Successful technology transfer propels innovation beyond the lab so that it can be used outside of the lab to make a difference in the world. Engineers in labs, particularly federal laboratories like NASA, are uber focused on their mission and project work. If we seek to maximize taxpayer dollars by transferring federal laboratory innovation to businesses, we must first engage engineers. Educating engineers on the importance of technology transfer and connecting them with the technology transfer and patent office is a critical first step in the process of protecting, assessing, marketing, and licensing the innovation to make impacts beyond NASA. IVT was tasked with creating a strategy and implementing a campaign to increase engagement of engineers at NASA’s Glenn Research Center with the Technology Transfer Program.
At IVT, we looked closely at the target audience—in this case, the engineers. They were busy developing next-generation innovations to take us to space. Filing their invention disclosures had always been conveyed as something they had to do. Nobody likes that kind of motivation. So, we at IVT flipped the script. Not only did we make the invention disclosure process easier to understand, but we also communicated its importance. This process is the catalyst that can propel innovation outside of the lab where it has the potential to impact the lives of many—something they wanted to do. The foundation of this program was based upon understanding the viewpoints of stakeholders and creating communications pieces and tools that worked to change their attitude and inspire action. Pieces developed include presentations, flyers, simple process tools and roadmaps, and recognition tools.
Since the implementation of the innovator engagement program, NASA Glenn saw an increase in the number of invention disclosures. Many of these were from engineers that had never participated in technology transfer in the past. Beyond the filings, better relationships developed between the Technology Transfer Team, innovators, and management. These improved relationships led to a more positive environment with enhanced collaboration and continue to drive metrics years later. Thanks in part to these efforts which drive successful outcomes, we are now bringing more NASA innovations “down to Earth,” which has positive impacts on us all.