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The Next Wave | Vol. 19 | No. 3 | 2012

NSA technology transfer:
Access to innovation

NSA's Technology Transfer Program (TTP) provides a venue for NSA scientists and engineers to share federally funded intellectual property and to conduct collaborative research with private industry, academia, nonprofits, other federal agencies, and state and local governments. The TTP transfers technologies encompassing a broad spectrum of scientific disciplines including:

Acoustics—NSA's acoustic technologies include methods for identification, extraction, and analysis of voice and voice signals. Additional technologies include foreign language voice recognition, duplicate voice identification, and methods of measuring voice enhancement.

Examples available for license:

    Method of comparing voice signals.

    Method of phone–based speaker recognition.

    Voice activity detector.

Communications—NSA's communication technologies include methods of transmitter geolocation, station synchronization methods, error correction, filters, equipment simulation methods, and novel speech transmission techniques.

Examples available for license:

    Method of correcting modem transmission errors.

    Method of locating a transmitter.

    Device for impedance matching radio frequency open wire transmission lines.

Advanced mathematics—NSA's advanced mathematics technologies include computerized systems for solving nonlinear Boolean equations, cryptographic methods, random number generation, geometric pattern recognition, and methods to display complex mathematics.

Examples available for license:

    Method for solving nonlinear Boolean equations.

    Cryptographic method using modified fractional fourier transform kernel.

    Method for generating multiple random numbers.

Computer technology—NSA's computer technologies include advanced software techniques as well as novel hardware input/output devices.

Examples available for license:

    Method of protecting a computer stack.

    Method of removing loops from a computer program.

    Method of monitoring multiple computer calls.

Microelectronics—NSA's microelectronics technologies include water fabrication methods, specialty electronic circuits, methods to view magnetic patterns on magnetic media, and novel circuit board technologies.

Examples available for license:

    Method of making a thin, conformal, high–yielding, multichip module.

    Printed circuit board with RF absorber.

    Method for bumping a thin wafer.

Information processing—NSA's information processing technologies include methods to efficiently store, retrieve, and modify data in any language format, methods to extract text from graphics, optical character recognition, and authentication methods.

Examples available for license:

    Method of storing, retrieving, and modifying data in any language representation.

    Method of extracting text from graphical images.

    Method of biometric authentication.

Security—NSA's security technologies include methods of generating cryptographic keys, digital signature validation, secure computing technologies using virtual machines, as well as physical security devices.

Examples available for license:

    Self–authenticating cryptographic apparatus.

    Device for and a method of secure computing using virtual machines.

Networking—NSA's networking technologies include advanced firewall technologies, multiple level minimum logic networks, traffic monitoring as well as inter–network data transport, secure file transfer, and network address location methods.

Examples available for license:

    Multiple level minimum logic network.

    Firewall for processing a connectionless network packet.

    Method for geolocating logical network addresses.

Optics—NSA's optical technologies include optical bandpass filters, optical switches, modulators, optical clock recovery, and beacon authentication methods.

Examples available for license:

    Acousto–optic bandpass filter.

    Device for modulating an optical signal using a single waveguide.

    All fiber optically controlled optical switch.

    Method of authenticating beacon.

Signal processing—NSA's signal processing technologies include transmitter location methods, range limited antennas, noise reduction techniques, amplification, frequency estimation, and signal decoding methods

Examples available for license:

    Range limited antenna.

    Method of signal processing for determining range and velocity of an object.

    Method for removing noise and interference from a signal

Technology transfer mechanisms

To facilitate the transfer of technology to its partners, NSA's TTP utilizes several mechanisms including the following:

Patent License Agreement (PLA)

A PLA is a license granted by NSA to a partner to commercially develop and market its patents and patent applications. Using a PLA, NSA grants its partner a nonexclusive, partially exclusive, or fully exclusive license to make, use, or sell the patented invention. In return, the partner typically pays a royalty back to the government.

When a patented NSA technology is identified by a licensee as having commercial potential, the licensee submits a satisfactory development and marketing plan. This plan outlines the licensee's approach to commercialization of the invention. The invention must be brought to market within a specified time period and the licensee must continue to make the benefits of the invention accessible to the public.

A PLA is designed to maximize the use of NSA developed technology in the private sector. Benefits of a PLA include:

    Encouraging commercialization of federally funded research in the private sector.

    Saving industry and academia the cost and time of conducting research and development (R&D).

    Providing royalty income to the government and its inventors.

    Creating new industry and employment opportunities in the private sector.

    Maximizing the value of the NSA's R&D investment and resulting technologies.

    Increasing the awareness of market and technology trends and the needs of both industry and government.

Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA)

A CRADA is a cooperative agreement between NSA and industry, academia, nonprofits, and state and local governments. These agreements leverage each party's resources in order to conduct R&D that benefits both. Through this collaboration, each party shares the benefits and risks in obtaining valuable technology transfer goals and objectives.

A CRADA allows both parties to leverage personnel, facilities, equipment, and other resources during collaborative R&D activities. The nonfederal partner does not receive any funds from NSA, but may contribute funds to the project. Under a CRADA, the government may grant the nonfederal partner patent licenses for any invention developed under the agreement.

A CRADA is one of the most valuable technology transfer mechanisms for obtaining long-term value. The benefits of entering into a CRADA include:

    Creating new products, processes, and intellectual property to meet mission and commercial goals.

    Reducing research and development costs and time.

    Leveraging external expertise, ideas, and resources.

    Providing a joint approach to solve specific problems by applying different cultural solutions.

    Increasing the probability of bringing inventions to the marketplace.

    Increasing the awareness of market and technology trends and the needs of both industry and government.

Educational Partnership Agreement (EPA)

An EPA is an agreement between NSA and an educational institution to transfer or enhance technology and provide technology assistance to the institution. Under an EPA, NSA scientists can provide training and mentoring to personnel in the science and technology fields. Also, NSA may transfer or donate laboratory equipment to public and private schools.

An EPA is normally initiated by an NSA sponsor who submits the educational objectives for review. A task plan is developed in collaboration with the institution outlining the learning objectives and goals. These goals may be teaching, mentoring, training personnel, developing curriculums, or transferring equipment and technology. Once approved, both parties can begin executing the learning tasks.

An EPA is designed to formalize the relationship between NSA and an educational institution. Benefits of an EPA include:

    Involving students to ensure a future resource of scientists, mathematicians, and engineers.

    Providing unique opportunities for learning not available from other resources.

    Providing access to NSA personnel to teach courses and develop science curriculums.

    Permitting students and teachers to become involved in developing useful technological applications.

    Providing access to NSA resources, either by loan or donation, which relieves institutions from some of the financial burden of R&D investment.

    Improving community awareness of NSA core values and enhancing the reputation of the laboratory.

Technology Transfer Sharing Agreement (TTSA)

NSA has numerous patents, patent applications, and other intellectual property (IP) that it frequently transfers to other government agencies. A TTSA is an agreement between NSA and another agency that protects NSA's rights to seek commercialization of technologies it owns and to effectively track the transfer of these technologies.

A TTSA is initiated by NSA government personnel for the recipient agency. Each TTSA includes specific language regarding noncomercialization and restricts the transfer for government use only. Contractors and other partners requiring technology in support of a contract must have their Contract Officer Representative (COR) submit the request.

A TTSA is designed to simplify the transfer of technology between NSA and other government agencies. Benefits of a TTSA include:

    Simplifying agreements that specify the purpose, terms, and conditions related to the technology transfer.

    Facilitating easy transition of technology between US government agencies.

    Reducing recipient agency R&D expenditures by leveraging previous NSA investments.

    Reducing development time of mission-specific technologies.

For more information about technology transfer or the TTP, visit, or contact us:

National Security Agency
Technology Transfer Program
9800 Savage Road, Suite 6541
Fort George G. Meade, MD 20755–6541

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Date Posted: Jan 15, 2009 | Last Modified: May 9, 2012 | Last Reviewed: May 9, 2012