Did you know that the cameras astronauts use to take pictures in space utilize the same core technology as the camera in a smartphone? NASA-developed technology is all around us, integrated seamlessly into our lives. But what if it could also help you launch a new business? NASA’s Technology Transfer Office works to bring space-grade technologies out of the lab and into the hands of people who can commercialize them.
FedTech, working collaboratively with NASA’s Technology Transfer Expansion (T2X) initiative, pairs entrepreneurs with NASA-developed technology and groups them into teams for a dynamic experiential training program designed to turn ambitious entrepreneurs into lean startup companies.
FedTech kicked off their Summer Startup Studio in August 2021 with a twelve-team cohort, including 4 teams formed around NASA technologies. After a rigorous recruiting and application process, the selected entrepreneurs were grouped into technology teams and matched with mentors and coaches.
Over the course of five months, the entrepreneurs work through a two-phase program designed to take them from early-stage ideation to validated commercialization. Phase one focuses on preparing entrepreneurs for the challenge of assessing technologies by developing a foundational knowledge of entrepreneurial skills. Entrepreneurs meet weekly for lectures and engage in group breakouts, pitching practice, and other skill and network development activities. Phase two guides the groups through the critical steps of forming early-stage companies.
All of the entrepreneurs are working diligently with their coaches and mentors to identify novel use cases and conduct customer discovery interviews to test the viability of their ideas in a given industry. The teams evaluating the NASA-developed technologies have had the opportunity to describe their ideas to the NASA inventor and explain the rationale behind their alternate use cases. "This team has worked tirelessly to come up with new applications for this technology, which were completely different from their initial intended purpose.” Said Tracy L. Gibson, Ph.D. Professional and Technical Services at NASA Kennedy Space Center.
These entrepreneurs were selected for their vision, determination, and experience, but adapting space-based technologies for terrestrial application is challenging. This specialized instruction helps combat these challenges by providing entrepreneurs with an environment to test their assumptions and conduct consumer research to validate their business use cases. The participants can iterate in real-time, pivoting when appropriate, until they have a viable business model. There is also a valuable community element here. “This is a way for federal inventors and entrepreneurs to interact with and evaluate the commercial potential of NASA’s inventions. While the inventor team at NASA is busy maturing a technology for aerospace use, entrepreneurs can consider licensing it and adapting it for an alternative industrial use.” Said L. Danielle Koch, M.S., P.E. Aerospace Engineer at NASA Glenn Research Center.
The goal is to commercialize NASA-developed technology and inspire new tech-based startups. The FedTech Startup Studio is one of the ways that NASA advances this objective.
Click Here to learn more about NASA’s Technology Transfer Program