NASA to Startups: Take Our Inventions and Patents, Please

One Direction at NASA's Johnson Space Center

One Direction at NASA's Johnson Space Center

How badly does NASA want startup companies to use its patented technology? Enough to begin offering it at no up-front cost as part of its just-announced Startup NASA initiative under the space agency’s Technology Transfer Program. Meant to address two common problems for startups -- raising capital and securing intellectual property rights -- the program encourages for-profit companies based in the U.S. to take advantage of NASA’s vault of 1,200 patented technologies, ranging from aeronautics to power generation to general electronics.

Startups can search for tech in 15 categories and apply online through NASA’s website. The agency said it is waiving the initial licensing fees for the patents, but will start collecting royalty fees if and when the company starts selling the product. Multiple startups will be allowed to apply for the same technology, but NASA said it is open to negotiating if exclusive rights are preferred.

"The Startup NASA initiative leverages the results of our cutting-edge research and development so entrepreneurs can take that research -- and some risks -- to create new products and new services," said David Miller, NASA's chief technologist, in a statement.

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A scan of available patents finds dozens that are of the hard-to-comprehend variety (we'll pass, "Nitinol-Actuated Normally Open Permanent Isolation Valve")... And then there are these:

Under the communications section, available tech includes the "Portable Wireless Signal Booster," a lightweight no-power-needed device that can boost local reception for things like cell phones and WiFi internet receivers. Spotify in the woods? Yup. Another useful-looking patent includes the one for “Ad Hoc Selection for Voice Over Internet Streams,” an encryption tool that converts one or more audio streams into an easy-to-monitor multicast on the user’s audio player.

Most (if not all) the tech found in the electronics section can be hard to wrap your head around, like the boss-sounding "Self-Scrubbing Technology for Reconfigurable Rad-Hard Memory Arrays." There's also the “Integrated Multi-Color Light Emitting Device Made With Hybrid Crystal Structure” that, on first glance, appears to streamline the colorization on LED displays and televisions. NASA calls LEDs a "significant market opportunity." You'll also the practical-sounding “Durable, Integrated Circuit Chips,” a patented invention that among other things helps prevent computer parts from overheating.

Over in the power generation and storage category, you have an invention for "Charging of Devices by Microwave Power Beaming," a device that uses microwaves to wirelessly power or charge a laptop, phone or other device in the same room as the beaming device. (Star Trek fans could name their waves-beaming power charger "Scotty" for obvious reasons.)

Interested? Find more on the Startup NASA initiative here.

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