How to License NASA Tech for Your Business

How to License NASA Tech for Your Business

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NASA may be the star of air and space exploration and innovation, but in recent years, they’ve been making it easier for tech entrepreneurs here on earth to harness many of the agency’s patented technologies. To do this, they’ve tackled one of the major problems entrepreneurs face … paperwork.

Small business owners end up wasting a lot of time on tedious tasks (perfect example: they spend an average of 33 hours searching for business financing). Obtaining licenses, particularly from government-run or affiliated agencies, can be a hassle, but when it comes to NASA tech, all of that just changed. The Automated Technology Licensing Application System, conveniently known as ATLAS, debuted this past June, and now those attempting to acquire a NASA patent technologies license can look forward to a much more streamlines and efficient process.

Why Seek a License?

Utilizing NASA technologies can put your product at the forefront of your industry by showing consumers that you’ve taken the time and initiative to implement tested solutions. Additionally, by harnessing technologies already tested and approved by NASA, companies can eliminate some development burdens while boosting brand integrity. That can translate into better products and stronger margins. 

What Kinds of Licenses Are Available?

NASA’s patent portfolio is extensive and encompasses a wide variety of disciplines. With more than 1,4000 patented technologies available for licensing, it’s worth checking out their site. Here’s a quick glance at the categories that are included in their portfolio:

  • Aeronautics
  • Communications
  • Electrical/Electronics
  • Environment
  • Health, Medicine, and Biotechnology,
  • IT and Software
  • Instrumentation
  • Manufacturing
  • Materials and Coatings
  • Mechanical and Fluid Systems
  • Optics
  • Power Generations and Storage
  • Propulsion
  • Robotics, Automation, and Control
  • Sensors

If your product or necessary product components fit into any of those categories, your next question is likely “how do I get started?”  

Assuming you’re just becoming acquainted with the patents NASA has to offer, the first stage, as with many processes, is research; more specifically, you’ll want to dig into relevant portfolios to identify what patents are available.

For example, if you are producing a cyber communications or storage device, and it’s imperative that your product incorporate an enclosure or container that can withstand extreme temperatures , you would likely want to consider reviewing the Materials and Coatings category, which is broken down even further into different sub-divisions, including “High-Temperature Materials” and “Smart Materials”.

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Applying for a License through NASA’s ATLAS program

Once you figure out what technology solution would best fit your needs, it’s off to the next part of the ATLAS process: the application.

ATLAS is extremely user friendly, and as advertised, it’s streamlined and guides applicants quickly and efficiently through the entire process. It’s likely, with a bit if preparation, you can complete the application in a single, short sitting.  

To get you started, here are a few of the things you’ll need to consider to submit your NASA technologies license application through ATLAS.

  • License Type: NASA offers three types of licenses: Commercial, Startup and Evaluation. As you might assume, Commercial licenses allow for the development or enhancement of a product or service for commercial purposes, and Evaluation can be used to evaluate a technology and the potential it may have for your product or service. Of particular interest is their Startup license, which is designed specifically for startup companies. This license program acknowledges the difficulty many startups have when it comes to accessing capital, and as such it extends those companies special licensing and royalty rates and waives any upfront costs and minimum fees for the first three years — a nice bargain for cash-strapped startups. Applicants can choose the license they want, or they can answer a two-question quiz to help them identify the best license for them.
  • Company Information: This is pretty self-explanatory. Applicants are expected to provide basic information about their company, including information about size (number of employees, etc), type of business and acknowledgment of any previously held licenses to federal technologies.
  • Technology Use: You’ll likely need to do some homework to thoroughly answer these questions, as you’ll be expected to provide information on the product you are creating or enhancing, the expected market size, the use and commercial availability of similar technologies currently being practiced in your market, and how your product or service, when enhanced with the NASA technology, would benefit the U.S. economy.
  • Development/Marketing Plans: If you already have a business plan, this should be a breeze. Generally speaking, you’ll need information on time to market estimates, funding available or needed, and how you anticipate accessing those funds.  

Once your application is submitted, it is reviewed by a license manager who will contact you for more information as it’s needed.

NASA’s ATLAS provides entrepreneurs with easy access to licensing that can have a big impact on their brand, and with so many innovative and NASA-tested technologies available, utilizing these patents can help create stronger products, mitigate development risks and increase overall profits.

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About the Author —

Jennifer is a alum of the University of Denver. While in the graduate program there, she enjoyed spending time identifying ways in which non-profits and small businesses could develop into strong and profitable organizations that while promoting strong community growth. She also enjoys finding unique ways for freelancers and start-up businesses to reach and expand their goals.

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