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U.S. Agencies Directed to Speed Science to Marketplace

President Obama speaks at Carnegie Mellon University

President Barack Obama delivers remarks following a tour of the National Robotics Engineering Center at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Obama today directed federal research agencies to take additional steps to transfer discoveries from their labs into the hands of businesses. The actions outlined by the White House also require agencies to develop five-year plans with goals and measures of progress.

The president’s memorandum aims to cut in half the time it takes to move research grants to small businesses. To meet this goal, the memo directs directs agencies to streamline their processes for private-public research partnerships, small business research and development grants, and university-startup collaborations.

The plan, according to the White House, gives agencies more flexibility to partner with industry, particularly those in neighboring communities. The memo encourages research agencies to create new partnerships with local communities, support the growth of regional innovation clusters, and share laboratory facilities with local businesses.

The White House cited three instances in recent years when federal research grants resulted in successful U.S. companies: communications hardware maker Qualcomm, security software developer Symantec, and robotics manufacturer iRobot Corporation.

Today’s directive also instructs agencies to develop five-year plans for technology transfer, with concrete goals and metrics for recording progress. Among those measures is a count of patents generated by individual federal labs.

In a related blog post, Tom Kalil, Deputy Director for Policy at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy cited the role of overseas competition in devising this program. “Today, other countries are challenging American leadership in the training of skilled workers, investments in research and development, and support of entrepreneurship,” says Kalil.  “America must expand its ability to move science and technology breakthroughs into the marketplace.”

Read more: White House Unveils Manufacturing Partnership, Investments

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