Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Regulatory Risks Of Leveraging Federal Lab Innovation

The Federal Laboratory Consortium is a gold mine begging for exploration. Technology gathering dust in lab basements and filing cabinets needs entrepreneurs to make it economically viable. The regulatory landscape has holes at the federal level that beg to be filled. Here are some Alfidi Capital tips for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) looking to make tech innovation work while avoiding regulatory traps.

The Brookings Institution published "Going Local" in 2014 about how DOE's labs should support regional economic growth. White papers are full of ideas that gather dust, just like great tech ideas without people implementing them. The lead time for processing a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) or a work for other agreement (WFO) may be too long for specific product development but just right for a basic tech demonstration. The SMB moving a tech concept out of the lab's basement may be suited for small-scale funding typical of the NREL's technical and analytical service agreements.

The President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report "Big Data: A Technological Perspective" from 2014 will set federal policy on data privacy for years. Government regulations crossing multiple agencies' jurisdictions has a way of guaranteeing a market for products. Large firms faced with the regulatory risk of meeting Big Data privacy mandates will need solutions. Small firms should factor privacy compliance into their product development milestones.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences report "Restoring the Foundation" in 2014 recommended permanent Presidential attention to R+D spending. Federal tech funding as a GDP percentage cannot stagnate forever. Its eventual recovery will provide funding opportunities for SMBs ready to jump into grants and contracts.

Watching the slow progress in implementing all of these reports' recommendations is disheartening. Untangling the jumble of federal advisory committees shepherding regulatory reform is outside the private sector's control, unless the President appoints business-friendly people to run the process. American SMBs cannot wait for reform. They should master the funding application system now and gain experience working through the system.