Innovation

NASA ups ante on crowdsourcing patents

Placeholder Image for Article Template

Over the decades, NASA technologies were designed to hurl astronauts into space and develop satellites with pinpoint precision. But off-label uses have led to advanced medical ultrasound, camera phone enhancements and commercial airline improvements.

In October 2013, NASA posted 14 patents on the crowdsourcing site Marblar to facilitate more innovation through collaboration by the space program, industry and individuals. NASA now has 35 patents on its Marblar page and has welcomed practical applications of its technology.

Daniel Lockney, NASA's technology transfer program executive, said that although the agency always has a specific reason for developing a technology, it doesn't always realize all the different ways that technology might be applied.

"That's why we've worked with the company Marblar to help us to tap into the untapped cognitive surplus that exists in the world," he said.

For instance, NASA engineer Fred Schramm developed a two-component method for identifying and verifying objects. It uses an X-ray fluorescent inspection and a visual readout to identify objects. Marblar users have floated ideas for applying it to detecting counterfeit prescription drugs, among other uses. They also suggested using NASA's method of storing ultra-low-temperature fluids to store tissues for biomedical research.

Of about 11,000 U.S. patents filed by academia in 2013, less than 5 percent were commercialized, said Dan Perez, founder and CEO of Marblar.

"There's a big gulf between turning science that's happening all around us at all the universities in the U.S. into new products," he added.

According to NASA, parties not affiliated with NASA filed more than half of the 2,100 active patents that were derived from NASA programs and products in 2013.

"What's exciting about turning science into new products -- and for anybody interested in developing some of NASA's technologies into new products or universities' technologies into new products -- is that when you work with something that's already patented or research that's already been done, you kind of get a running start," Perez said.

About the Author

Reid Davenport is an FCW editorial fellow. Connect with him on Twitter: @ReidDavenport.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1996, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group