NASA offers to license patented technologies to start-ups

The national Aeronautics and Space administration (NASA) has unveiled a new opportunity for American start-up companies to license patented NASA technology with no up-front payment. The `Startup NASA' initiative addresses two common problems start-ups face - raising capital and securing intellectual property rights.

NASA's Technology Transfer Programme is aimed at encouraging the growth of high-tech businesses and advancing American innovation.

Designed by the office of NASA's chief technologist, the initiative will allow start-up companies to choose from a diverse portfolio of more than 1,200 patented NASA technologies that range from materials and coatings to sensors, aeronautics technologies, instrumentation and more, a NASA release stated.

"The Startup NASA initiative leverages the results of our cutting-edge research and development so entrepreneurs can take that research - and some risks - to create new products and new services," said David Miller, NASA's chief technologist.

Finding the technologies available for license is simply a click away, the release said.

NASA has created a streamlined, online patent portfolio covering 15 categories and packed with patents protected by the US government. Once a desired technology is identified, an online application can be filled out and submitted through the website.

Although the licence itself is free, the start-up companies must adhere to the following guidelines:

  • This offer is open only to companies formed with the express intent of commercialising the licensed NASA technology;
  • "No up-front payment" means NASA waives the initial licensing fees, and there are no minimum fees for the first three years; and
  • Once the company starts selling a product, NASA will collect a standard net royalty fee. This money goes first to the inventor and then to maintaining the agency's technology transfer activities and technology advancement.

This announcement applies only to non-exclusive licences, which means other companies may apply for similar rights to use the technology for commercial purposes.

However, NASA will consider further exclusivity if the start-up wishes to negotiate.

Companies entering into these licences are bound by all requirements in federal licensing statutes and NASA policies, including development of a commercialisation plan and reporting on efforts to achieve practical application.