Technology Transfer:

Several Factors Have Led to a Decline in Partnerships at DOE's Laboratories

GAO-02-465: Published: Apr 19, 2002. Publicly Released: Apr 29, 2002.

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John B. Stephenson
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Since 1980 Congress has passed laws to facilitate the transfer of technology from federal laboratories to U.S. businesses. In particular, the National Competitiveness Technology Transfer Act of 1989 authorized federal laboratories operated by contractors, including the Department of Energy's (DOE) national laboratories, to enter into cooperative research and development agreements (CRADA). Under a CRADA, the partner and DOE laboratory agree to jointly conduct research and typically share the research costs. By fiscal year 1992, DOE's national laboratories were among the leading federal laboratories participating in CRADAs. Recently however, the 12 laboratories that DOE surveyed have substantially reduced their CRADA partnerships and their technical assistance to small businesses. Instead, the laboratories have increasingly transferred technology through agreements that did not involve collaborative research and were funded by a business or other nonfederal entity. Managers at most of the laboratories say the lack of dedicated funding for technology for transfer to technology partnerships, including funding targeted to small businesses, is the most important barrier to their technology transfer activities. Managers at most laboratories said that DOE's lack of a high-level, effective advocate for technology transfer and DOE's lack of commitment to technology partnerships were important barriers. Several managers also said that requirements, such as DOE's advance payment clause, were often financially burdensome for small businesses.

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