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  • Washington Highlights

    NIST Releases Review of Federal Tech Transfer Policies Under the Return on Investment Initiative

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

    The Department of Commerce's (DoC) National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Dec. 6 issued a draft green paper titled Return on Investment Initiative for Unleashing American Innovation. The green paper presents preliminary proposals on university tech transfer from federally funded research, as well as commercialization efforts from agency intramural research programs.

    NIST developed the green paper based on responses to a request for information published in the Federal Register, public meetings, and multiple stakeholder engagement sessions, as well as an extensive review of prior reports and studies related to federal research and development (R&D) technology transfer [see Washington Highlights, May 4]. The green paper also incorporates input from key federal stakeholders, including the National Science and Technology Council’s Lab-to-Market Subcommittee. The DoC conducted the Return on Investment Initiative and study following the 2017 publication of President Trump’s Management Agenda.

    The green paper incorporates several key recommendations jointly submitted by higher education associations, including the AAMC, Council on Governmental Relations, Association of American Universities, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities, and the Association of University Technology Managers. The green paper broadly identifies 15 actions intended to stimulate the commercialization of federally funded R&D, to “increase the impact of federal R&D investment through agile partnerships that can create tremendous value for our society and economy.” These areas include reduction of regulatory burden, increased engagement with the private sector, new tools for tech transfer including better data collection and reporting on inventions made through federally sponsored research, and improved efforts to measure outcomes and effectiveness of tech transfer.

    According to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, “Countless innovations crucial to our everyday lives, including life-saving vaccines, the Internet and GPS, can trace their roots to federal laboratories and federally funded R&D … The steps outlined in this new report are strong proposals to pave the way for the competition-driven technological advances that are the cornerstone of American success.”

    Comments on the draft report are due by Jan. 9, 2019. A final report is expected early in 2019.