We're used to hearing about spin-offs, but what about spin-outs and spin-ins? Naval laboratories get scores of patents every year. What do you do with all that intellectual property? Ideally, and as long as the technology isn't sensitive, you'd like to spin it out to other users, including commercial industry.
As part of the Department of the Navy's continuing efforts to streamline its business practices, the Office of Naval Research's Commercial Technology Transition Officer conducted a technology transition "wargame" this week, from 13-15 January 2002 in Potomac, Maryland. Participants from government, industry, and academia focused on "Spin-Out": transferring Naval technologies from the Department of the Navy to other agencies and the commercial sector.
This role-playing exercise examined three different models for transferring patented Naval intellectual property to the commercial sector. The Naval Research Enterprise—that is, the entirety of the Department of the Navy's research and development team—has licensed more than 8,000 patents since 1996. Many of these technologies have had and will continue to have commercial impact. The purpose of this game was to understand how to rapidly "spin-out" emerging technologies from the Naval Research Enterprise into the commercial sector.
The game "played" the transition to the commercial market of three technologies developed by the Naval Research Laboratory. It used three different models—a traditional Department of Defense office, a not-for-profit corporation, and a for-profit company. "The Office of Naval Research is exploring these approaches to find innovative approaches to rapidly increase Naval capabilities at a reduced cost," said Susan L. Bales, Commercial Technology Transition Officer. The activities of these diverse groups led to a clearer understanding of the tools that can help the Naval Research Enterprise spin its intellectual property out into the commercial sector. Leaders representing each of the transition models—Naval, for-profit, and not-for-profit—were present at the game to consider the findings from the perspective of senior management, and to recommend specific steps to facilitate spin-out.
The military services are increasingly turning to the commercial marketplace for a variety of products. Spin-out will provide economic benefit to the country, strengthen the national technical base, and may make additional capabilities available to sailors and marines. The next technology transition game will be held in March; that one will concentrate on "Spin-In:" bringing commercial technology to the Fleet and Force.