National Laboratories:

Are Their R&D Activities Related to Commercial Product Development?

PEMD-95-2: Published: Nov 25, 1994. Publicly Released: Dec 22, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the extent that the Department of Energy's national laboratories are engaged in basic and applied research or in research related to commercial product development.

GAO found that: (1) the laboratories devoted more than half of their research and development (R&D) funds to commercial product development during fiscal year (FY) 1992; (2) most of the laboratories' development work was devoted to defense research; (3) less than half of the laboratories' resources were spent on basic and applied research in FY 1992; (4) the laboratories produced 21,593 publications and reports and 2,510 products related to commercial product development in FY 1992; (5) publications and reports are the primary mechanism for disseminating the results of R&D activities; (6) although the potential exists for the laboratories to develop commercial product-related outputs, it is unknown whether the laboratories will achieve commercial applications for their outputs because they are still several years away from market entry; (7) cooperative R&D agreements between the laboratories and industry are increasing, with 17 agreements in FY 1989 and 196 agreements in FY 1992; (8) 74.1 percent of the laboratories' R&D expenditures in FY 1992 were for technologies identified as vital to national needs; (9) Congress has formed a panel to identify critical technologies essential for the nation's long-term security; and (10) over half of the commercial product development program managers expect clear evidence of the potential for commercial product development to emerge by FY 1997.

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