NSF is not alone in these undertakings; many Federal agencies have such efforts. The recently released 2016 National Academies report, Triennial Review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (https://doi.org/10.17226/23603) summarizes many of these efforts to address technology transition. The Nanotechnology Innovation and Commercialization Ecosystem (NICE) Working Group chartered by the Nanoscale Science, Engineering, and Technology (NSET) Subcommittee (https://www.nano.gov/about-nni/working-groups) is interested in further identification of activities to improve technology exchange across the 20 Federal departments and independent agencies engaged in the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).
This region between discovery and commercialization is often described in some circles as the Valley of Death – however, the National Institutes of Health discusses stages from basic science research through four translational phases: humans, patients, practice, and community where each occurs in conjunction with clinical trials. The assortment of programs available reflects the different agency missions, their attention to pinpointing specific hurdles in the process, and the importance of realizing economic benefits from the research. One example, the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program, fosters technology transfer through cooperative R&D between research institutions and small businesses. Participating organizations include the Department of Defense (DOD), Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and NSF. Another example, Innovation Corps (I-Corps), teaches grantees to identify valuable product opportunities that can emerge from academic research, and offers entrepreneurship training facilitated by domain experts. Both NSF and NIH participate. These and other model programs will be discussed.