“Top Secret” Labs active in Technology Transfer (T2)

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Mark Dabbs

12 Feb 2018 - 4 min read

Every American business has access to over 300 “Top Secret” labs actively involved in Technology Transfer. That might be a slight embellishment, but no more than saying you have a fire and police department, a 911 service, a library or any number of other public services. The point is that your taxes go to support many services, even if you’ve never heard of them.  One of these is the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC). Ever heard of it? Why should you care? What is Technology Transfer?  Why do we care?   While the FLC is not specific to mobile business, it is a valuable resource for technologies relating to all businesses.

Introduction to a National Treasure

The FLC serves to facilitate the transfer of technology from public to commercial use. This includes technologies initially invented for use by the US military and NASA. Simply speaking, it’s a gatekeeper to a few trillion dollars of R&D resources. It was formed in 1974 and represents over 300 federal labs, agencies and research centers.  These aren’t small labs either.  Member-labs have 200+ “full-time equivalent scientific, engineering and related technical positions.”

Never heard of it before? Not surprising. It’s been hiding away as part of the “very exciting” agency known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). Member Labs include the likes of NASA Ames Research Center, the Institute for Systems Research, the Center for Information Technology.  

Okay, so these aren’t exactly top secret labs, but they are world-class with state of the art equipment.  The US Government has over 430 departments and agencies, keeping track of them all is impossible.  The FLC is just one component of NIST.  While the FLC is only a gatekeeper and facilitator, the fact that it keeps track of 300 labs makes it too important to ignore.

Technology Transfer?

The FLC has been instrumental in the commercialization of many technologies from government use.  These include GPS systems, HD video imaging like GoPro, and VUI assistants like Siri, and a lot more.  

It is available to every non-federal entity — from pre-start-ups to major enterprises.  

Their video explains Technology Transfer best:

What can the FLC do for you?

Topping the list of why the FLC should be of interest to your business is the potential to reach a collaborative R&D agreement. This can lead to a lab’s commitment of resources, “personnel, facilities, equipment, intellectual property – but not funds – to any interested non-federal party.” Of course, the specifics of any agreement need to be worked out. Nevertheless, this provides the potential for direct access to world-class R&D on projects like or closely related to your own. They may even expand the scope of their projects to help find the data you may be after – or align it even more closely.

Collaborative R&D is worth a lot on its own, but the FLC can also:

  • Provide physical access to “federal facilities and equipment” for purposes of R&D.
  • Grant Licenses to use government-owned patents, intellectual property and technology.
  • Facilitate networking, alliances, conferences, consulting, technical assistance and other assistance.

On top of this, the FLC site provides free toolkits that can walk you through the process of accessing anything and everything associated with their services.  And they have at least one other very important program that can also be of immense and nearly immediate assistance…

The Technology Locator Service

Straight from their own site, “For anyone seeking to improve their product, solve a manufacturing issue or start a business, the Technology Locator serves as a matchmaker between you and the FLC community’s large network of laboratory resources. Through an extensive knowledge base of the federal laboratory system, the Technology Locator staff connects technology seekers with a lab that can provide the expertise and capabilities needed to get R&D projects off the ground.”  This searchable database helps you find labs by any of 19 disciplines covering nearly 20,000 specific technologies across 300 federal labs.

Why Does Reinvently Like the FLC?

Too many reasons to count.  For starters, we are a proponent of the On-Demand economy.  A simple precept of the On-Demand market is that “Access is better than Ownership.”  In today’s world, you,  everyone, has access to just about anything they might ever need to make their idea happen.  Access to over 300 world-class labs?   That’s a strategic resource by any standard.

The FLC is just one program – of a great many – that exist to help people like you build the businesses of tomorrow.  Access to R&D, patent licenses, and data can speed up the development of your mobile app by months or even years.  On patents, it is not always necessary to “reinvent the wheel” if you can get a license to use what is already a perfectly viable wheel from the get-go.  

One last point is that you don’t need to have the idea for the Next Big Thing – it may already exist.  If it does, the FLC is the resource to help you find technologies that you can rapidly take to market.  That’s  huge understanding that we’re all entering a world of exponential technology and Big Data.  

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