Federal laboratories as industry partners

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Administration


Stuart Bretschneider


technology transfer, federal agencies

Subject Categories

Political Science | Public Affairs, Public Policy and Public Administration


This research examines the effectiveness of interactions between federal labs and firms. Federal efforts to transfer commercializable technologies to industry have been on the policy agenda since the early 1980's, inclusive of incentives for lab personnel to license technologies to and forge cooperative agreements with firms. Based on the firms' perspectives, this study sought to learn how initiating roles of the firms and labs may contribute to effectiveness.

The findings both support and challenge the framework. On the one hand, lab initiation roles and geographic proximity, especially, are important. On the other hand, company initiation and previous lab experience are important in some respects, though not always in the expected manner. Initiation by lab R&D professionals and management suggests success on the part of the lab in foreseeing and preventing problems in the interaction. Geographic proximity has a positive influence on outcome regardless of which dependent variable is examined.

Other findings raise more questions than they answer. Company initiation by and large contributes nothing to the outcome of the interaction, with the exception of some interactive effects. Previous interpersonal experience positively influences outcome, though, unexpectedly, previous organizational experience did not--except its interactive effects with company initiation of the interaction. These interactive effects were unexpectedly negative. Implications may include that expectations of firms with previous organizational experience and with incentives to initiate may have higher expectations of the lab.

Interpretations presented are not considered to be exhaustive of all implications and should be approached in a guarded manner until future research re-tests these hypotheses with corrections for sources of error of this study. Among other things, these findings suggest that policy should account not only for variations in mission in culture of the various labs but also in regional aspects such as major technological or industrial bases--or lack of--constituting the labs' immediate regions. An additional policy question raised, particularly in light of the findings on lab initiation and proximity, is the question of equitable access of firms to lab.


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