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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 to protect the competitive position of the industry partner for up to 5 years.

Model CRADA: TFHRC 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.  A CRADA offers both parties many benefits, including it:

  • Provides a means to leverage research budgets and optimize resources.
  • Provides a means for sharing technical expertise, concepts and information.
  • Is a flexible mechanism for transferring the results of Federally-funded research and development to the private sector.
  • Provides protection from disclosure by the Federal government of any proprietary information brought to the CRADA by the partner.
  • Provides ability for Federal and non-Federal researchers and engineers to collaborate.
  • Allows FHWA the advantage of free use of the invention for all time, and/or has the advantage of a percentage of royalty income generated because of commercialization.
  • Allows access by the non-Federal partner to expertise at the FHWA/TFHRC.
  • Is an agreement by the partners to share intellectual property that results from the research, or agreement to the retention by one of the partners of an exclusive license to patentable research.
  • Protection of information resulting from the CRADA from disclosure under Freedom of Information Act requests for up to 5 years.
  • Allows inventing researchers to receive a percentage of the royalties generated as a result of the commercialization of any subject invention(s).
  • Provides access for private-sector parties to Federal expertise/facilities, with the potential for profit making that such access brings, and allows an opportunity to obtain rights to commercialize the result of collaboration.
  • Assures no invoices or miscellaneous receipts to review.
  • Allows funds received from the CRADA to be used to hire personnel to carry out the agreement who will not be subject to the full-time-equivalent restrictions of the agency.

Characteristics of TFHRC CRADAs

TFHRC 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.

TFHRC 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 United States-based companies.

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?

CRADAs 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. When soliciting a partner, FHWA will advertise its needs in an appropriate medium. Examples include announcements posted in FedBizOpps, Agency websites, or in the Federal Register, presentations at professional meetings, or announcements in professional publications.
  • 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

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 will initiate a Statement of Work with the potential industry partner. The TFHRC Principal Investigator will also provide 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. Thus, CRADAs can usually be implemented quickly and with few complications.

Generic CRADA Process Overview

  1. TFHRC will occasionally issue a notice of CRADA opportunity on FedBizOpps ( or other venues listed in the How is a CRADA Initiated section above, 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. All parties will negotiate CRADA terms.
  5. All parties will prepare the final CRADA.
  6. All parties will obtain all necessary approvals.
  7. All parties will sign to execute the CRADA.