As Russia sorts through its near-term problems of the economy and overcapacity of manufacturing, it should also devote attention to the establishment of a system that rewards invention and the development of intellectual property. Such a system should be tailored to meet the requirements of the Russian social and economic structure. In the United States, the laws pertaining to intellectual property rights and inventions are intended to maximize "fairness of opportunity" and minimize "conflict of interest." Therefore, for example, a director of a laboratory cannot approve a CRADA for a company of which he or she is part owner. It is not possible to anticipate all the circumstances that might lead to such problems in the United States or in Russia; however, it is important to develop a Russian system that Russians trust. Failure to do so would lead to a very weak system.
Another key to the stimulation of technology transfer activities at DOE national laboratories has been increasing the number of contacts between scientists and engineers at the laboratories and their counterparts at industrial sites. One way such contacts have been increased is through the "User Facilities" operated at ONRL and other DOE national laboratories. These facilities were created for various purposes. For example, the High Flux Isotope Reactor (HFIR) was intended to produce various isotopes when it was built in 1966. It also was designed to permit experiments on neutron scattering and diffraction. Today, scientists and engineers from around the world use HFIR for neutron scattering experiments to study the structure of materials and the stresses in materials caused by welding or other processing methods. There is a two-year backlog of experiments that various academic and industrial organizations want to perform at DOE user facilities. To handle some of these experiments, a $1.3 billion Spallation Neutron Source (SNS) is planned at ORNL. The SNS accommodate more than 1000 users per year, and it will be operational in 2005.
DOE user facilities generally are made available to scientists and engineers without charge, unless the user wants to have proprietary rights to the data they produce at the facility. In these cases, the cost of using the facility is charged to the user. These user facilities bring many visitors into the laboratories, and as a result, new ideas are generated that may lead to inventions. Perhaps the most important benefit comes from the contacts that take place between visiting scientists and engineers and the host laboratory staff.
The structure and function of the system of laboratories in Russia are quite different from that in the United States. Even so, Russian laboratories might find ways in which facilities such as accelerators, reactors, and computers can be used by scientists and engineers from outside the host institution to develop new products or services.