Laboratory Partnering

Office of the General Counsel

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The Department of Energy operates multiple laboratories and facilities that conduct Technology Transfer through partnerships with industry, universities and non-profit organizations. Technology transfer involves deployment of newly generated technology intended for commercial deployment, and making unique resources in the form of collaborations with laboratory staff and unique equipment available for use by third parties. Technology transfer is done through a variety of legal instruments from technical assistance agreements to solve a specific problem, user agreements, licensing of patents and software, exchange of personnel, work for others agreements and cooperative research and development agreements. The most appropriate mechanism will depend on the objective of each partner. A brief description of several technology transfer mechanisms is described below:

Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) – a legal agreement between government laboratories and nonfederal parties in which both participants agree to collaborate, by providing personnel, services, facilities, or equipment and pool the results from a particular research and development program. The nonfederal parties must provide funds or in kind contributions (no direct funding is provided by the laboratory). Rights to inventions and other intellectual property are negotiated between the laboratory and participant, and certain data that are generated may be protected for up to five years. DOE guidance is provided through DOE Order 483.1 and DOE manual 483.1-1.

License agreements – the transfer of less than ownership rights in intellectual property, such as a patent or software copyright, to permit its use by the licensee. Licenses can be exclusive or, for a specific field of use or for a specific geographical area. The potential licensee must present plans for commercialization.  See 48 CFR 970.5227-3.  Information on Department-owned patents and patent applications available for license for commercial use is available from the Office of the Assistant General Counsel for Technology Transfer & Intellectual Property.   See these forms to apply for a nonexclusive patent license or an exclusive patent license.

Personnel Exchange Programs – arrangements allowing government or laboratory staff to work in industry facilities, and industry personnel to work in government laboratories and facilities to enhance technical capacities and support research in specific areas. Costs are borne by the organization sending the personnel. Intellectual property arrangements can be addressed in exchange agreements.

Technical Assistance to Small Business – by DOE/laboratory/facility personnel is undertaken in response to an inquiry from an individual or organization seeking to further knowledge solve a specific problem or improve a process or product.

User Facility Agreements – arrangements permitting private parties to conduct research and development using unique facilities or equipment at a laboratory. For proprietary R&D, the laboratory is paid for the full cost of the activity. If the work will be published, cost can be adjusted. More information is available here.

Work-for-Others (WFO) Agreements – permit DOE laboratories and facilities to conduct work for other federal agencies and non-federal entities (including state and local governments, universities) on a reimbursable basis. Intellectual property rights generally belong to the user. The work must pertain to the mission of the laboratory or facility, may not conflict or interfere with DOE Programs, and cannot directly compete with capabilities that are available in the private sector. Intellectual property rights generally belong to the sponsor.  DOE guidance is provided through DOE Order 481.1C and DOE manual 481-1-1A chg1.


 Laboratory Technology Transfer Policies, Orders and Related Information