This section reviews data on two types of federal programs that support public-private collaboration for technology transfer and innovation. (For academic patents and related knowledge diffusion indicators, see chapter 5; for international business licensing fees and royalties, see chapter 6.) The first type includes federal programs for technology transfer from R&D funded and performed by agencies and laboratories. The second type supports new or small U.S. companies in R&D or technology deployment with R&D funds or technical assistance.
In the late 1970s, concerns about the strength of U.S. industries and their ability to be competitive in the global economy intensified. Issues included the question of whether inventions from federally funded academic research were adequately exploited for the benefit of the national economy and the need to create or strengthen public-private R&D partnerships. Since the 1980s, several U.S. policies have facilitated cross-sector R&D collaboration and technology transfer. One major policy thrust was to enhance formal mechanisms for transferring knowledge arising from federally funded and performed R&D (Crow and Bozeman 1998; NRC 2003). Other policies addressed federally funded academic R&D, the transition of early-stage technologies into the marketplace, and R&D and innovation by small or minority-owned businesses. For an overview of these initiatives, see sidebar, "Major Federal Legislation Related to Technology Transfer and Commercializing R&D."
Federal technology transfer refers to the various processes through which inventions and other intellectual assets arising from federal laboratory R&D are conveyed to outside parties for further development and commercial applications. Technology transfer may also involve linking R&D capabilities and the resources of federal laboratories with outside public or private organizations for mutual benefit (FLC 2006).
In response to the Stevenson-Wydler Act of 1980 (as amended) federal agencies with laboratory operations have active efforts to engage in technology transfer as defined above, identify and manage intellectual assets created by their R&D, and participate in collaborative R&D relationships with nonfederal parties (including private businesses, universities, nonprofit organizations) consistent with agency mission goals. Federal labs have also been required to have technology transfer offices (termed an Office of Research and Technology Applications or ORTA) to assist in identifying transfer opportunities and establishing appropriate arrangements for relationships with nonfederal parties (see sidebar "Federal Technology Transfer: Activities and Metrics").
Six agencies continue to account for most of the annual total of federal technology transfer activities: DOD, HHS, DOE, NASA, USDA, and DOC. Statistics for these six agencies in FYs 2004 and 2009, spanning the main activity areas of invention disclosures and patenting, intellectual property licensing, and collaborative relationships for R&D, appear in table
As is apparent in the distribution of the statistics across the activity types in table
This section focuses on several small business programs. The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program was established by the Small Business Innovation Development Act of 1982 to stimulate technological innovation by increasing the participation of small companies in Federal R&D projects, increase private sector commercialization of innovation derived from federal R&D, and foster participation by minority and disadvantaged persons in technological innovation. The Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program was created in 1992 to stimulate cooperative R&D and federal technology transfer. SBIR and STTR are both administered by the Small Business Administration (SBA). The last portion of this section covers the Technology Innovation Program (TIP), created by the America COMPETES Act of 2007 and administered by NIST.
The focus on smaller or startup R&D-based companies in these programs is an example of the promotion of innovation-based entrepreneurship via public-private partnerships that enable not only financing but also R&D collaboration and commercialization opportunities (Gilbert et al. 2004; Link and Scott 2010).
According to the SBIR statute, federal agencies with extramural R&D obligations exceeding $100 million must set aside a fixed percentage of such obligations (2.5% since FY 1997) for projects involving small business (those with fewer than 500 employees). In FY 2009, SBIR awards totaled $1.9 billion (SBA 2010). In FY 2008, 11 federal agencies awarded a total of $1.8 billion to about 5,400 SBIR projects (appendix tables
The SBIR program is structured in three phases. Phase I evaluates the scientific and technical merit and feasibility of ideas. Phase II builds on phase I findings, is subject to further scientific and technical review, and requires a commercialization plan. During phase III, the results from phase II R&D are further developed and introduced into private markets or federal procurement using private or non-SBIR federal funding. Several participating R&D agencies also offer bridge funding to phase III and other commercialization support for startups (NRC 2008:208–216).
Federal agencies with extramural R&D budgets exceeding $1 billion are required to set aside 0.3% of their extramural R&D budget for STTR awards. The program is also structured in three phases and involves R&D performed jointly by small businesses, universities, and nonprofit research organizations. In FY 2008, federal agencies awarded 734 STTR grants valued at $240 million (appendix tables
The Technology Innovation Program was set up for "the purpose of assisting U.S. businesses and institutions of higher education or other organizations, such as national laboratories and nonprofit research institutions, to support, promote, and accelerate innovation in the United States through high-risk, high-reward research in areas of critical national need." Two areas of focus in recent funding competitions were advanced manufacturing materials and advanced sensors to support monitoring and assessment of civil infrastructure, such as water pipelines, roads, bridges, and tunnels. From FY 2008 to FY 2010, TIP made 38 competitive awards involving 78 participants including small businesses and universities. Over this period, awards reached $281 million, including $136 million from TIP and $145 million in industry-cost sharing funds (appendix table