ABERDEEN, Maryland – Army researchers pitched their inventions to a business-minded panel so they could brainstorm new applications.
The “Innovation Discovery Event” facilitated by TechLink last week was the Army’s first. Several more are already being planned for this year.
“We’re bringing in entrepreneurs to help us identify commercial applications that aren’t immediately apparent to the defense community,” said Tom Mulkern, chief of the Army Research Laboratory’s (ARL) technology transfer office. “At the same time, we’re able to capture the panel’s ideas and expand the Army’s intellectual property portfolio. It helps us create more opportunities for partnership with businesses.”
During the two-day event, six researchers from the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center; Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center; and ARL presented their technological innovations.
The panel asked them questions and generated some new ideas, organized them into industry areas, and prioritized the possibilities. They had no knowledge of the technologies beforehand, allowing their unbiased imaginations to come up with creative applications sometimes based on their unique experiences.
For example, Dr. Bill Toth, an electronics engineer, briefed the panel on a high-tech ID card that acts as a “security token,” allowing access to various levels of sensitive information. Toth’s invention was patented by the Army and is available to qualified businesses for commercialization.
TechLink, the Department of Defense’s national partnership intermediary, has previously facilitated Innovation Discovery Events for the Navy and the Air Force laboratories. Several of the events have led to patent license agreements that allow businesses to commercialize technologies developed in defense labs.
“These events are also great networking opportunities,” said Brian Metzger, a senior technology manager at Techlink who helped facilitate the event. “We bring a group of smart people together and watch the sparks fly. And the scientists, engineers and subject matter experts really enjoy getting out of the lab and talking about applications for their technologies they never imagined. It can help boost morale and inspire new thinking.”