Government-supported research and development work significantly supplements privately financed industrial R&D as the basis for new commercial products. Many technologies now in commercial use have seen their origin in work performed for another purpose by the aerospace industry, and are in essence useful by-products of such work. The paper presents a number of commercialization projects and comments on the process of “technology transfer” for each of these. Transfer of these technologies into the commercial arena frequently requires a change in engineering philosophy, and a change in the management and business environment of the project. Some of the projects discussed now have an established commercial application, while others are still in the process of technical development or establishing the necessary business framework. Projects reviewed which effectively completed the “technology transfer” include a surface-tension system now successfully used for cleaning up marine oil spills, an oxygen diffuser system for high-efficiency biological waste water treatment, and the application of missile ground checkout technology for automatic checkout of airline equipment. A number of projects still awaiting completion of the technology transfer process are also reviewed, including an optical black surface with the lowest known visible and infrared reflectivity, a novel cryogenic insulation system, and a heliostat-boiler system for combined solar/conventional power plants. The paper emphasizes the methods used to create the proper business environment for successful technology transfer, and discusses some of the typical obstacles encountered.


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