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Expanding the Uses of Naval Ocean Science and Technology
ONR Scientists and Engineers—ONR should set aside an inviolate portion of its research funding to focus on the transfer of technology to the nonmilitary sector. Several key technology transfer opportunities could be identified and grants awarded to ONR researchers working in cooperation with a commercial firm to produce a commercial product, process, or service. Cost sharing from the commercial firm might be required as a measure of its commitment and financial capability to transfer the product or service to the marketplace. Such an award system could readily be incorporated into the TTC concept discussed above.
Other incentives in the form of awards or recognition could be used to show the value of technology transfer. These could take the form of financial awards or simple recognition by higher management of successful technology transfer efforts within a research program. Although there exists a policy designed to reward DOD employees for domestic technology transfer (DOD, 1988) and a program to carry out that policy (see Chapter 3), this program appears to be vastly under used. Evidence of successful technology transfer could be made part of the performance evaluation of ONR employees at all levels. This would encourage employees to consider technology transfer as a vital part of their professional responsibilities.
Academic Scientists and Engineers Supported by ONR—ONR sponsors approximately 4,000 basic and applied research projects at an average of about $100,000 per project. The “typical” project includes a PI and a graduate student (or a postdoctoral researcher). While the following suggestions would not appeal to all PIs, some would use it to enhance technology transfer.
If the PI is able to arrange industrial cosponsorship for an ONR-sponsored project, ONR could underwrite the indirect cost for up to $30,000 of the industrially funded direct cost (up to, perhaps, $15,000 for each year of the ONR-sponsored project). This added cost to ONR would enable the cosponsoring industry to “buy into” a highly leveraged project and help ensure that the focus of the research involves the company ’s commercial needs and product interests.
ONR could also seek an option exercisable at a later stage of the research when the project is more mature or has become more attractive to the potential commercial sponsor, although a lack of early involvement by ONR may hinder later success. The PIs obviously benefit by increasing their research output potential (e.g., an additional graduate student can be supported). The advantage to ONR is essentially the same: increased technology transfer (at the local researcher level) and greater quantity and quality of research (from a commercial standpoint). The students involved benefit by gaining an understanding of both the Navy’s scientific interests and the company’s (market-driven) interests.
Although ONR supports many efforts in technology transfer, it is currently