ASTRONOMY AND PHYSICS

A nationwide technology transfer network seeks to broaden and accelerate secondary use of NASA-developed technology

Because they are challenging and technologically demanding, NASA programs generate a great wealth of advanced technology. This bank of technology is a national asset that can be reused to develop new products and processes, to the benefit of the U.S. economy in new companies, new jobs, and the resulting contribution to the Gross National Product.

(PICTURE CAPTION) KSC's Outreach program offers problem-solving assistance to regional businesses through the Southeast Regional Outreach Alliance. Shown on an Outreach telecom are, from left, Dan Culbertson, KSC Inreach program manager, SEan Roberts, Outreach manager for the Florida Technological Research and Development Authority; and Chuck Griffin, KSC Outreach program manager.

Such "spinoff" applications do not happen automatically. It takes a well-organized effort to put the technology to work in new ways and to reap thereby a dividend on the national investment in aerospace research.

NASA accomplishes that end by means of its Technology Transfer Program, which employs a variety of mechanisms to stimulate the transfer of aerospace technology to other sectors of the economy. The program is managed by the Commercial Development and Technology Transfer Division of NASA's Office of Space Access and Technology. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the division coordinates the activities of technology transfer offices located throughout the United States.

Among the most important mechanisms are the technology transfer offices at NASA's 10 field centers. These offices differ somewhat from center to center, but generally their jobs involve promoting transfer and commercialization of technology that has significant potential for secondary use. Representative of this type of activity is the Technology Programs and Commercialization Office (DE-TPO) at Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

For more efficient utilization of resources, KSC has combined a number of technology-related functions in this single office, some of them not directly part of the transfer process. DE-TPO, therefore, is not exclusively a technology transfer mechanism; it is an umbrella group that embraces the work of the traditional NASA center Technology Transfer Office , some new transfer-related mechanisms, together with management of technology development projects in support of the KSC mission, projects that may or may not have commercialization potential.

An example of a KSC mission-related requirement that resulted in a commercial product is the Universal Signal Conditioning Amplifier (USCA), developed under KSC's Dual Use Program. For its own operations, KSC had need for a system that could universally connect all types of sensors and transducers to current and proposed data acquisition systems. Working with I-NET, an engineering support contractor, KSC researchers developed the USCA. Since the amplifier clearly has broad applicability in industrial operations, the system was further developed under a dual use agreement by NASA, the Florida Technological Research and Development Authority (TRDA) in cooperation with a private sector partner, Loral Test and Information systems, and several Florida colleges and universities. The USCA was commercialized and the first units manufactured in 1995. Another technology transfer activity at DE-TPO is KSC's participation in the NASA Commercial Technology Mission Electronic Network, which provides U.S. industry electronic access to information on available NASA technologies, facilities and expertise and serves as an electronic marketplace for facilitating communications/transactions between NASA and U.S. public/private sector organizations. KSC's Commercial Technology Home Page offers continually-updated information on KSC commercialization opportunities, patent and licensing information, alerts on "hot" technologies available for transfer, and details of KSC facilities available for commercial use.

One other technology transfer activity at KSC is the Outreach program, which seeks to transfer the benefits of NASA's unique technical expertise to industrial firms in the Southeast United States (KSC has joined with Marshall Space Flight Center and Stennis Space Center in a Southeast Regional Outreach Alliance; KSC supports the Alliance through the Florida TRDA and County Economic Development Councils throughout the state).

These Councils periodically visit industrial facilities in Florida to make known the NASA technology transfer process. Council members invite Florida businesses to submit their technical problems to the Alliance in the form of a Technology Transfer Agreement, which states the company's problem and requests NASA assistance in solving it.


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