|Technology Transfer: Federal Laboratory Consortium Should Increase Communication with Potential Customers to Improve Initiatives|
The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) has taken steps to communicate with potential customers, including small businesses and entrepreneurs, but has not obtained feedback from them to assess their needs when designing and implementing technology transfer clearinghouse initiatives. This resulted in missed opportunities to better meet potential customer needs. For example, in 2012, when developing a web-based search tool to help potential customers identify relevant federal technology transfer opportunities across federal laboratories (labs), FLC discussed how to implement the tool with its federal member labs and agencies. However, FLC did not assess the information needs of potential customers to ensure the tool would provide relevant information in a format that customers consider useful, as called for by leading practices and federal internal control standards on communicating with and obtaining information from stakeholders. FLC officials said they conducted testing to ensure the new website functioned as intended before launching it, but did not involve potential customers in these tests. Moreover, after developing the tool, FLC did not communicate with potential customers to collect feedback from them consistent with leading practices regarding the extent to which the tool met their needs or how it might be improved before implementing it. Potential customers of FLC's initiatives expressed concerns about the extent to which FLC's recent web-based search tool would meet their needs, specifically noting that the tool: • provides limited information to facilitate personal interaction between federal researchers and customers, despite the importance of spontaneous idea sharing to facilitate technology transfer; • provides limited information on the full range of technology transfer opportunities, focusing instead on federally patented technologies; • affords customers limited ability to compare technologies across labs; and • provides limited information on the market relevance of a given technology.