Doing Business Frequently Asked Questions
The following are frequently asked questions about working with in partnership with DOE laboratories.
What is different about working with the DOE laboratories?
The DOE laboratories have diverse backgrounds. They were created to support the various missions of the Department, including energy, national security, science, and related environmental activities. Each government-owned, contractor-operated (GOCO) laboratory is managed through an independent contract between the lead DOE Headquarters organization, its implementing local DOE Field or Operations Office, and the respective laboratory's managing organization. DOE organizations include Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Science, Defense Programs, and Environmental Management. Laboratory managing organizations can be one or more companies, universities, non-profit institutions, or a consortium. For example, Lockheed Martin manages and operates Sandia National Laboratories. The management contracts are subject to periodic review and evaluation, and re-competition. The combination of these elements can make it challenging to work with a DOE Laboratory. DOE also owns and operates laboratories (GOGOs) and other facilities that support specific DOE missions.
DOE also facilitates partnerships and cost-sharing of R&D projects through financial assistance and procurement. Learn more about how EERE works with industry and outside agencies to award funding.
Are any steps being taken to streamline the various processes by which the private sector can work with the DOE Laboratories?
Yes! Specific examples of improvements include:
- Many laboratories have established benchmarks and reengineered their practices. Today simple agreements for user facilities can be done within a week if all the terms of the pre-approved agreement are acceptable to industry.
- DOE streamlined agreements and has issued DOE Manual 483.1-1, which includes guidance for the negotiation and approval by DOE of all CRADAs (referenced on page 5). It includes a number of pre-approved clauses from which laboratories and companies/industry sectors can tailor an agreement.
- Time to reach a CRADA agreement has been reduced. The process is outlined in Table 1. All of these activities have their own timetables. Essentially, a more complex agreement can extend the preparation time. When the partners are in agreement, the preparation time can be reduced. Some CRADAs can be executed in less than one month.
Why does DOE retain government license and march-in rights?
Retention of these rights in CRADAs is required by law. The Government license is viewed as recognition of the Government investment that created the facility and the background technology from which a CRADA arises. March-in rights are retained by the Government to assure that technology arising from laboratories is commercialized. Should a laboratory licensee or CRADA partner abandon commercialization, the government has the right to require the partner to license a third party, who is interested in commercializing the technology, at a reasonable royalty. These rights have never been exercised.
How can companies protect their confidential and proprietary information while working with the DOE national laboratories?
CRADAs normally contain provisions addressing protection of a partner's proprietary data. Non-disclosure agreements can easily be put in place for initiating discussions related to creating a potential collaboration. Agreements to protect a partner's proprietary information can be executed prior to the initiation of any work. A company's proprietary information agreement template can be used, but use of the standard agreement offered by the national laboratory of interest often expedites the signature of these agreements. Data first produced in the performance of a CRADA can be protected from public release by the laboratory or the Government for five years. It is important that companies mark all the information that they provide to the laboratories' staff in accordance with the agreements between the parties for protection of data.
How can the intellectual property interests of multiple collaborators be accommodated?
There are examples of successful multi-party collaborations that accommodated the interests of various organizations, including multiple DOE laboratories. Clear communications and up-front negotiations of intellectual property rights can help save time. For example, in the alternative feedstocks for chemicals program, five laboratories set up sharing agreements of intellectual property among themselves and with a company. The intellectual property developed by one laboratory was used by other laboratories, and the company benefited from inventions at several laboratories.
Why are liability provisions in user agreements of Management and Operating (M&O) contractors so complex and frequently different from conventional commercial provisions?
Government laboratories are taxpayer-funded and self-insured, therefore, they must be limited in their ability to indemnify third parties.
Where can I find more information?
Visit DOE's Office of Science to access the full list of national laboratories and facilities.