Insights from the Tech Scout Relay
Panel at the 2018 R&D 100 Conference
By Vicki A. Barbur, PhD, Battelle
for a Faster Path to
ore than $150 billion in federal funding is invested in R&D
annually in the United States. A key question is whether or not
we are getting the maximum return on that investment.
Right now, the answer is that we could do better (1). Although
technology transfer from 1996 to 2013 has contributed $518 billion
to the U.S. gross domestic product and $1.1 trillion to the U.S. gross
industrial output—with an impact of producing 3. 8 million jobs for
the U.S. economy( 2)—there are still many promising new technologies in
government and university laboratories with no clear path to commercialization.
Most technologies fail because they do not align with a market need, they are not economically viable
or they are simply not mature enough for the marketplace. Yet many technologies waiting in the wings
could have significant value in the commercial sector if only they received appropriate exposure or visibility
to would-be receiving entities. A few may even have the potential to transform industries, disrupt traditional,
out-of-date processes or solve critical problems for society.
Why is the path to commercialization slow, and sometimes tortuous, for these innovations? What
can we do to smooth the way and accelerate the process of bringing new technologies and product
ideas out of the lab and into the market? How can we derive a higher return on the invested
billions of taxpayer dollars, drive economic development and support increased well-being for the
I recently had the privilege of moderating a panel at the 2018 R&D 100 Conference that
explored these issues in depth. The Tech Scout Relay Panel brought together a stellar cast
representing a diverse range of interests, backgrounds and organizations to discuss the
challenges that come with identifying, channeling and leveraging emerging technologies
into business opportunities. Our panelists included Dr. Terry Russell, Managing Director of
Interface Ventures; Laura A. Schoppe, President of Fuentek LLC; George Gibson, Director
of Technology Scouting at Xerox Corporation; and Jack G. Abid, Registered Patent Attorney
with Allen, Dyer, Doppelt & Gilchrist, P.A..