While Maryland boasts world-class universities and many private sector firms, the major reason it ranks No. 1 in the country in per capita research spending is the presence of 74 federal research laboratories, such as the National Institutes of Health.
Our federal laboratories host supremely talented researchers, including Nobel Prize winners, and house some of the nation’s most advanced laboratory equipment. Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia are the top three jurisdictions for internal federal laboratory research and development spending.
Collectively, over $15 billion in internal federal lab research and development spending takes place in the capital region, many times more than research budgets of Harvard, Stanford, MIT, UC Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland combined.
But due to federal laws, policies and practices, federal labs underperform in technology commercialization — also called tech transfer — and in many ways are sealed off from economically engaging with the communities where they are located.
At its core, tech transfer is a business, but it also provides a public good, allowing for discoveries to be made available to the public for better disease treatment. But federal laboratories lag greatly behind universities in royalty generation and economic engagement with local communities. Therefore a new approach is needed.
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