Home > Congressional Research Service, industries, science, technology and internet > CRS — Technology Transfer: Use of Federally Funded Research and Development

CRS — Technology Transfer: Use of Federally Funded Research and Development

January 14, 2013

Technology Transfer: Use of Federally Funded Research and Development (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

The federal government spends approximately one-third of its annual research and development (R&D) budget for intramural work to meet mission requirements in over 700 government laboratories (including Federally Funded Research and Development Centers). The technology and expertise generated by this endeavor may have application beyond the immediate goals or intent of federally funded R&D. These applications can result from technology transfer, a process by which technology developed in one organization, in one area, or for one purpose is applied in another organization, in another area, or for another purpose. It is a way for the results of the federal R&D enterprise to be used to meet other national needs, including the economic growth that flows from new commercialization in the private sector; the government’s requirements for products and processes to operate effectively and efficiently; and the demand for increased goods and services at the state and local level.

Congress has established a system to facilitate the transfer of technology to the private sector and to state and local governments. Despite this, use of federal R&D results has remained restrained, although there has been a significant increase in private sector interest and activities over the past several years. Critics argue that working with the agencies and laboratories continues to be difficult and time-consuming. Proponents of the current effort assert that while the laboratories are open to interested parties, the industrial community is making little effort to use them. At the same time, state governments are increasingly involved in the process. At issue is whether incentives for technology transfer remain necessary, if additional legislative initiatives are needed to encourage increased technology transfer, or if the responsibility to use the available resources now rests with the private sector.

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