Technology transfer at Fermilab

Bruce Chrisman

In an effort to fuel the economy and foster innovation, President Obama recently issued a directive to all the national laboratories to improve technology transfer.

“Innovation fuels economic growth, the creation of new industries, companies, jobs, products and services, and the global competitiveness of U.S. industries. One driver of successful innovation is technology transfer, in which the private sector adapts Federal research for use in the marketplace,” the Oct. 28 memorandum stated.

In response to the directive, the national laboratories will establish a five-year plan with performance goals to increase the number of technology transfer and commercialization activities with non-federal entities.

As a single-purpose fundamental research laboratory, Fermilab has a well-defined mission in particle physics. Our scientists do not actively pursue spin-off applications, yet the potential to in advertently develop a technology that could be transferred to private industry is high.

One example of a patent issued to a Fermilab scientist through the laboratory’s Office of Research & Technology Applications is an air blown assisted data transmission cable, installation system and methods. Instead of using expensive automated equipment, the device uses compressed air or gas to install fibers into a transmission cable.

A patent for incorporating inorganic powders into extruded plastic scintillator is another example. The inorganic powders make it possible to fabricate the scintillator with enhanced X-ray and neutron detection efficiency.

In order to fulfill the directive from President Obama, Fermilab is launching an initiative to increase the laboratory’s rate of technology transfer.

For instance, if you have a good idea that may have commercial value Fermilab’s Technology Transfer Program may offer assistance. A leave of absence may also be an option for Fermilab employees who participate in the program and need dedicated time to pursue an invention.

I encourage all employees to visit the new Fermilab Office of Research & Technology Applications website (link) and review the services available to you.

— Bruce Chrisman