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Final Report: Audit of NASA's Process for Transferring Technology to the Government and Private Sector

Press Release From: NASA Office of Inspector General
Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012

image NASA Inspector General Paul Martin today released a report that assesses NASA's efforts to identify and plan for the transfer and commercialization of Agency-developed technology.

Creating new technologies is fundamental to NASA's mission, and facilitating the transfer of these technologies to other government agencies, industry, and international entities is one of the Agency's strategic goals. Technology transfer promotes commerce, encourages economic growth, stimulates innovation, and offers benefits to the public and industry. The President emphasized the importance of technology transfer in October 2011 when he directed Federal agencies to accelerate technology transfer efforts and support private sector commercialization of new technologies resulting from federally funded research.

This Office of Inspector General (OIG) review found that project managers and other personnel responsible for executing NASA's technology transfer processes could improve their effectiveness in identifying and planning for the transfer and commercialization of NASA technologies. Specifically, NASA personnel did not realize the transfer potential of some technological assets and project managers did not develop Technology Commercialization Plans that provide a methodology for identifying potential commercial partners.

Furthermore, we found that decreased funding and reductions in personnel have hindered NASA's technology transfer efforts. Specifically, funding for technology transfer has decreased from $60 million in fiscal year (FY) 2004 to $19 million in FY 2012 while the number of patent attorneys at the Centers dropped from 29 to 19 over the same period. As a result, patent filings decreased by 37 percent.

Consequently, NASA has missed opportunities to transfer technologies from its research and development efforts and to maximize partnerships with other entities that could benefit from NASA-developed technologies. For example, algorithms designed to enable an aircraft to fly precisely through the same airspace on multiple flights - a development that could have commercial application for improving the autopilot function of older aircraft - was not considered for technology transfer because project personnel were not aware of the various types of innovations that could be candidates for the program. Similarly, project personnel failed to capitalize fully on the Flight Loads Laboratory at Dryden Flight Research Center - a unique facility used for aeronautic testing services - because they did not recognize the facility as a transferable technology and consequently had not developed a Commercialization Plan to manage customer demand.

The OIG recommended that NASA implement procedures to ensure its personnel receive periodic training on the technology transfer process, reassess the allocation of resources for technology transfer, incorporate appropriate language in program and project management policies to emphasize the importance of developing Technology Commercialization Plans, and timely review and make accessible reports of new technologies. NASA concurred with the OIG's recommendations.

The full report can be found on the OIG's website at http://oig.nasa.gov/ under "Reading Room" or at the following link: http://oig.nasa.gov/audits/reports/FY12/IG-12-013.pdf

Please contact Renee Juhans at (202) 358-1220 if you have questions.

Renee N. Juhans
Executive Officer
NASA Office of Inspector General
(202) 358-1220

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