Senator Tom Udall Secures Technology Transfer Provisions for N.M. Labs in Major Legislation

Provisions in defense and appropriations bills increase funding and direct Energy Department to emphasize tech transfer

U.S. Senator Tom Udall today announced that two major bills passed by Congress last week include key reforms he has championed to improve technology transfer at New Mexico’s national laboratories and create new businesses and jobs in New Mexico.

Udall is pushing the federal government to improve its tech transfer efforts to bring to market research being done at Los Alamos and Sandia national labs as well as White Sands Missile Range and the Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base. In March 2014, he introduced the Accelerating Technology Transfer to Advance Innovation for the Nation (ATTAIN) Act to further improve DOE’s tech transfer program. While he will keep pushing for passage of the full bill, the two provisions approved last week will help implement elements of his legislation.

“Improving tech transfer is key to helping researchers get innovations from the lab bench to the marketplace. It’s one important way we can help create new businesses and high-tech jobs in New Mexico,” Udall said. “The Department of Energy hasn’t been doing nearly enough with tech transfer, but with the passage of these provisions, we’re making progress. These bills direct the Department of Energy to prioritize spending on technology transfer from our national labs and support pilot projects to encourage researchers to take the leap and create businesses based on their work.”

Udall pushed for the technology transfer provisions to be included in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and in the so-called “omnibus” appropriations bill, which funds the federal government through September 2015, the end of the fiscal year. Both the NDAA and the “omnibus” passed Congress last week and are headed to the president for his signature.

Udall’s tech transfer amendment in the NDAA directs DOE to prioritize spending on energy technology commercialization from our national laboratories, and addresses issues also noted by the DOE Inspector General (IG). In a February 2014 report, the IG found that “instead of identifying and directing funds for the Commercialization Fund to the achievement of specified goals, the Department deployed a retrospective approach” by merely classifying existing spending as technology transfer to meet the Congressional requirement from the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

Udall’s provision in the “omnibus” appropriations bill directs $4.8 million to go to technology transfer at the Department of Defense, plus an additional $10 million for a regionally focused technology transfer innovation pilot program. The pilot will facilitate public-private ventures between the Department of Defense research and development centers and regionally focused technology incubators.