Scientific progress is one essential key to our security as a nation, to our better health, to more jobs, to a higher standard of living, and to our cultural progress. –Vannevar Bush, excerpt from Science the Endless Frontier
1980…a lot happened that year. The Miracle on Ice gave Americans hope again. The world grieved the loss of John Lennon. And two senators, one from Ohio and one from Kansas would pass a bill that would introduce the world to a process called Tech Transfer.
What is Tech Transfer though? It’s a question that is asked often enough and unless you are involved in the field, it is more than likely that you have never heard the term used. Simply put, Tech Transfer is the process of converting scientific and technological advances into marketable goods or services. It is accomplished through licensing intellectual property (IP) to companies that have the resources and desire to develop and produce the technology for specific applications.
On December 12, 1980, Senators Robert Dole (yes, the same Bob Dole that ran for president in 1996) and Birch Bayh, signed into action the Bayh-Dole act which would fundamentally change the way that the United States Government did business. This bill was one of Congress’s efforts that focused on how best to manage inventions that were created with the more than $75 billion a year invested in government sponsored R&D.
Prior to the enactment of Bayh-Dole, the U.S. government had accumulated 28,000 patents, but fewer than 5% of those patents were commercially licensed. The buildup was palpable. How could all of this government funded R&D be made available for future development?
The Bayh-Dole act would help alleviate the mass maze of rules and regulations so that business and non-profits would now have access to a vast array of state-of-the-art technologies that were waiting for build out. The passing of the bill provided additional incentives for research exploitation, and so the floodgates opened. Now, that is not to say that the process of Tech Transfer is quick, but rather it is far more accessible than ever before.
Today, many companies, universities and governmental organizations have an office dedicated to Tech Transfer. These offices are often used to identify and select which technologies have potential commercial interest and then come up with strategies for how to exploit them.
One of the key aspects of Tech Transfer is the ability to leverage ideas for the benefit of the public, business, government institutions, and society as a whole. Some of the technologies that have come from this process, you will recognize as a part of our daily lives that we now take for granted. The list includes:
- Memory Foam
- Freeze Dry Technology
- Water Purification
- Fire-Resistant Steel
- Chemical Detection Sensors
- Artificial Limbs
- Improved Radial Tires
As each year passes, more and more technologies are coming to the marketplace because of the process of Tech Transfer. And each year our lives change for the better. We can rest easier, drink water that is healthy for us, and communicate across vast spaces by the mere click of mouse or touch of finger upon the screen.
It is with this understanding that the future of possible is now upon us and the ability to create and innovate is now closer than ever. Tech Transfer is not just another process of where ideas are showcased, but rather an opportunity for life being breathed into something new.