Federal Agencies' Actions To Implement Section 11 of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980

RCED-84-60: Published: Aug 24, 1984. Publicly Released: Aug 24, 1984.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the implementation of section 11 of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act, which requires federal laboratories to: (1) establish an Office of Research and Technology Applications (ORTA); (2) assign one full-time professional employee to each ORTA in any laboratory with an annual budget over $20 million; and (3) set aside 0.5 percent of research and development (R&D) budgets for technology transfer activities.

GAO found that all of the agencies it reviewed have taken action to implement the act. All of the agencies have issued implementation guidelines and policy statements for their laboratories, and 81 percent of the federal laboratories are covered by an ORTA. Reasons given by laboratories for not establishing such offices included: (1) personnel limitations; (2) uncertainty with regard to agency policies for establishing such offices; and (3) duplication of functions performed by other units. GAO also found that: (1) all of the laboratories with budgets in excess of $20 million have either assigned personnel to an ORTA or have appropriately requested waiver of the staffing provisions of the act; (2) all of the agencies indicated that they have devoted more than 0.5 percent of their R&D budgets to technology transfer activities; (3) technological information dissemination is the primary function performed by such offices; and (4) federal laboratories that are covered by an ORTA show a higher level of technological transfer activities than those that are not. In addition, GAO found that technology transfer activities are hampered by: (1) a lack of resources for providing technical assistance to state and local governments; and (2) patent policies at some agencies which prevent such agencies from granting exclusive license for the development of certain technologies. GAO noted that this barrier may have been mitigated by legislation which allows agencies to grant exclusive licenses to small business firms.

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