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Spinoff 1997

 
Technology Transfer and Commercialization

NASA has traditionally measured its progress in terms of technical performance, cost and schedule. Now, in the post Cold War era there is another measure: contribution of technology to national economic security.

--Agenda for Change


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Because they are challenging and demanding, NASA programs generate a great wealth of advanced technology. This bank of technology is a national asset that can be reused to develop commercial products and processes, which benefit the U.S. economy by creating companies and jobs, and as a result contribute to the Gross Domestic Product. According to NASA Associate Administrator Robert E. Whitehead, NASA has helped generate almost one million high-quality jobs, more than $40 billion in annual exports and almost $30 billion in positive balance of trade.

Through its Technology Transfer Program, NASA employs a variety of mechanisms to stimu late 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 Aeronau tics and Space Transportation Technology headquartered in Washington, D.C. Recently reorganized to include elements of the Office of Space Access and Technology, the Office of Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology functions as a strategic alliance between NASA's aeronautics and space programs for developing then transferring and commercializing technologies.

Another new aspect of the Office of Aeronautics and Space Transportation Technology is the addition of the Reusable Launch Vehicle program; in partnership with the Air Force and private industry, NASA is developing and demonstrating new technologies for the next generation of reusable space transportation. This will ultimately reduce the cost of access to space, and thereby create a new market: the commercialization of space.

The Commercial Development and Technology Transfer Division coordinates the activities of the NASA Commercial Technology Network (CTN) throughout the United States. The CTN includes a commercial technology office based at each of NASA's 10 field centers. The offices serve as regional managers of the Technology Transfer Program, promoting and facilitating transfer and commercialization of technology that has significant potential for secondary use.

Since NASA Commercial Technology: Agenda for Change was written in 1994, NASA has been implementing a new way of doing business through new practices. The Commercial Technol ogy Program has been inviting industry to define and lead joint R&D projects that are relevant to the NASA mission but not driven by specific project requirements, with industry sharing the costs. Dual-use technology, where the efforts can be applied to mission objectives and industry commer cial goals; a push to acquire commercial off-the-shelf technology to meet program requirements; targeting small business in outreach and information exchange efforts; and establishing local, state and regional alliances to leverage resources and build individual technology networks are a few other examples of NASA's new approach.

The following pages contain a summary of the mechanisms employed by NASA to promote and facilitate technology transfer, including the structure of the CTN, the types of assistance provided by the Regional Technology Transfer Centers and affiliated organizations, and the technol ogy transfer activities of NASA's field centers. To illustrate some of the details of today's technology transfer work, the field center summary focuses on activities within one organizationLangley Research Center's Technology Applications Group.


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