(Invited) From Discovery through to Commercialization: Federal Support

Monday, 2 October 2017: 09:00
National Harbor 7 (Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center)
L. D. Madsen (National Science Foundation)
As a Program Director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) working in the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate, most efforts deal with supporting the discovery aspects of science – creating/revealing new materials or phenomena, improving the understanding of scientific underpinnings, and/or establishing new techniques and approaches. However, many NSF programmatic funding opportunities have an option to link to industrial partners through a mechanism called Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry (GOALI). Also, there are centers across NSF that foster partnerships with industry; some include mandates to do so. The locus on going beyond discovery to applications at NSF lies within the Engineering Directorate, particularly in the Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP).

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.