Technology Transfer:

Improving the Use of Cooperative R&D Agreements at DOE's Contractor-Operated Laboratories

RCED-94-91: Published: Apr 15, 1994. Publicly Released: May 16, 1994.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of Energy's (DOE) process for implementing its cooperative research and development (R&D) agreements, focusing on how the DOE approval process: (1) compares with the National Institute of Standards and Technology's (NIST) and the Army's processes; and (2) affects laboratory resources and schedules.

GAO found that: (1) in response to concerns over unauthorized access to secret technologies and contractor oversight, DOE has developed a highly centralized, cooperative R&D agreement approval process to fund most of its collaborative R&D efforts; (2) while DOE relies on a centralized approval process, NIST and Army laboratories rely on local expertise and resources to approve their R&D agreements; (3) there is insufficient information to determine whether the DOE approval process is more effective than decentralized approaches for improving U.S. industry competitiveness; (4) although the DOE process has fostered many cooperative R&D efforts and reduced duplicative R&D efforts, the process may have limited the number of cooperative R&D agreements implemented at DOE facilities; (5) DOE approval delays may be attributable to legislative requirements requiring separate DOE reviews and approvals; (6) DOE has improved its cooperative agreement implementation process, taken steps to facilitate the approval process, and allowed laboratories to make more implementation decisions locally; and (7) DOE needs to continue to enhance technology transfer at DOE laboratories, continue to search for ways to make its approval process more flexible so that laboratories can conduct cooperative R&D agreements when resources are available, evaluate the impact of ongoing agreements to determine what techniques are most productive, and discuss its cooperative agreement strategy with private industry and academia.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Secretary of Energy has directed the Energy Advisory Board to examine and evaluate DOE's cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) implementation process and suggest improvements. As a result, DOE's CRADA process has been simplified and streamlined.

    Recommendation: Recognizing that DOE is already taking steps to expedite and add flexibility to its existing cooperative R&D agreement processes, the Secretary of Energy should review DOE cooperative R&D agreement strategy and policies. In conducting this review, DOE should consider establishing a visiting committee whose members include officials from industry, academia, and government agencies other than DOE. The Committee should study and report to the Secretary on ways to improve the selection and funding of cooperative R&D agreements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOE has initiated a pilot CRADA follow-up system that will monitor the outcomes of DOE CRADAs. The system will include a database with information on each DOE CRADA.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Energy should develop a systematic process for evaluating the impact of completed and ongoing cooperative R&D agreements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Energy

 

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