CRADAs are established between federal laboratories and commercial, academic or nonprofit partners to facilitate technology transfer between the parties for mutual benefit. Under a CRADA, the partner may contribute resources such as personnel, services, property and funding to the effort. The government may contribute all of the above except funding.
The Stephenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980 made technology transfer part of every federal laboratory’s mission. The act facilitates technology transfer from federal laboratories to non-federal organizations, providing the latter with a means to access federal laboratory developments.
Subsequent legislation provides significant new authorities for federal laboratories to establish CRADAs with private companies as well as public and non-profit organizations. It also allows for the negotiation of licensing arrangements for patented inventions developed at the laboratories.
The most desirable CRADA feature is the avenue provided for combining the R&D efforts of the technical partner and the military toward a common objective. Each party is responsible for its own efforts.
Patent and intellectual property rights belong to the inventor. The partner is given the opportunity to own the rights to joint invention.
The government is granted a royalty-free license for partner inventions under the CRADA for governmental purposes. The partner may negotiate for exclusive licenses for government inventions.
The CRADA is easy to establish with a straight forward contract section and mutually drafted Statement of Work (SOW). Since no funds may flow from the government to the technology partner, competition issues are set aside. Typically, a CRADA can be in place within 60 days of inception.
Once mutual interest with a technology partner has been established, the SOW is developed. This is the "engineer-to-engineer" section, defining the tasks to be performed by each party for achieving the stated research goal. The SOW is an appendix to the CRADA contract portion.
The contract is in plain language and follows a very standard format. Basically, it ensures the technology partner's safety of proprietary and patent rights while providing for the royalty-free licensing of the resultant technology to the military for government purposes only. Modifications to the contract can be made as required, and unilateral termination is allowed.
The document is in effect once it is signed by both parties. The parities work at their own pace and keep in frequent contact regarding their progress. The agreement is normally set up for the work to be completed in three years, but often projects are completed in less time.