Idea to Impact: Tech Transfer Ideation Studio

idea to impact photoNASA Technology Transfer Expansion, T2X, engages diverse communities to advance innovation and address the challenges of today and tomorrow. At the intersection of inclusive entrepreneurship, problems to be solved, and NASA-developed technology is an opportunity to tackle global sustainability challenges and impact the development of life-changing goods and services.

In September and October 2023, community leaders and entrepreneurs convened for a two-day event in Atlanta, GA, and New Orleans, LA. The Tech Ideation Studio pilot program, designed by NASA T2X and the Institute for Local Innovation (ILI), sought to embody the principles of, "think globally, act locally". Von Nkosi, Founder & President & CEO of ILI, selected five of the UN Sustainability Goals, and NASA T2X searched the Patent Portfolio to choose five technologies aligned with each goal. Participants were then encouraged to discuss the challenges of addressing these goals in their communities. These conversations yielded insights into the nuances and cultural context of these issues and led to profound discourse and actionable approaches to mitigating them.

The result was a candid discussion of intersectional issues and organic ideation around solutions. The T2X team introduced the NASA Patent Portfolio and a short list of technologies related to the UN Sustainability Goals, encouraging participants to consider ways to leverage them in their communities. "What sets our approach apart is the emphasis on contextual understanding. We're not just introducing technology but weaving it into the fabric of each community's unique challenges and aspirations. This method ensures that the solutions we develop are technologically sound, culturally resonant, and socially impactful,” said M. von Nkosi, ILI President. 

Following the discussion complementary groups formed around shared community goals and ideated in real time to apply NASA technologies to the local and global challenges they discussed. After a short period of focused work, groups presented their proposed commercialization plans and the challenges they hoped to address with them. “We are linking tech-based solutions to local problems with the potential to have global impacts.” Said Jeff Johnson. To illustrate the tangible applications of NASA-developed technology, the T2X team demoed the prototype for a water filtration technology developed by student engineers at NYIT using a NASA patent.

idea to impact photoThis novel approach to technology transfer involves embedding in a region and understanding its pain points. "Every community is different, and there is no singular solution to the environmental and social problems that each face,” said Mikaela McShane, NASA T2X Communications Director. Technology Transfer traditionally takes a linear approach; NASA has a portfolio of technologies, and they seek out companies who can commercialize them. Technology Transfer Expansion (T2X) reimagines this process, asking questions to understand the unique challenges at hand and determine if there is value proposition alignment between both groups. "Our collaboration with NASA's T2X initiative is a testament to the power of combining local knowledge with cutting-edge technology. By aligning NASA's technological advancements with the specific needs of diverse communities, we're not just innovating; we're supporting NASA’s efforts to transform how innovation is perceived and applied at the grassroots level,” said Nkosi.

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