WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – The Air Force Technology Transfer program has been hard at work in its efforts to share Air Force science and technology with academia, industry and state governments.
Headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, the program utilizes technology transfer agreements to accelerate the development of products and research that benefit the warfighter, build the government supply chain and help spur economic development.
“The Air Force Technology Transfer Program office leads a team of T2 professionals operating within Air Force laboratories and technical activities. These Office of Research and Technology Applications support tech transfer activities within their organizations to collaborate with external partners. The exchange of knowledge, expertise, equipment, and test facilities leverages Air Force R&D investments," said Keith Quinn, Air Force Technology Transfer Program Manager.
Technology transfer agreements can help fulfill critical needs for Airmen. This was the case with the Attenuating Custom Communications Ear-piece System which was developed under a cooperative research and development agreement between the Air Force Research Laboratory Airman Systems Directorate and Westone Laboratories Inc.
According to the AF T2 Program office, the technology revolutionized hearing protection and communication in high noise environments for pilots. ACCES® integrates specialized electronics and cabling into a custom-molded earplug that provides 40dB of mean noise reduction while providing clearly intelligible voice communication.
After the product was developed under the CRADA, Westone was granted an exclusive patent licensing agreement and a General Services Administration (GSA) contract to produce the state-of-the art device. The device is widely used across the military and the commercial market.
“Licensing technology developed in our labs leads to commercialization. The Air Force can then buy the product at a reduced cost because the Air Force owns the intellectual property rights,” said Tricia Randall, a technology transfer specialist who manages three DoD-wide Partnership Intermediaries.
Agreements like CRADAs and Patent License Agreements, or PLAs, can also be used to help small businesses grow and create jobs. One example of this is PS Engineering in Tennessee. The company does business in the general aviation industry and licensed a speech technology that processes radio signals in a way that each signal appears to come from a unique location in space when presented over a pilot’s headset. The company has incorporated the technology into a very successful product line that has allowed the business to grow, T2 Program office records indicate.
“Air Force innovations can dramatically enhance the competitiveness of small businesses who otherwise may not have the resources to conduct the research and development that is necessary to develop these technologies,” said Abby Boggs, a technology transfer specialist who focuses on PLAs.
In addition to CRADAs and PLAs, educational partnership agreements play an important part in technology transfer efforts. An Educational Partnership Agreement, or EPA, is a technology transfer agreement between a defense laboratory and an educational institution for the purpose of encouraging and enhancing study in scientific disciplines at all levels of education.
EPAs can be used to provide a formal relationship between an Air Force laboratory and a university so that college students have access to specialized equipment and real-life work experience. The agreements are also used to reach out to high schools and elementary schools to help provide science, technology, engineering and math focused learning experiences.
An EPA was recently established between the 30th Space Wing at Vandenberg Air Force Base and the neighboring Santa Maria Valley Discovery Museum. Under the agreement, the Space Wing modified and donated a subscale Discovery Space Shuttle that will be added to the museum’s existing Mission to Mars climbing wall exhibit. Students and visitors will be able to climb onboard the shuttle and imagine what it’s like to be a pilot.
“People often think that it’s too complicated to partner with the Air Force and that the process takes too long,” Randall said. “We want to let them know that there are many options for engaging with us. Technology transfer is an opportunity for them to work with us in a way that is less intimidating. CRADAs, EPAs, and PLAs are just a few of the options available.”
The Air Force Technology Transfer Program office encourages the public to visit their webpage to learn more about partnering opportunities and technologies available for licensing. The team can be reached at 937-904-9830, firstname.lastname@example.org, or www.wpafb.af.mil/t2.