Technology developed at Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) in Idaho earns more royalties

IDAHO FALLS — Researchers at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory continue to come up with innovative ideas that warrant patent protection, and the value of their discoveries is growing.

The Associated Press

The 30 devices and technologies created by 67 INEEL employees that were granted patents last year essentially matched the annual output for the staff in recent years.

The economic value of that work, however, more than doubled between 2000 and 2002, hitting nearly $600,000 last year.

"We’re starting to get to the point where we’re hitting the real growth curve," said Richard Rankin, manager of Licensing and Technology Development.

INEEL officials credit much of that success to the site’s evolving technology transfer program. Rankin said teams of managers, inventors and attorneys, operating like a business, assess research projects to make sure they are marketable.

"Tech transfer is the art of picking winners," said Rankin, a research scientist with five of his own patents. "Every inventor’s invention is good, but we don’t have the luxury of filing for patent protection and marketing for every one of them."

Rankin estimates that 50 percent to 80 percent of the filed patents are licensed to companies that can make something of the technology. At times, the laboratory works cooperatively with businesses that can further develop ideas.

The bulk of the spin-offs are processes or technologies rather than products.

INEEL officials, Rankin said, are spending more time now drafting development agreements to maximize the potential royalties. Sometimes, he said, deals involve trading royalties for research money, forming partnerships that benefit the regional economy.

The most recent was development of computer software that helps communities plan for disasters like the 2001 terrorist attacks, Rankin said.

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