AFRL unveils “one-stop” technology licensing

Voxelated liquid crystal elastomers

The Air Force Research Laboratory is launching Express Licensing, a one-stop shopping approach that allows entrepreneurs to discover available AFRL-developed technologies and quickly and easily determine if a licensing opportunity fits their capabilities. Pictured here are voxelated liquid crystal elastomers, a shape-changeable soft material technology available on the Express Licensing website. (Courtesy photo)

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Research Laboratory is making it easier than ever for entrepreneurs to turn vision into reality with Express Technology Licensing.

The groundbreaking effort is a new approach to moving AFRL laboratory technologies into the commercial sector. Through Express Licensing, innovators and entrepreneurs can simply visit a website and discover AFRL-developed technologies that are available for license, learn more about them, and quickly and easily determine if a licensing opportunity fits their capabilities. 

Sunita Chavan, who leads the AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate Technology Transfer office, describes the endeavor as “one-stop shopping.” She said the storefront-like format and user-friendly process make AFRL technologies available to a broader range of innovators and eliminates the difficulties typically associated with licensing, such as lengthy contract negotiations.

“Through Express Tech Licensing, we make it easy not only to find out what technologies are available, but also to learn about pre-negotiated terms and pricing. There is total transparency. If a business is interested in entering into a licensing agreement, they can fill out an easy application.” She said once an application is reviewed and approved, the business can quickly enter into an agreement, which can give it non-exclusive, partially-exclusive, or exclusive rights to the technology. Since the cost and terms for each licensing tier are already in place, the agreement can be completed in a fraction of the time a traditional arrangement would require.

“The barrier to entry is low,” Chavan said of the pre-negotiated cost structure. “We recognize that small business, especially startups, don’t have deep pockets. They have the passion and the energy, but not always the money. Our goal is not to make money. We want to make it easier.”

Chavan said this concept is a win-win for everyone involved. The entrepreneur can take an existing lab-developed technology and further mature and refine it for their own use, while AFRL retains the rights to use the matured technology for the benefit of military applications. This symbiotic relationship unleashes the full potential of an AFRL-developed technology.

Currently, 36 AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate-developed technologies, covering a broad research spectrum, are available for Express Licensing, and Chavan said she expects to make more available in the near future. She carefully chooses which technologies to offer in this way based on their current-use status within AFRL. For example, if a promising technology has been developed, but has not been fully exploited and matured for a period of time, she identifies it as a potential candidate for this type of licensing.

“It’s a way of taking our otherwise underused technologies and putting them out there for the benefit of everyone,” Chavan said.

According to Chavan, this innovative approach was inspired by the work done by the United States Navy, who has had success with this type of licensing model. The Materials and Manufacturing Directorate took a similar approach and, along with the AFRL 711th Human Performance Wing, worked in partnership with Defense TechLink, an organization that markets and facilitates licensing agreements between Department of Defense labs and private industry, to get the website up and running.

“We are excited to offer this new approach to technology development, for the good of the military and public alike,” said Chavan.

For more information on available AFRL Materials and Manufacturing Directorate technologies available for licensing, visit https://techlinkcenter.org/labs/air-force-research-laboratory-materials-and-manufacturing-directorate/ and click on the “Express License” tab.