studies. Additional information can be obtained directly from the MSFC Technology Transfer Office by visiting its website (http://www.nasasolutions.com) or by contacting the office at (256) 544-6700.
Since implementing its new approach to technology transfer, MSFC has compiled success stories in all eight mission areas and achieved greater customer satisfaction, both internally and externally. Technology transfer now operates across all mission areas interactively and synergistically. During the past year, the number of patent licenses increased by 108% and the number of partnerships increased by 67%. The entire effort is contributing directly to U.S. national objectives for developing and commercializing space technology.
For more information see the
Point of Contact for this survey.