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Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA)

Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) engages in CRADAs with the private sector and academia to develop and commercialize new highway-related technologies. A CRADA is a written agreement to work together on a mutually beneficial project. Under the authority of the Stevenson-Wydler Technology Innovation Act of 1980, as amended by the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986, a CRADA allows the Federal Government and non-Federal partners to optimize their resources, share technical expertise in a protected environment, share intellectual property emerging from the effort, and speed the commercialization of federally developed technology.

Each partner in the CRADA applies whatever resources are agreed to, such as personnel, equipment, or facilities. While participant dollars may be used to fund portions of the Government's effort, the Government may not use Federal funds to support the private sector participant. The Federal Highway Administration’s (FHWA’s) participation is “in kind” rather than in funds.

Confidentiality: The FHWA may agree, when appropriate, that data generated under a CRADA will remain confidential in order to protect the competitive position of the industry partner for up to 5 years.

Model CRADA: Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center provides a model CRADA to initiate negotiations on CRADA collaboration. This model is subject to negotiation between the parties.

A CRADA is an excellent technology-transfer tool. It can:

  • Provide incentives that help speed the commercialization of federally developed technology.

  • Allow both parties to leverage resources, knowledge, and expertise.

  • Protect any proprietary information brought to the CRADA effort by the partner.

  • Allow all parties to the CRADA to keep research results confidential and free from disclosure through the Freedom of Information Act for up to 5 years.

  • Allow the Government and the partner to share patents and patent licenses.

  • Permit one partner to retain exclusive rights to a patent or patent license.

Characteristics of TFHRC CRADAs

Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center seeks CRADA partnerships using technologies that align with its mission of solving national highway problems and that fall under TFHRC’s major areas of Infrastructure, Safety, and Operations.

Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center gives preference to partners whose business units are located in the United States and who agree that products resulting from the CRADA will be manufactured primarily in the United States. If the potential partner is part of a foreign-owned company, TFHRC will consider how that country works with companies based in the United States.

A CRADA may not place TFHRC or FHWA in direct competition with the private sector. Additionally, a CRADA may not conflict or interfere with regular ongoing research programs at TFHRC, or create a future burden for TFHRC and the FHWA.

How is a CRADA Initiated?

Cooperative Research and Development Agreements grow out of good professional relationships between TFHRC and collaborating partners, and may be initiated either by FHWA or by industry.

  • FHWA Initiated: A CRADA is initiated by FHWA when a TFHRC researcher believes that a technology or innovation has commercial potential and that there will be industry interest in developing a marketable commercial product or if industry has unique resources needed to further develop an FHWA technology or idea to a marketable stage. CRADAs initiated by FHWA are posted on FedBizOpps (https://www.fbo.gov) for all interested parties.

  • Industry Initiated: CRADAs can originate out of professional interactions between a TFHRC researcher and a non-FHWA industry colleague, or when a company has begun development of a commercial product but requires the unique resources of the FHWA’s TFHRC to perform critical testing and refine the product. The firm may contact TFHRC through the process described below to initiate consideration for the development of a CRADA.

The most effective way to initiate a CRADA is for the potential participant to send a letter expressing interest to the appropriate TFHRC lab manager (see the Staff Expertise web page) or to one of the administrative contacts listed below. The expression of interest should describe the proposed collaboration sufficient for TFHRC to review and evaluate its merit based on the critical considerations that follow, and should identify the specific TFHRC laboratory that would be engaged in any collaboration.

Correspondence not addressed to a specific lab manager may be sent to:

Mary Huie, Innovation Management/Technology Transfer Program Manager, at mary.huie@dot.gov.

Critical considerations in the FHWA/TFHRC’s determination to enter into a CRADA include:

  • Technological Merit: The proposed technology or laboratory evaluation has strong technical rationale, represents technological innovation, and couples high risk with high feasibility.

  • Potential for Economic Competitiveness: The proposed collaboration offers the potential for economic benefits to the United States and its citizens.

  • Facility Expertise, Equipment, and Resource Availability: The specific laboratory or Federal expertise needed to collaborate on the research effort is available at the time of the request, and TFHRC resource needs associated with conducting the research is appropriate for the perceived benefits.

  • Research Gaps: The request is consistent with TFHRC focus areas and FHWA strategic research goals.

The expression of interest triggers discussions within TFHRC and, if the proposed collaboration seems promising, TFHRC and the potential participant decide whether they can define a project that benefits both parties, and whether the needed resources are available to perform the envisioned work. The TFHRC may also request additional information from the proposed participant as needed for the review process. If TFHRC agrees that collaboration would be in the best interests of all parties, a TFHRC Principal Investigator initiates a Statement of Work with the potential industry partner. The TFHRC Principal Investigator also provides a copy of the TFHRC Model CRADA to the partner as the starting point for negotiating the terms and conditions of the CRADA.

If TFHRC determines that the request does not satisfy the criteria, the costs are too high, the requested laboratory is booked for other research, or the research is not a top priority, then TFHRC will notify the requestor of the decision and the reason(s) for not proceeding with the project or if other options are available. The decision by TFHRC is final.

The TFHRC Director makes the final decision about whether TFHRC will pursue a CRADA opportunity. No funds are transferred from TFHRC to the private sector participant, so most regulations governing Federal procurements do not apply. As a result, CRADAs can usually be implemented quickly and with few complications.

Generic CRADA Process Overview

  1. Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center may occasionally issue a notice of CRADA opportunity on FedBizOpps (https://www.fbo.gov), but most CRADAs will result from joint interaction or submissions from interested collaborators on this research website.
  2. Researchers will discuss ideas, identify an area of mutual interest, draft a research plan, and generate a CRADA proposal package. The CRADA proposal package shall include a joint work statement with milestones.
  3. FHWA will obtain Office of Chief Counsel concurrence.
  4. Negotiation CRADA terms.
  5. Preparation of final CRADA.
  6. All parties obtain necessary approvals.
  7. Execution of the CRADA.
Updated: Monday, June 17, 2019