Taking steps to improve performance planning could help the Department of Energy (DOE) transfer technologies from the agency to private companies, and avoid barriers that can hinder tech transfer, the Federal government’s chief watchdog agency said.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) looked at DOE’s technology transfer practices and found that the department and its national laboratories already have taken steps to address potential barriers to technology transfers. Those barriers were identified by GAO as including: gaps in funding; legal and administrative barriers; and a lack of alignment between DOE research and industry needs.

“DOE plans and tracks the performance of its technology transfer activities by setting strategic goals and objectives and annually collecting department-wide technology transfer measures, such as the number of patented inventions and licenses,” GAO said in its report. “However, the department does not have objective and measurable performance goals to assess progress toward the broader strategic goals and objectives it developed.”

Further, DOE hasn’t yet aligned 79 existing measures that it collects with its goals and objectives, and hasn’t prioritized them, GAO said.

GAO made two recommendations to the agency, both of which DOE concurred:

  1. Assessing whether researchers at national labs, sites, and plants have the necessary skills training to identify and collaborate with technology transfer partners, and address any skills training gaps; and
  2. Develop objective, quantifiable, and measurable performance goals – and a limited number of related performance measures or milestones – to assess progress towards objectives in DOE’s technology transfer plan and signal priorities.
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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.