Federal legislation could soon speed up the process of commercializing state-of-the-art technology developed at national laboratories.
S. 2973, the National Laboratory Technology Maturation Act, launches the National Laboratory Technology Maturation Program (NLTMP) at the U.S. Department of Energy. The bill establishes funding to help small businesses that are using licensed technology from the lab to purchase up to $250,000 in assistance from lab scientists and engineers to consumerize the tech.
Sponsored by Sen. Martin Heinrich, D-N.M., the goal of the program is to encourage small businesses to develop new products and services so that they’re market-ready. Heinrich called the idea a “job-creating formula” that also spurs innovation.
“New Mexico business owners and the scientists and engineers at our national labs have the intellect and capacity to provide a steady stream of technologies that could yield dividends in commercial markets,” Heinrich said in a statement. “Great things can happen when we bring our small businesses and national labs together – it sparks the imagination of future innovators and widens the impact for great discoveries.”
S. 2973 was introduced last month and, as a result of the last Congress ending, was effectively dead on Dec. 31. But in an email to Government Technology, Whitney Potter, Heinrich’s communications director, revealed that the issue is set to be resurrected later this year.
“Sen. Heinrich … will continue this effort in the new Congress – this is certainly a priority for him,” Potter said.
Commercializing technology is a familiar topic for Heinrich. He also introduced S. 2932, the Microlab Technology Commercialization Act of 2014. The legislation accelerates technology transfer by creating off-campus microlabs to serve as proverbial “welcome mats” for other parties to access the resources of national labs. The microlabs would enable academics, local government officials, business owners and citizens to use the equipment and facilities of national labs.
Government Technology will continue to monitor Heinrich's tech commercialization bill when it is reintroduced later this year.
Brian Heaton was a writer for Government Technology magazine from 2011 to mid-2015.