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  • Washington Highlights

    NIST Releases Final Recommendations on Federal Tech Transfer Policies

    Stephen Heinig, Director, Science Policy
    Heather Pierce, Senior Director, Science Policy & Regulatory Counsel

    The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) April 24 released the final version of its “green paper,” a policy document that makes findings and recommendations for promoting the commercialization of all federally funded research. This follows a draft “green paper” published in December 2018 [see Washington Highlights, Dec. 14, 2018].

    The NIST policy paper makes recommendations for federal technology transfer. The include streamlining federal regulations, enabling greater flexibility for public-private partnerships, increasing engagement with private-sector investors, and building a more entrepreneurial workforce. The report also calls for clarifying the intended purpose of “march-in rights,” which permit the government to take back or reassign licenses to inventions made under federal research grants.

    NIST concluded that expanding march-in rights beyond the legislative intent of the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act would disrupt future innovation. NIST notes that many of its proposals fall within existing authorities of federal agencies, and that the “green paper” is intended to “inform future deliberations, decision-making, and implementing actions by the relevant departments and agencies.”

    The AAMC, in concert with other higher education associations, in July 2018 responded to NIST’s request for information [see Washington Highlights, May 4, 2018] and in January 2019 commented on the draft “green paper.” Several of the associations’ comments were quoted in the final report. NIST’s study and policy paper were undertaken pursuant to President Trump’s Management Agenda in 2017, which included a section on improving the return on investment in federal research.

    NIST, an agency of the Department of Commerce, analyzed scientific research programs across the US government, including at national laboratories and grant-supported universities, medical schools, and research institutions. The agency held a series of “stakeholder meetings” in several states and invited public input throughout the development of the final report.