CHIPS Act Authorizes Unprecedented Support for Tech Transfer

The arc of the technology transfer profession can be tied to the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 in the United States and similar enabling legislation from across the globe. This week  a new transformational law was passed — the CHIPS and Science Act — supporting U.S. semiconductor production and catalyzing research and development in many key technology areas and in new innovation regions of the country. Most importantly, this new law has a key provision titled “Planning and Capacity Building Awards” (Sec. 10391), which authorizes an unprecedented $3.1 billion to support technology transfer capacity building for research institutions.
So, what does this mean for your technology transfer office, or those offices with which you work? It provides for three-year, $3 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grants designed specifically to increase or establish technology transfer capacity at research institutions. These funds can be used for a whole host of often underfunded aspects of the technology transfer office: hiring technology transfer staff, covering patent costs, offsetting licensing expenses, developing private sector partnerships, and supporting the education and training of entrepreneurial students and faculty.
Imagine what innovations and new start-up companies your institution could further catalyze with an additional $1 million per year in support. But these funds are not just for existing technology transfer offices from large institutions — these funds are transformational for smaller institutions which might not have the budgets to create or fully staff their technology transfer office. To be clear, federal funding of this type, specifically designed to build and improve the practice of technology transfer, has never been provided before in the United States.
In addition, Sec. 10391 also supports the establishment of Collaborative Innovation Resource Centers to promote regional technology transfer — a model growing across the U.S. and worldwide where resources from large institutions are pooled to support the innovation that occurs at higher education institutions everywhere in the area.
It is no surprise that Sec. 10391 addresses key challenges to a technology transfer office, like staffing and patent cost reimbursements, and that is because AUTM helped draft that section to further our mission of supporting and advancing knowledge and technology transfer worldwide.
Our work is not done however — because this law currently “authorizes” these uses but importantly does not yet provide the funds (“appropriations” in government-speak) for Sec. 10391. But make no mistake, this is a HUGE step forward for our profession and AUTM will continue to drive this forward.

If you want to help, we ask two things:
  1. If your institution is thanking lawmakers that supported the CHIPS and Science Act, encourage your institution to include the Planning and Capacity Building section (Sec. 10391) as one of the items that you thank them for supporting.  
  1. Personally ask your government relations representative what you can do to help them make the case for increased appropriations for the National Science Foundation which will be funding these new technology transfer programs. 
Our profession has grown dramatically over the last four decades and the technology transfer provision of the CHIPS and Science Act, once fully funded, will supercharge technology transfer as we harness innovations to create a better world together.  

Stephen J. Susalka, PhD, CLP, RTTP
Chief Executive Officer, AUTM