Contrary to common belief, NASA did not invent Tang, Velcro or Teflon. But NASA tech spin-offs do include memory foam, insulin pumps, water filters, freeze-dried food, firefighting equipment, emergency space blankets, dustbusters, cochlear implants, and over 1,800 other spin-offs in the fields of computer technology, environment and agriculture, medicine, public safety, transportation, recreation, and industrial productivity.
Now, in a crowdsourcing move intended to inspire open innovation and the creation of more “smart things” in private sector technology development, the U.S. space agency is expanding its Technology Transfer Program and opening up its patent portfolio of intellectual property to all inventors, for free.
NASA’s new initiative helps address two of the biggest challenges faced by startups: raising capital and securing intellectual property rights.
According to the U.S. space agency, it will waive all initial patent licensing fees and charge no minimum fees for the first three years of NASA patent usage. Once a startup has brought the product to market, NASA will start collecting a standard net royalty fee, but until then, developers will be able to use the patents however they like.
NASA is mainly a science and exploration agency, but in its quest to push the envelope of the planet’s atmosphere, and to go where no man has gone before, its engineers have designed and inspired some life altering technology for earthlings.
With enthusiastic support from the U.S. government, and access to some of the brightest minds in tech, NASA is behind some of the biggest technological advances of our time. Now, the space agency is inviting others to build on its core competencies by letting them develop its intellectual property for new commercial applications.
“The Startup NASA initiative leverages the results of our cutting-edge research and development so entrepreneurs can take that research — and some risks — to create new products and new services,” NASA’s chief technologist David Miller said.
Building on NASA’s patent portfolio could lead to further advances in materials science, communications, manufacturing, health, medicine, robotics – all areas where U.S. engineers and entrepreneurs have long thrived.
As part of its technology transfer program, NASA maintains a searchable database of all the eligible patents for licensing under its startup initiative. Its intellectual property covers everything from an airplane that can fly in low-density atmospheres like Mars to lasers said to be able to transfer data through space at the speed of light.