If you have an entrepreneurial streak, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory may have technology you’d like to develop.
It has announced a new licensing program that allows a sort of technology test drive with an easily obtained, limited license to patents held by the lab.
Getting a full license can be intimidating. Agreements are lengthy, they can cost thousands of dollars and can take months to negotiate.
But for $1,000 and a signature on the bottom of a two-page form, businesses get an “exploratory license” that gives them six months to research and evaluate one of the lab’s inventions.
The licensing process takes five days, which is unheard of at national labs, said Peter Christensen, acting director of PNNL technology deployment and outreach.
After six months, companies can decide whether they want to pursue a full license.
Exploratory licenses make it easier for companies to access and evaluate promising technologies.
Peter Christensen, acting director of PNNL technology deployment and outreach
The exploratory licenses are limited, with companies allowed to research and evaluate the technologies, but not to market them. They do get some protection, with PNNL agreeing not to grant another company an exclusive license for the technology for the six months of the exploratory license.
By the time they’re ready to pursue a full license, PNNL and the business each know the other better.
“It paves the way for a better relationship,” Christensen said.
The Department of Energy would like to get more technologies developed at its national labs into real world use.
But PNNL hears from companies that they believe national labs can challenging to work with and that developing contracts is difficult, Christensen said.
It developed the exploratory license in response.
“It’s a tool to make access to the labs easy,” Christensen said.
The lab signed three of the licensing agreements before publicizing the program and has several more in the pipeline.
We can evaluate and try to integrate it with our existing technology before committing to a traditional license.
Brian Berland, ITN chief science officer
ITN Energy Systems was the first company to sign an exploratory license agreement. It is interested in PNNL technology related to vanadium flow batteries, which store large amounts of renewable energy and support the operation of the power grid.
PNNL developed additives that increase the battery’s energy density and also expand the temperature range at which the battery operates.
ITN is now considering adding PNNL technology to the flow battery the company is developing.
“We can evaluate and try to integrate it with our existing technology before committing to a traditional license,” said Brian Berland, ITN chief science officer, of the Littleton, Colo., company.
Companies interested in licensing a technology can search PNNL’s patent database from analytical instruments to sensors at 1.usa.gov/2798PKi, looking for technologies marked with a lightning bolt icon.
Technologies marked with the icon range from a system to potentially identify Type 1 diabetes using biomarkers to a system that can quickly identify multiple radiofrequency identification, or RFID, tags.
For more information, contact Christensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.