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ACT to Fast-Track BNL Discoveries to Market

Walter Copan

Walter Copan

By Walter Copan

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Steven Chu announced last week that eight DOE labs, including Brookhaven, will participate in a pilot initiative to make it easier for companies and other research organizations to enter into collaborations with them.

Known as Agreements for Commercializing Technology — or ACT — the program is intended to increase deployment of the DOE labs’ innovations, and to streamline access to the labs’ unique capabilities. Companies increasingly look to national labs for new technologies, and use “open innovation” models to access the best technological skills and resources.

ACT will be another tool available to Brookhaven, in addition to Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) and Work for Others (WFO), to carry out our technology transfer mission toward strengthened U.S. competitiveness and to help bring job-creating technologies to market faster. For Brookhaven, ACT is an important component of the Lab’s Discovery to Deployment mission, allowing us to expand our range of partnerships and to generate new funding sources for research as well as revenue for reinvestment.

The ACT announcement is the culmination of a significant effort between the national labs, the contractors operating the labs, and DOE. Brookhaven played a central role in developing ACT across the DOE complex. I led the team of labs and contractors on a taskforce of the National Laboratory Directors Council (NLDC), the DOE lab directors’ group which was, until recently, chaired by Brookhaven Lab Director Sam Aronson.

ACT addresses industry concerns and removes barriers that can make it difficult to partner. For example:

  • ACT offers greater flexibility in negotiating intellectual property (IP) rights for Lab-created technologies. While there is some flexibility on IP terms under CRADAs and WFO agreements, ACT allows the parties to develop their own arrangements that facilitate moving a new technology to market.
  • More flexible terms can be negotiated on items ranging from payment arrangements to project structures to indemnification. This can include entering into fixed price contracts for research services, earning milestone payments for significant project deliverables, and achieving performance bonuses for meeting certain negotiated goals. ACT will enable contract terms better aligned with industry practice.
  • ACT makes it easier to develop multi-party research and development partnerships. Groups of companies, universities, and/or other entities may come together with the Lab to address complex technological challenges of mutual interest. Innovative partnership models and new kinds of research consortia can also be created at Brookhaven, particularly considering future opportunities with facilities like the National Synchrotron Light Source (NSLS), NSLS-II, and the Center for Functional Nanomaterials, as well as partnerships involving Brookhaven’s unique collider, accelerator, and biomedical research capabilities. We also envision ACT will support new innovation hubs and our regional economic development partnerships.
  • ACT agreements will be entered with Brookhaven Sciences Associates (BSA) acting in its private capacity. BSA will be responsible for certain risks and liabilities In preparation, BSA will put in place new systems and processes for pricing and cost controls, project management, training, and risk mitigation.

Brookhaven’s Office of Technology Commercialization and Partnerships (TCP), created in 2010 as part of the Blueprint, will provide Labwide coordination. Our ACT preparation is under way, but there is much work to be done. The participating labs will work together and share best practices.

The BSA team to implement ACT is led by Associate Laboratory Director for Global and Regional Solutions Gerry Stokes, and the members are Chief Financial Officer and Assistant Laboratory Director for Business Operations Suzanne Davidson, Deputy General Counsel Anne Troutman, Manager of Research Partnerships Mike Furey, Chief Intellectual Property Counsel Dorene Price, and me. The DOE Prime Contract with BSA to operate Brookhaven Lab must be changed and approved by the BSA Board of Directors and DOE to authorize ACT.

More information about ACT will be available as our preparations continue. The pilot is scheduled to last approximately three years during which the DOE, labs, and partners will evaluate its success. We all look forward to positive outcomes.

— Walter Copan
Manager, Technology Commercialization and Partnerships
wcopan@bnl.gov

Tags: blueprint

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