That’s according to Jesse Midgett, Tech Transfer Specialist with NASA. He’s also the one who researched the economic development and startup ecosystems of Raleigh, Durham, and the surrounding communities, as far east as Wilmington and as far west as the Triad. The NASA Technology Transfer Program seeks to bring the technologies that enable space exploration back down to earth, and through their Startup NASA program, offers startups the ability to license patents that NASA holds for free for up to three years, said Midgett.
“A lot of places, universities included, will charge for the cost of getting the patent, but NASA doesn’t do that,” said Midgett in an interview with WRAL TechWire. “The startup license is free for three years, with no sign up fees, and no fees for the first three years. After that, it’s 4.3 percent, or $3,000, per year.” “We’ve been giving people miracle patents, and sending them out on their own,” said Midgett. “We want to do better than that now, because I think that people underestimate what it takes to get over and across the startup valley of death.”
NASA wants to go deeper than it has in the past, said Midgett, when technology became available for technology transfer, but didn’t play a role as partner. Of course, a few rules apply, including this list, found on the Startup NASA webpage:
Midgett said that the team’s guiding question is “how do we help make startups survive?” He’s even received approval to pilot some patent licensing for exclusive use, giving an additional potential benefit to companies that choose to partner with NASA and license any of the more than 300 available patents for commercial use the sole ability to do so. NASA’s value proposition is this: in order to grow and scale, companies need to hold on to as much of their cash position as possible, so by offering a license with no up-front costs for commercial use of NASA’s patented technologies, they’re helping founders navigate the hardest period of entrepreneurship, the first three years.
About half of all fees generated through the licensing of technology end up in the pockets of the inventor of the patent, said Midgett, with the remaining fees helping maintain and advance the agency’s ability to provide technology transfer and to advance technology through research and development. This offer is open only to companies formed with the express intent of commercializing the licensed NASA technology.
NASA waives the initial licensing fees, and there are no minimum fees for the first three years.
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 to only non-exclusive licenses, which means other companies may apply for similar rights to use the technology for commercial purposes. However, NASA will consider further exclusivity if the startup wishes to negotiate.
Companies entering into these licenses are bound by all requirements in federal licensing statutes and NASA policies, including development of a commercialization plan and reporting on efforts to achieve practical application.
While NASA does license to foreign entities, this start-up agreement is only available to companies in the United States.
“Not everybody thinks of NASA for technology solutions, but we want people to think of us,” said Midgett. “Every patent we hold has millions of dollars of research behind it from experts in their fields.” “This huge windfall of patents that is available for use right now is not going to be there in the future,” said Midgett. “NASA is trying hard to figure out how to make it easier for companies, and we actively want to get all of these patents out into the hands of founders.” That includes about a half-dozen patents that already have connections to North Carolina, and more than 300 total patents available to license through the program, which founders or potential founders can search through an online database portal. Beyond these current patents, NASA has also entered many of its patents into the public domain to stimulate the innovation economy.
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