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A Critical Study on the Cooperative Research and Development Agreements of U.S. Federal Laboratories: Technology Commercialization and the Public Interest
Volume 9, Issue 1

Wei-Lin Wang

The U.S. federal government has poured billions of dollars into nanoscience. The national laboratories such as NASA, Oak Ridge, Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, Los Alamos, Sandia, and Brookhaven are conducting numerous research and development projects involving nanomaterials. In many cases, development and commercialization of new nanomaterial-based products will involve research collaborations between federal research laboratories and industry. These technical collaborations are generally governed by contracts known as “CRADAs.”

In 1986, the Congress of the United States passed the Federal Technology Transfer Act to amend the original Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, and created the “Cooperative Research and Development Agreements” (CRADAs). Under the CRADAs system, the federal labora-tories provide equipment and/or personnel, while the cooperating contractors, mainly private enterprises, provide funds to jointly commercialize technology originally generated from the federal labs. After adoption of CRADAs, cooperation between federal labs and private industries became more interactive, and many successful inventions have been made.

In contrast to the Bayh-Dole Act model, under which the government provides funds for univer-sities and private industries, the CRADAs model allows the government (federal labs) to provide equipment, facilities, and/or personnel for the contractors, instead of funds. Consequently, the ownership of the intellectual property rights in relation to the research results under the two systems shall be different as well.

This article introduces the CRADAs system, including relevant statistics of CRADAs, and pros and cons of the CRADAs system as discussed by various U.S. scholars. This article also argues that certain precautionary measures need to be adopted to prevent potential conflicts of interest and unfairness to small companies as some U.S. scholars have criticized.

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