The Department of Energy's (DOE) national laboratories have decades of research and development experience. The resulting technologies and capabilities benefit businesses of all sizes, universities, and non-profits through partnering mechanisms.
Have questions about partnering? Try the Solutions Exchange!
The Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) has launched the Solutions Exchange. If you and your business have scientific challenges that you think the DOE National Labs could help you solve, OTT is here to help you find out what potential solutions may exist in our vast laboratory network. Share your business challenges and partnership interests with OTT using the Solutions Exchange form. We discretely and effectively communicate your questions to our National Lab network.
Strategic Partnership Projects (SPPs) are a vehicle for industry, non-profit institutions and other non-federal entities to engage the laboratory to perform a defined scope of work or tasks on a full-cost recovery basis. The laboratory must not compete with industry, therefore any work must draw upon the unique facilities, equipment, or personnel intrinsic to the laboratory.
The rights to inventions and data that arise under such a contract (subject inventions) may vest in the sponsor if the sponsor is a U.S. entity and pays for the work with private funds; however if the sponsor is subcontracting federal funds to the laboratory or if the sponsor is a non-U.S. entity, then the rights of subject inventions will typically vest with the laboratory performing the work. The Government will retain a license for all Subject Inventions for use by or on behalf of the Government.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requires either 1) advance payment of the entire amount of funding or 2) a pay plan that requires the first payment to include a 60 (at minimum–some labs require 90) day reserve of expected cost and in some instances funding for the first 30 days of work.
A Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) is an agreement between one or more laboratories and one or more non-federal entities (participant usually include industry, nonprofit organizations, or academia, domestic or foreign). The agreement allows collaboration that may include the laboratory’s technologies, processes, materials, research and development (R&D) capabilities, or technical know-how.
The participant benefits from access to the laboratory's unique technologies, capabilities, and expertise; the option to negotiate an exclusive license in a field of use within the scope of work of the CRADA to inventions that result from work performed under the CRADA (subject inventions); and protection, for up to five years, of information generated under the CRADA and marked by the partner as protected. Partners’ proprietary information developed outside of the CRADA and brought into the collaboration is treated with confidentiality without time restriction. To offset costs of the collaboration, CRADA participants must contribute cash or in-kind resources such as personnel, equipment, facilities, etc. As most national laboratories are full cost recovery, a funding source for the laboratory work must be identified before work can start.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requires either 1) advance payment of the entire amount or 2) a pay plan that requires the first payment to include a 60-day minimum (some require 90) reserve and in some instances funding for the first 30 days of work. DOE has developed a model CRADA that establishes uniform terms and conditions for doing business with the laboratories.
Agreements for Commercializing Technology (ACT) is a new business-friendly technology transfer tool offered at several DOE Laboratories. ACT differs from traditional lab partnership agreements because the laboratory contractor can accept terms and risks that the government is prohibited from accepting, such as offering a performance guarantee or taking on indemnification risk. In exchange for taking on risks the government is unable to accept, the Laboratory contractor is authorized to receive a fee from its R&D partner.
This mechanism was put in place in response to concerns that were raised in public responses to a Notice of Inquiry regarding Technology Transfer practices at U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories.
A new pilot, FedACT, expands the use of ACT to allow organizations that have received federal funding for R&D to partner with DOE’s National Labs.
Intellectual Property (IP) developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) national laboratories is typically held by the national laboratory and licensed by working with the responsible technology transfer organization within the laboratory where the technology was developed. Because of the unique set of laws related to IP generated at DOE laboratories, licensing agreements for these technologies include some provisions that may not be present in a license agreement between private entities (e.g., march-in-rights, government-use rights, and indemnification of the federal government). Learn more in the licensing guide.
Typical financial and milestone terms present in a commercial license include:
An issue fee, which is non-refundable and due upon execution of the agreement
A running royalty, which is most commonly based on a percentage of sales
A minimum annual royalty
Other financial terms appropriate to the technology and market, such as milestone payments and patent cost reimbursements
Equity ownership terms which may be negotiated in some cases in lieu of cash payments
Milestone commitments for development (e.g., alpha & beta products) and introduction of commercial product in marketplace Licenses may be exclusive for a particular field of use or geographic region, or non-exclusive.
Most of the technologies available for licensing will require additional development before they are commercially viable. An Option Agreement is available that protects an entity’s right to license a technology at a future time. Option Agreements are generally available for a time period of one year. Many labs will approve an extension to the Option Agreement if sufficient milestones toward making the technology commercially viable have been met. Several of the technologies available for licensing can be found on the Lab Partnering Service. These technologies can be viewed under the ‘Lab Technologies’ tab as marketing summaries, which provide business friendly descriptions of the technology, or the patent itself via the Visual Patent Search. Online contact forms are provided to get directly in touch with the licensing representative from each laboratory through ‘connecting’ with the relevant expert.
A Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) protects biological materials and tangible research products provided either to or by the laboratory. This is an agreement that biological materials and tangible research products provided by one party to another will be protected from further transmittal.
MTAs are important since they specify the rights, obligations, and restrictions of both the providing and receiving institutions with respect to issues such as ownership, publication, intellectual property, and permitted use and liability. The agreement normally requires return or destruction of materials and products at the end of the agreement.
UFA are specialized, standard agreements available to expedite user access to the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Designated User Facilities. Many national laboratories have state-of-the-art facilities that are open to industrial and academic users for conducting research in diverse technology areas, including biology and medicine, chemistry and environmental sciences, physics and material science. It is possible to perform proprietary or non-proprietary research at the Designated User Facilities.
There is typically only a charge for operating and consumables costs to users who are performing non-proprietary research and agree to publish their results. For proprietary research that is not intended for publication, access to facilities is available on a full cost recovery basis. The submission process for individual or collaborative research may differ at each laboratory; however, access generally begins with an invitation from an employee or through submission and approval of a peer-reviewed proposal. More complete descriptions and models of these agreements are found in the Class Waiver for Non-Proprietary Users and the Class Waiver for Proprietary Users.
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are research and development programs that are only open to eligible U.S. small businesses. Both programs offer small businesses the ability to collaborate with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national labs or other partners as subcontractors.
The SBIR/STTR programs have three distinct phases:
Phase I explores the feasibility of innovative concepts with awards up to $225,000 over 12 months
Phase II is the principal research and development (R&D) effort used for prototype or process (R&D) with awards up to $1,500,000 over two years.
Phase III offers opportunities to small businesses to continue their Phase I and II R&D work to pursue commercial applications of their R&D with non SBIR/STTR funding. Under Phase III, Federal agencies may award noncompetitive, follow-on grants or contracts for products or processes that meet the mission needs of those agencies, or for further R&D.
Interested small businesses are encouraged to submit applications that address the specific technology innovations sought by these programs, which span the majority of the Department's mission in areas relating to clean energy, advanced scientific instrumentation and software, and nuclear security. The Department issues over 300 Phase I and 150 Phase II awards annually totaling more than $200M.
Many Labs offer a Technology Assistance Program, which leverages the expertise of laboratory scientists and engineers to help members of the small business community solve important challenges free of charge.
Examples of assistance include:
Advising on existing or emerging products
Providing advanced technology for hardware and software applications
Improving production and manufacturing processes
Resolving technical problems
Performing scientific peer reviews
Recommending energy conservation and environmental technologies
Funds for technical assistance are limited and are only available at certain national laboratories.
CRADAs, SPPs, and ACT arrangements can be contracted to contain provisions addressing protection of a partner’s proprietary data. User Agreements often include such provisions as well. In addition, Nondisclosure Agreements (NDA) can easily be put in place to protect a partner’s proprietary information prior to the initiation of any work or even at the discussion stage if necessary. While a company’s proprietary information agreement template can be used as a starting point the nature and contractual requirements of the national laboratories will require amendments and the use of the standard agreement offered by the laboratory of interest often expedites the signature of these agreements. Data generated in the performance of a CRADA can be protected from public release by the laboratory or the Government for five years. It is important that companies mark all of the information that they provide to the laboratories’ staff in accordance with the agreements between the parties for protection of data. Data generated under an SPP or ACT can be kept proprietary by the Sponsor indefinitely in many cases.
Retention of these rights in agreements involving federally-funded research is required by law. The government license is viewed as recognition of the Government investment that created the facility and the research from which the technology arises. March-in rights are retained by the government to assure that technology arising from laboratories is made available to the public. Should a laboratory licensee or CRADA partner abandon use or dissemination of the technology yet retain a license to the technology, the government has the right to require the partner to license to a third party, who is interested in commercializing the technology, at a reasonable royalty.
There are examples of successful multi-party collaborations that accommodated the interests of various organizations, including multiple DOE laboratories. Clear communications and up-front negotiations of intellectual property rights can help save time. For example, in the alternative feedstocks for chemicals program, five laboratories set up agreements for sharing intellectual property among themselves and with a company. The intellectual property developed by one laboratory was used by other laboratories, and the company benefited from inventions at several laboratories.
Although as federally-funded facilities, DOE’s national laboratories have a preference to license to U.S. companies and an obligation to consider U.S. Competiveness in all license agreements. The requirement for U.S. Competiveness can be satisfied by either substantially manufacturing in the United States or by having a business unit in the United States and providing a significant economic and technical benefit to the United States. All DOE Laboratories are also required to include an export control clause in their license agreement. This clause simply states that the Licensee agrees to comply with export control laws designed to protect items and information important to the United States. It restates the existing requirement and does not impose additional requirements.
Conner Prochaska Director of Office of Technology Transitions
Every technology follows its own unique path and requires a variety of exchanges and partnerships to advance it along the development spectrum. DOE's Office of Technology Transitions provides support in each step of this process.
Every technology follows its own unique path and requires a variety of exchanges and partnerships to advance it along the development spectrum. DOE's office of Technology Transition provides support in each step of this process.
Connect with the Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) by filling out the Solutions Exchange form below. This first step will prompt OTT to review your submission and potentially begin the process of using DOE capabilities to address your challenge, allowing you to transition your technology from research to reality. OTT will review your submission and you will receive an acknowledgement within two business days.
You can use keywords such as "Advanced Materials" to find experts who focus on this area of interest.
You may search for a specific lab to see all facilities, technologies and experts found there. e.g. "Ames National Laboratory"
You can use search for a specific technology to find all laboratories and experts who have expertise in this field. e.g. "Energy Analysis"
Fill out the information below to ask your energy technology question. Our target response time is 14 business days; however, any individual may not be available to meet this target though we strive to provide a timely response.