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1.1 Technology Transfer

Technology transfer is the process by which existing knowledge, facilities or capabilities developed under federal research and development funding are utilized to fulfill public and private needs. It includes a range of formal and informal cooperations between federal laboratories and the public and private sectors. The purpose of the transfer is to strengthen the nation's economy by accelerating the application of federal laboratory technology and resources to private and public needs and opportunities. Results of successful technology transfer efforts include product improvement, service efficiencies, improved manufacturing processes, joint development to address government and private sector needs, and the development of major new products for the international marketplace.

The federal funding of commercial spinoffs for technologies such as remote sensing is a relatively new but growing trend. Since about 1980, Congress has written legislation supporting government agencies that promote technology transfers, and significant federal funding has also been allocated expressly to technology transfer projects. For example, by 1994, this support totaled nearly $2.7 billion and involved more than 70 programs at 10 agencies. However, such funding has been controversial, with critics questioning why taxpayers should underwrite commercial ventures. If the government-developed technologies have the potential to be commercial successes, these critics argue that private companies should develop the markets using their own money.

While such opposition has eliminated some activities and reduced the budgets of others, a host of arguments are used to fuel federal involvement. These include concerns about international industrial competitiveness, a desire by taxpayers to maximize the value of federal investments in science and technology, and the military's increasing dependence on civilian technologies.


Last Modifed Wednesday, 10-May-2000 20:40:05 PDT

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