Q & A With Sarah Stuart: Innovate or Die?

Sarah Stuart, North King County Account Executive

Here is a question that we received, and while we don’t receive this question very often, we think the answer is useful and interesting.

Question: My company needs to innovate. We have been making the same product with the same processes for a while now.  I fear if we don’t innovate, we are going to eventually die.  Are there resources out there we can use to help us?

In our work with companies, we find many that in one of two situations regarding their product sales cycles.

In the first situation, the company encounters a technical barrier that is not allowing them to overcome their challenges.  In the second situation, product sales start to decline as the product reaches the end of its sales cycles.  Either way, innovation is required.

I spoke with Austin Leach from TechLink, one of our Impact Washington partners, about this subject.

TechLink is the Department of Defense’s primary national partnership intermediary for technology transfer.  They have been helping companies of all sizes since 2000.  Most of the companies with who they work have fewer than 100 employees.  Their primary activities include assisting companies to:

  • Evaluate DoD inventions
  • Develop high-quality license applications and commercialization plans
  • Partner with DoD labs for joint technology research and development
  • Gain access to unique, world-class DoD research facilities
  • Compete more effectively for DoD SBIR/STTR funding for new technology development
[Sarah]

How is TechLink structured to help companies?

[Austin]

TechLink is structured by technology.  Our technology managers have expertise in many industries including advanced materials and nanotechnology, aerospace, electronics, environmental technology, medical and biotechnology, photonics, and sensor, and software and information technologies.  Our technology managers excel at developing productive partnerships that transform innovative research into products.

[Sarah]

How do companies normally use your services?

[Austin]

Primarily companies use our website that lists the patented inventions being offered for license so they can use the inventions to develop new or improved products and services. Many times, companies visit our website is to research solutions to a particular technical problem they are having.  Sometimes the answer is right there.  Other times, companies visit our website to generate ideas for new products.  They will use the list as idea starters to brainstorm for new products they could possibly develop.  Once an invention is identified, our technology managers are available to help the company evaluate the invention and then to put together a license application should the company be interested in moving forward with the opportunity.

[Sarah]

Licensing an invention from the Government sounds expensive and hard.

[Austin]

That is why we are here.  There is no charge for our service. We are here to help with the licensing process.  As for the license itself, there is some cost involved, but it really is based on the invention you want to license.  I think you will find though, that the cost is well inside the budget of most organizations; even small ones. There is a lot of interest in making sure that these inventions get commercialized into the private sector.  It isn’t good for our country or our economy to keep them on the shelf in the laboratory.

[Sarah]

Can you tell me about a cool project?

[Austin]

I was recently contacted by Per Vivo Labs, a small manufacturer out of Eastern Tennessee, with interest in the Rate-Actuated Tether technology listed on our website (https://techlinkcenter.org/technologies/rate-actuated-tether-rat-dynamic-strapping-material/).  This technology is currently being investigated by the National Football League to mitigate head related injuries in players (http://www.military.com/daily-news/2016/04/20/army-nfl-scientists-team-up-develop-injury-reducing-neck-tether.html)  I worked with Per Vivo to get specific answers to questions they had about the technology, arranged a visit to the Army Research Laboratory for an onsite demonstration, and worked with Per Vivo to secure a license to the technology for use in physical therapy and rehabilitation. https://techlinkcenter.org/uncles-fall-caribbean-inspired-application-non-newtonian-fluids-physical-therapy/  Since this initial engagement, Per Vivo has identified and licensed a second technology with TechLink’s assistance, this time from a Navy Laboratory. (https://techlinkcenter.org/tennessee-company-back-second-military-invention/)

[Sarah]

That is pretty cool.  What should a company do if they are interested in your services or licensing an invention.

[Austin]

The best thing to do is go to our website at www.techlinkcenter.org.  You can search for the invention by the technology category or by the inventing laboratory.  If you find one of interest, just reach out to the Technology Manager listed on the page by phone or by email.  We would love to talk with you.

[Sarah]

Companies can also contact Impact Washington as well for any problem regarding innovation and new product development.  We have lots of great partners like TechLink that can help.

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