Moving Technology from Test Tube to Commercial Product: A Case Study of Three Inventions
Robert G. Bryant
Affiliation: NASA Langley Research Center, Hampton, VA 23681, USA.
Successful technologies include objects, processes, and procedures that share a common theme; they are being
used to generate new products that create economic growth. The foundation is the invention, but the invention is a small
part of the overall effort. The pathway to success is understanding the competition, proper planning, record keeping,
integrating a supply chain, understanding actual costs, intellectual property (IP), benchmarking, and timing. Additionally,
there are obstacles that include financing, what to make, buy, and sell, and the division of labor i.e. recognizing who is
best at what task. Over the past two decades, NASA Langley Research Center (LaRC) has developed several
commercially available technologies. The approach to the commercialization of three of these inventions; Langley
Research Center-Soluble Imide (LaRC-SI, Imitec Inc.), the Thin Layer Unimorph Driver (THUNDER, FACE
International), and the Macrofiber Composite (MFC, Smart Material Corp.) will be described, as well as some of the
lessons learned from the process. What makes these three inventions interesting is that one was created in the laboratory;
another was built using the previous invention as part of its process, and the last one was created by packaging
commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) materials thereby creating a new component.
Keywords: Commercialization, Inventions, LaRC-SI, Materials, MFC, NASA, THUNDER, TRL.
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