John Wasilisin, President and COO of TEDCO, introduced a Patuxent Partnership panel on “Moving Technology to Commercialization.”
Barriers to transferring innovative technology and products between government, industry, and academia put the military at risk of falling behind in its ability to adapt and overcome in a rapidly evolving threat environment. This was the focus of The Patuxent Partnership’s “Identifying Solutions to Warfighter Challenges Through Technology and Innovation” conference in June.
Over 140 attendees learned different aspects of transferring technology into and out of the military environment, while exhibitors offered information and demonstrations. Speakers described collaborations and opportunities to speed delivery of innovative technology into the marketplace and to the warfighter.
The consensus was that government, industry, and academia must work together to accelerate innovation and technology transfer in such a way that the military can maintain national security and technological superiority without compromising security or financial stability.
Dr. David Walker, Director of Technology, Office of Naval Research, focused on how to leverage the existing technical knowledge base to produce innovations in government sector; and how to funnel innovations through security and bureaucratic red tape to rapidly deliver new technology to the warfighter.
Translating academic research into commercially-viable technology goes “beyond the science experiment and looking like a product,” said Dr. Daanish Maqbool, CEO for North American Wave Engine Corporation. It requires an equal mix of technical and business know-how.
“Government knows what it needs beforehand,” Maqbool explained, which means for an entrepreneur, pitching a product to government can be an uphill battle. “For something completely new? No funding. It takes a couple of years to convince government it wants something.”
“You need someone inside on your topic,” added Dr. Chris Wilhelm, Customer Advocate for Science & Technology, Lead, Office of Research and Technology Applications, describing the impact of NSWC Indian Head as a Center for Industrial and Technical Excellence.
The CITE designation, granted in 2014, allows public-private partnerships to perform work related to the command’s core competencies. This enables the Navy to more efficiently maintain an organic energetics capability and boost under-utilized capacity. The partnerships established also help bridge the gap between the technical and business side of a new technology.
Federal conflict of interest rules and licensing and patenting policies also present significant challenges to technology transfer. Active engagement is key in converting research into scalable technology and products that solve real-world problems for the warfighter.
The University of Maryland is making progress in this area, as it updates its licensing and patenting policies on products developed with university resources, said Ronnie Gist, Associate Director of Maryland Industrial Partnerships Program at the University of Maryland.
Changes to proprietary rights held by professors have coincided with a 10 percent increase in research and development on campus, said University System of Maryland Chancellor, Dr. Robert Caret, who affirmed the importance of keeping academia involved.
Incubating emerging technology “is the primary effort” behind the University of Maryland’s plans for an academic research and educational building at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center.