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Tapping Into Government by Leveraging the Stimulus Package: Questions and Answers

A recent Management Roundtable audio session, “Tap into Government: Leveraging the Stimulus Package,” generated a great deal of interest and numerous questions among members. Below, the audio-session presenter, Susan Ward, President of ITECS, answers participants’ questions in a follow-up to the audio-session:

Question: If you are a company that receives funding, how is the ownership of the intellectual property resulting from the funding handled? Does the government own the IP?

Answer: The intellectual properties will be negotiated in the contract. Generally, the government has no interest in owning your IP and you will get to develop and maintain it.

Q: Are the contracts individual to each company as part of the grant, or for all companies involved in the grant?

A: A grant is normally awarded to a single company or university who then becomes the "Prime." The Prime can further subcontract to lower tier subcontractors under an agreement/contact to the Prime, but only the Prime is directly under contract to the government agency. Subcontractors are under contract with the Prime.

Q: How much advantage is there in getting funding approval if the contract involves multiple entities (e.g. companies, universities, public institutions, etc.)?

A: It depends on the work involved and the agency providing the grant.
As a rule it is a good idea to have at least one partner company involved, especially an end use customer for the product under development. It shows good potential for commercialization. Also, the government normally encourages involvement with academia, if it fits the nature of the project. Make sure however, that you negotiate all IP rights with your partners prior to pursuing the award.

Q: Do you think that there will be any sole-source awards for ideas of merit?

A: We think this will be highly unlikely with the stimulus funding (ARRA). There is a call for complete transparency and open bidding. We do think, however, that it is important for the agency to understand what technologies are out there prior to the open solicitation. Therefore, we recommend that you discuss your technology with the agency prior to the open solicitation. For the more traditional funding, we think there will always be congressional asks along with non-solicited proposals.

Q: Can you give some examples of alternative fuels?

A: Any energy/fuel source other than traditional sources such as energy obtained from coal, gasoline, or diesel. Any of the newer sources of energy that are not petroleum-based can be considered alternative. Examples include, but are not limited to, battery powered, solar power, wind-generated energy, hydrogen for combustion engines and fuel cells, water (falls and tidal generated energy), biomass generated methane or heat from incineration, etc. Definitions in EISA 2007, EPACT 2005, and EPACT 2002, provide a legal definition for tax credit purposes and for qualifying for federal funding opportunities. It is important if you are in this space to be involved with the Department of Energy (DOE) as it will be difficult to be competitive unless you are accessing funding and are involved as the policies are evolving.

Q: Beyond National Institutes of Health (NIH) or the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), will there be any funding available for infrastructure (i.e. buildings) for private companies doing R&D?

A: The DOE has been investing billions of dollars in infrastructure around alternative energy. For example, there is a $2.1B initiative around a battery for ground transportation. Much of these funds are being used to set up the infrastructure.

Q: Do big and profitable companies get grants?

A: Yes, especially for high risk, expensive R&D and/or for scale-up from bench scale to pilot scale to full production and commercialization. If it is a product that the government agency is very interested in having readily available and the producing company doesn't want to bear the financial risk alone, often a grant can be obtained on a risk mitigation basis.

For more information listen to the complete audio session or visit the ITECS site.