Obama wants to speed up commercialization of federal R&D

The White House has ordered agencies to speed up the rate of commercializing government-funded research and development to spurt business growth.

“This will be accomplished by committing each executive department and agency that conducts R&D to improve the results from its technology transfer and commercialization activities,” President Obama wrote in an Oct. 28 memo. “The aim is to increase the successful outcomes of these activities significantly over the next five years, while simultaneously achieving excellence in our basic and mission focused research activities.”

The memo is part of the president’s “we can’t wait” initiative to bypass Congress in enacting elements of his jobs bill proposal by executive order rather than legislation, according to the White House press office.

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A second memorandum calls for creating a new government Web portal, BusinessUSA, to provide exporting companies with information about federal programs.

The government spends about $147 billion a year on scientific research and development and has supported with grants and technology the startup of a number of companies, including Qualcomm, Symantec and iRobot Corp. A recent showcase in Washington of emerging technologies and products, hosted by the Security Innovation Network, included a mobile risk-management tool from Fixmo that originally was developed by the National Security Agency and was commercialized through a technology transfer agreement.

The technology transfer memo directs heads of agencies with R&D activities to establish performance goals for increasing the number and pace of transfer and commercialization activities over a period from 2013 through 2017. The plans are due at the Office of Management and Budget within 180 days and will include metrics for evaluating numbers of inventions and patent licenses, research and business partnerships and new products developed.

The existing interagency Working Group on Technology Transfer will make recommendations to the Commerce Department on improving the transfer of technology from government laboratories.

Agencies also are to streamline licensing procedures under Cooperative R&D Agreements and list publicly available federal inventions on a public database. The Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Science and Technology Policy will work with agencies to create a common reporting mechanism for measuring performance of these efforts.

Collaboration in research between agencies and the academic and private sectors also is encouraged, to open up federal laboratories and research facilities.

A separate memorandum mandates the creation of the BusinessUSA Web portal. A steering committee headed by the federal CIOs and technology and performance officers will establish the site within 90 days as a one-stop shop for businesses looking for federal assistance.

The committee will include representatives from the State, Defense, Agriculture, Commerce and Veterans Affairs departments, as well as from the Small Business Administration, General Services Administration and the Export-Import Bank.

The portal is to be a “common, open, online platform and Web service with dedicated resources that will, as a first step, disseminate core information regarding the federal government's programs and services relevant to small businesses and exporters.”

The steering committee will develop common standards for content.

About the Author

William Jackson is a Maryland-based freelance writer.

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