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Expanding the Uses of Naval Ocean Science and Technology Executive Summary Following the end of the Cold War, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) began exploring use of defense technology by interests outside the military. The Office of Naval Research (ONR), including the Naval Research Laboratory and ONR-supported scientists and engineers at various research centers (e.g., the Naval Surface Warfare Center; the Naval Field Engineering System Center, formerly known as the Naval Civil Engineering Laboratory) and in academia, is a leader in oceanographic research and development of marine technologies. Technologies developed by ONR or through ONR funding may be useful to other government agencies (federal, state, and local), private industries, and academic scientists. The effective transfer of technology from DOD and its contractors to the civilian sector (e.g., academia, industry) is important for maintaining a strong national defense. Establishing closer links between ONR research and development (R &D) activities and nonmilitary users of marine technology may improve the effectiveness of U.S. research dollars and stimulate economic growth. The Ocean Studies Board of the National Research Council was asked to review ONR programs, identify the needs of academia and the nonmilitary marine industry, and suggest ways to facilitate the transfer of naval research and technology to nonmilitary users. ONR and ONR-sponsored scientists and engineers conduct research and develop technology in a wide area (e.g., aeronautics, space science, ballistics) with potential interest to an equally broad range of nonmilitary industries and researchers. To provide a review that was both timely and comprehensive, the committee focused its attention on ONR-supported activities in ocean science and technology development. The committee studied the potential uses of ONR-supported marine technology outside the Navy by examin-
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Expanding the Uses of Naval Ocean Science and Technology ing existing ONR programs and reviewing the needs of academic marine scientists, marine industries, and government agencies. The committee could not explore all possible industrial applications of ONR technology but instead focused its attention on four important marine user groups: (1) the oil and gas industry (i.e., exploration, production, and pipeline operation), (2) fisheries, (3) environmental companies, and (4) marine equipment and service providers. Because of their economic dominance, these four groups represent that segment of the nonmilitary, marine industrial sector that the committee concluded could benefit the most from future ONR-supported research and technology development. Examples of successful technology transfer strategies and programs employed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration were also examined. Information provided by representatives of ONR and the nonmilitary sector at committee meetings, as well as the resulting discussions, demonstrated that only a relatively small portion of the available marine technology developed by ONR is being used by the nonmilitary sector. The degree of transfer and causes of any suboptimal transfer differ for various user groups (e.g., academic scientists versus small commercial service providers). Despite this complexity, two themes emerged from the information gathered: (1) ONR appears to lack a suitable system to measure and reward successful transfer of technology to the nonmilitary sector, and (2) ONR does not appear to be sufficiently aware of private sector needs to target its technology transfer efforts effectively. The committee developed specific findings and recommendations related to ONR R#038;D and associated technology transfer programs. ONR RESEARCH AND TECHNOLOGY DEVELOPMENT Finding: The Office of Naval Research supports leading-edge research and development (R#038;D) in many areas of ocean science and technology with applications for nonmilitary users. ONR-supported research accounts for a tremendous array of leading-edge scientific discoveries and technological developments with potential application to nonmilitary problems (see Chapter 4). These products range from coatings and materials to reduce ship corrosion at sea to sophisticated computer models for predicting the fate and transport of oil spills (see Chapter 2). The high-quality scientific research and technology development supported by ONR is an important component of the Navy’s efforts to maintain combat readiness and tactical advantage. The committee recognizes that R#038;D supported by ONR is of vital importance to fleet effectiveness and national defense. Many of ONR’s marine research programs and the resulting products, as well as the expertise they represent, have no equivalent in the nonmilitary sector.
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Expanding the Uses of Naval Ocean Science and Technology Recommendation: ONR should continue to fund and nurture long-range marine research and technology development. These efforts should be coupled with the education and training of scientific and engineering personnel in ocean science and technology. STATUS OF TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AT ONR Finding: Federal agencies are mandated by public law to transfer technology (see Appendix C). The transfer of ocean science and technology within the Navy and to other government agencies, and to a large extent, to academia, appears to be adequate. Technology transfer to the nonmilitary commercial sector, by contrast, is clearly inadequate. This inadequacy is particularly evident in the transfer of technology to major U.S. corporations that lack a history of involvement with ONR and to small companies (less than 100 employees and less than $30 million in revenues) of all types. Representatives of marine industries indicated to the committee that there is little direct involvement by ONR in commercial offshore R#038;D activity. An examination of the few measures of performance available (e.g., participation by ONR in cooperative R#038;D agreements, number of patents licensed) seems to support this view (see Chapter 3). Recommendation: ONR should allocate sufficient resources to ensure the success of technology transfer to the domestic nonmilitary sector in ocean science and technology. TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AT ONR: THE ORGANIZATION Finding: Even though an organizational structure apparently exists to facilitate domestic technology transfer by ONR, the existing process is primarily ad hoc and reactive rather than proactive. Industries that do not have a connection to ONR find it difficult and costly to gain access to information available at ONR. The perception is that there is valuable technology at ONR but that existing mechanisms are not adequate to promote the development of this technology for commercial purposes (see Chapter 3). For these and other reasons, simply introducing financial or personnel management policies may fail to stimulate the technology interchange desired. There is a need for a new organizational mechanism that acknowledges the private sector as the best judge of what technology it needs, at what cost, and on what timetable (see Chapter 5). ONR does not possess the experience and perspective required to make such determinations without significant input from the user community.
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Expanding the Uses of Naval Ocean Science and Technology Recommendation: ONR needs to take a more proactive role in domestic technology transfer in ocean science and technology. This can be accomplished using a combination of strategies, including organizational realignment, electronic databases, newsletters, sponsored forums and workshops, professional association meetings, personal communication among principal investigators, and funding incentives within ONR for programs that facilitate commercial product development. The existing programs intended to promote communication between ONR and the nonmilitary sector should be used to determine industry needs. TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER AT ONR: THE INDIVIDUAL Finding: Few incentives apparently exist within ONR to promote domestic technology transfer at the level of administrative program managers and investigators. Investigators both within and outside of the Navy are motivated to produce superior research or develop new technology so they may receive continued funding or peer recognition. Similar inducements do not exist to leverage R#038;D efforts for application beyond their originally intended use. ONR investigators are well intentioned, but to take further advantage of R#038;D expenditures, additional incentives are required to encourage an increased focus on technology transfer (see Chapter 5). The importance of exploiting (or leveraging) technology must become a performance objective of the entire ONR organization. As the principal executive of ONR, the Chief of Naval Research needs to create plans for the transfer of technology with specific objectives and milestones for accomplishment. Although it is beyond the purview of this study to recommend specific program goals and levels of performance to ONR, these plans should reflect a program-wide priority on technology transfer to the nonmilitary sector. Progress toward achieving these objectives should be managed like any other development project and progress should be reported on a regular basis. Individual performance objectives should be established, beginning with top ONR executives and including all team leaders and laboratory investigators. Individuals should be rewarded or recognized on the basis of achievement measured against these objectives. To ensure the success of technology transfer, effective training will be required to enable all employees to understand the goals and mechanisms of a successful technology transfer program. Recommendation: Incentives need to be provided at the program level, and measures of performance established at the executive level, to promote domestic technology transfer. The Chief of Naval Research needs to provide executive leadership and operational training at all levels of the organization to implement an effective technology transfer policy.
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