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Presented in conjunction with the National Science Foundation
NSF Workshop on Organizational Issues in Technology Transfer at Federal Laboratories
The purpose of this project is to host a workshop that will advance the technology transfer mission of federal laboratories, which constitute an important component of the U.S. national innovation system. For example, the R&D expenditures of the federal labs in the state of California consistently exceed those for the entire University of California system. In 1980, Congress enacted two landmark pieces of legislation, with strong bipartisan support, to facilitate technology transfer from universities and federal laboratories to the private sector. The first was the Bayh-Dole Act, which applied mainly to universities. The second was the Stevenson-Wydler Act, which applied to federal labs. This was followed by two additional pieces of legislation that were also designed to facilitate the commercialization of research at federal labs, the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986 and the Technology Transfer Commercialization Act of 2000. Bayh-Dole unleashed a substantial rise in university technology transfer, which has been studied intensively by academics. Unfortunately, much less is known about technology transfer at federal labs. Also, managers at federal labs have few analytical tools and little existing research to help them manage technology transfer effectively. This workshop will fill this gap, by developing a research agenda that will be useful to scholars, lab managers, and policy makers.
The workshop will specifically address organizational issues, which have been shown to affect university technology transfer performance, including the propensity of academic scientists and engineers to engage in technology transfer. These include “macro” or institutional factors, such as strategy, structure, organizational culture, and inter-organizational relations. Organizational issues also include “micro” or individual-level factors, such as justice-based issues or whether scientists perceive that they are being treated fairly in the workplace, incentives for faculty engagement in technology transfer, the leadership and championing of technology transfer, and identity struggles that scientists have with their new role as “academic entrepreneurs.” These types of issues, as well as others, are also likely to be relevant to federal labs. By considering both micro- and macro-level issues, the workshop will be highly interdisciplinary in nature. The workshop will convene: (1) leading academic experts on organizational issues in management, psychology, strategy, sociology, public policy, and economics; (2) the relatively few academics who have conducted research on technology transfer at federal labs; (3) editors of top journals in innovation and management studies and other “thought leaders” in management, sociology, and public policy; (4) doctoral students from leading schools of public policy and management, and (5) managers of major federal labs and the federal agencies that sponsor them. A key goal of the workshop will be to develop a research agenda that will simultaneously advance academic research on organizational issues in technology transfer, while at the same time, identifying tools and tactics to enable managers of federal labs to advance their technology transfer mission and fulfill the spirit of Stevenson-Wydler and other legislation that is designed to stimulate the commercialization of research at federal labs.