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Commercializing Government Technologies:A Look at the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Office of Technology Transfer

 
科学技術 2011年8月23日

Rapid Access International, Inc.

November 2009.

http://www.rapidaccess.com/

Background:

The basis of many core technologies, including the Internet and wireless communications, can be credited largely to a handful of United States government agencies. These agencies and their respective research divisions have developed and are currently working on new technologies that will shape our future. However, much of the pioneering innovation of these technologies for commercial applications has been and will be achieved by partnering with companies.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has an agency called the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and is the Department’s chief scientific research agency. ARS comprises over 8,000 employees, 2,100 of whom are scientists, with 100 research locations. The agency is currently conducting 1,200 research projects and operates with a $1.1 billion fiscal year 2009 budget.

The ARS Mission Statement:

ARS conducts research to develop and transfer solutions to agricultural problems of high national priority and provide information access and dissemination to:

  • ensure high-quality, safe food, and other agricultural products
  • assess the nutritional needs of Americans
  • sustain a competitive agricultural economy
  • enhance the natural resource base and the environment, and
  • provide economic opportunities for rural citizens, communities, and society as a whole.

The ARS Office of Technology Transfer Mission Statement:

To encourage, promote, and facilitate the application and commercialization of technology resulting from ARS research and to foster cooperation between users and ARS. The Office of Technology Transfer is responsible for ARS' Technology Transfer Program; the Department's Patent Program; The Department's Patent Licensing Program; and the Department's National Agricultural Pesticide Impact Program.

The Opportunity:

In his 2008 presentation in Baltimore (※1), the Office of Technology Transfer’s Dr. Richard Brenner outlined the opportunities to partner with ARS to further develop technologies and commercialize them. And, unlike strategic relationships between companies to develop in-house patents and R&D, the government is not interested in taking equity in these ventures.

Rather, ARS is interested in fulfilling its mission statement goals. Provided that a company’s development and use of these technologies does not conflict with these goals, ARS can be considered as a vast resource for R&D and technology transfer to commercial enterprises.

In a recent discussion for The Entrepreneur, Dr. Brenner explained that “[p]artnerships established to commercialize research outcomes include patent licensing, and research conducted under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA).”(※2)

Examples of Success:

On its own, and through partnerships with private enterprise, the ARS can be credited with many successes. Some of these success stories are detailed on their website, and we have identified a number of these to provide a greater sense of the accomplishments and the potential for harnessing ARS resources for commercial success:

  • Technologies to improve frozen food quality; one of which helped launch the frozen concentrated orange juice industry
  • Extraction processes to remove everything from cholesterol and fat from hamburgers to the oil in flower seeds to be used in the perfume industry.
  • Discovery of DEET as a superior chemical to repel mosquitoes and other pests. It is currently the active ingredient in 35 commercial repellants.
  • Biodegradable detergents that clean well all water types and temperatures. The research has been applied in several U.S. soaps, including Zest and Lever 2000.
  • Developed the first aerosol can.
  • A chemical treatment that acts like a thermostat for fabrics, enabling them to absorb and store heat when surrounding temperatures rise and then release heat when temperatures fall. The inventors believe that their process could prove useful for building insulation, draperies, gloves, clothing, and slippers.
  • Seedless grapes.
  • Miniature iceberg lettuce for single people who have trouble using up a whole head of lettuce while it is still fresh.
  • Ever-bearing strawberries that bear fruit four months longer than conventional spring-fruiting varieties.
  • New varieties of disease-resistant U.S. hops bred from the best German variety, for beer with an “Old-World” aroma and flavor.
  • Developed Taxol, which is a drug that Bristol-Myers-Squibb has begun producing for the treatment of ovarian cancer and breast cancer. It also appears promising as a treatment for certain forms of lung cancer.

Access for U.S. and Non-U.S. Companies:

We contacted Dr. Brenner directly to enquire about the possibility for opportunities with ARS partnerships with companies in Japan, or for their operations here in the US.

Dr. Brenner explained that “[t]he licensing [regulations] require ‘substantial manufacture’ in the U.S., and we expect foreign companies to meet that requirement. On occasion, we will assist in helping them find a U.S. company as a potential business partner on the manufacturing end, and on other occasions, we will waive the requirement, but only if it is in the best interest of the U.S. public.”

Whether a company is US-based or foreign-based, the ARS mission statements serve as the primary guideline for consideration of any partnership as being in what Dr. Brenner states as “the best interest of the U.S. public”. Dr. Brenner noted that our “…best bet for any additional information would be our web pages, and on the “partnering” page(※3) is the link to all our Annual Reports. The front end of each gives a substantial overview on our [technology transfer] programs, policies, and procedures.”

New Developments and Trends:

In response to the dramatic slowdown in the US economy beginning in 2008, ARS initiated the Agricultural Technology Innovation Partnership (ATIP) program. The aim of this program is to help facilitate the adoption and commercialization of ARS technologies by companies.

To achieve the ATIP program’s goal, ARS has entered into agreements with a number of intermediaries across the country by helping ARS identify companies to license ARS innovations. Through these Partnership Intermediary Agreements (PIA), intermediaries are now assisting small businesses whose research needs can be matched to the expertise and current research of ARS scientists.

Key Term and Trends:

  • USDA Agricultural Research Services (ARS) Office of Technology Transfer (OTT)
  • Technology Transfer
  • Pioneering Innovation
  • Commercialization
  • Agricultural Technology Innovation Partnership (ATIP)
  • Partnership Intermediary Agreements (PIA)

(※1)Federal Technology Transfer with the Private Sector “Partnering with ARS to Adopt and Commercialize Research Outcomes: Mechanisms and Opportunities”. Presentation by Richard J. Brenner, Ph.D. Assistant Administrator of ARS, Office of Technology Transfer. Baltimore, MD, June 10-11, 2008.

http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Program/306/NP306BrennerFinalBaltimoreJune08.pdf.

Accessed on October 28, 2009.

(※2)Brenner Discusses USDA Research, Technology. By Marc Kramer, The Bulletin, writing for The Entrepreneur. Published September 13, 2009. http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/19350000/BrennerDiscussesUSDAResearchTechnology.pdf.

 Accessed on October 28, 2009.

(※3)ARS Website, Partnering: http://www.ars.usda.gov/Business/Business.htm.

 Accessed on October 30, 2009.

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