Government Accountability Office, Technology Transfer: Federal Laboratory Consortium Should Increase Communication with Potential Customers to Improve Initiatives (GAO-15-127) (Oct. 3, 2014) (full-text).
The federal government spends about one-third of its annual $145 billion research and development budget at hundreds of federal agency labs. Technology generated by this research may have application beyond agencies' immediate goals if commercialized by the private sector. For example, federal research has contributed to innovative products, including antibiotics and the Internet. The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) — a nationwide consortium of federal labs — helps labs transfer technology to the private sector. In recent years, the FLC created new initiatives to provide a clearinghouse — a central point for collecting and disseminating information — for technology transfer opportunities.
The GAO was asked to review the FLC's efforts to provide information on technology transfer opportunities. This report assesses (1) the extent to which the FLC has communicated with potential customers when designing and implementing its clearinghouse initiatives, and (2) how the FLC measured the results of those initiatives. The GAO reviewed relevant laws and FLC guidance, and interviewed a nonprobability sample of officials from four federal agencies with the highest research budgets, and a spectrum of eight customer groups, among others.
The GAO recommendes, among other things, that the FLC work collaboratively with agency and lab members to increase communication with potential customers to obtain feedback and improve its clearinghouse initiatives, and develop performance measures.