Story by Matthew Schehl on 10/11/2018The Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) just took a major step forward in making cutting-edge technologies more accessible.
The NPS Research and Sponsored Programs Office (RSPO) partnered with TechLink on Sep. 27 to begin listing publicly available patents on an online express licensing portal, which dramatically streamlines technology transfers to the private sector.
"NPS faculty and students are producing terrific results across a wide range of disciplines," said Jeffrey Paduan, NPS Dean of Research. "It's great that their work is now being highlighted on TechLink and made available to the world."
The TechLink portal provides a transparent, easy-to-use application process, incorporating predetermined legal and financial terms so that prospective businesses can readily research and apply for licensing.
This reduces the application process from months to weeks by eliminating the procedural hurdles and legal negotiations which historically have proven daunting, especially for small and medium-sized businesses.
"Our patent portfolio is really, really large and impressive for the size of our institution, but they've basically been sitting on a shelf and nobody knows about them," said Agata Maslowska, the RSPO technology transfer specialist who spearheaded the TechLink partnership.
"This is something new for us because it puts us out there with other laboratories to compete for business and spread the word of the wonderful things that are happening here at NPS," she added.
NPS initially listed 64 patents on the portal representing an eclectic range of technologies, including Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) swarm launchers, ultra-light precision aerial delivery systems, micro-satellite ion thrusters and coupling devices, and rail gun barrels.
TechLink then essentially acts as matchmaker, connecting prospective businesses with NPS.
"It's good for both the warfighter and the economy when we can get these ideas transferred quickly," said Joan Wu-Singel, senior technology manager at TechLink. "By listing them as express licenses, we can showcase these NPS technologies and create another avenue for success that moves at the speed of business."
Based in Bozeman, Techlink serves as Montana State University's main outreach arm to the high-tech sector across the state, region and nation.
Through a Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) with the Department of Defense (DOD), TechLink is able to accelerate technology transfers between DOD research labs and private businesses through a standardized, transparent and efficient process.
The DoD has found that open access, DoD-funded support structures such as TechLink are far more efficient than companies having to hire their own contractors to navigate agreement negotiations, explained RSPO director Deborah Buettner.
"Companies don't want to make a mistake in their pricing structure or terms and conditions, so by this express licensing common across all the participating DoD labs, there's a comfort level that can be established to know that this is the same deal that everyone else in the same boat is getting," she said.
"It levels the playing field and really provides more comfortable access, and will actually encourage much more licensing because it is structured in a way that is very approachable."
This is new territory for NPS. As primarily a teaching and research institution, NPS has historically not engaged in licensing activities, Maslowska noted.
"We're not like other major laboratories that concentrate on transferring technology from the government to the private sector," she said. "Our technology transfer office has mostly dealt with agreements with small companies or universities that allow our faculty and students to have additional research."
The TechLink partnership opens the door to increased engagement with the private sector, and this comes at a pivotal moment for national security.
The emergence of near-peer or peer competitors has prompted DOD to reinvigorate its relationship with the tech industry. The NPS community realizes this, and when Maslowska attended an annual technology transfer conference in San Diego in June and became acquainted with TechLink's express licensing program, she immediately saw its potential.
"Partnering with TechLink provides visibility for our technologies, and outreach to small companies, allowing them to look at the technologies, the terms and conditions, and decide," she said.
"It really is about accessibility and availability," Buettner added. "Our technologies are much more approachable now because a small company can just click on one of these patents, say this could really improve my product' or I could run with this technology and develop a product of my own', fill out a form online and get the ball rolling."
"It's just so much more efficient," she added.