June 30, 2016

Udall Works to Include Technology Transfer Provisions in Premiere Science and Innovation Bill to Boost R&D and Job Creation

WASHINGTON - This week, U.S. Senator Tom Udall joined the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee in finalizing a major science and innovation bill and welcomed the inclusion of provisions that he pushed for to boost technology transfer initiatives. Udall is a champion for tech transfer to jumpstart business and job creation in New Mexico and elsewhere.

The latest measures were included in the American Innovation and Competitiveness Act (an update of the America COMPETES Act), which was finalized by the Commerce Committee on Thursday. The tech transfer provisions expand the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Innovation Corps (I-Corps), a public-private partnership program that prepares scientists and engineers to expand their work beyond the laboratory.

"The NSF's I-Corps project has been hugely successful. These new provisions will enable the NSF to expand its tech transfer program and help more entrepreneurs commercialize their innovations. It's a great model that could be exported to the Department of Energy to help innovators in New Mexico and across the country move their ideas into the marketplace and create new businesses and jobs," Udall said. "Researchers, investors and others in New Mexico tell me that we must streamline the process by encouraging collaborative public-private partnerships to support tech maturation, entrepreneurs and mentors. I'll keep working to make it easier for agencies like DOE to replicate successful technology transfer models."

Overall, the updated bipartisan Commerce Committee-passed bill invests in basic research and STEM education, and makes updates to increase the impact of taxpayer-funded research - primarily through programs run by the NSF, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). More information can be found here. The legislation will have real impact in New Mexico, where the NSF alone awarded over $56 million in grants to researchers across the state. The agency funds New Mexico's Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (NM EPSCoR) to build the state's capacity to conduct scientific research and also supports science facilities such as the Very Large Array radio-telescope outside Socorro.

The bill includes another measure based on Udall's Science Prize Competitions Act. It would allow federal agencies to hold prize competitions to spur innovation, solve tough problems and advance their missions. Such competitions, popularized by the successful "X Prize" competitions, are useful tools because they attract a broad range of proposals for tackling difficult problems. And, because they're competitions, they're also cost-effective: the federal government pays only for solutions, and doesn't need to fund research and development costs.