Technology Transfer

MIT Lincoln Laboratory has a long history of promoting technology transfer for application in the defense and the civil sectors. Many technologies initially developed to meet defense requirements have been re-adapted for commercial use. For example, under the U.S. Air Force's Semi-Automatic Ground Environment air defense program of the 1950s, Lincoln Laboratory’s expansion of the capabilities of MIT's Whirlwind computer, the first to operate in real time and to use video displays for output, led to the development of business computers and minicomputers in the 1960s.

The Laboratory's contributions to air traffic control and air safety have resulted in the adoption of Laboratory-developed technology into the national air traffic industry. The Traffic Alert and Collision Avoidance System, now mandated for all large aircraft operating in the U.S., was developed and tested at the Laboratory.

Takeoff Hold Lights at LA airportTakeoff Hold Lights, seen here at the Los Angeles International Airport, are components of the Runway Status Lights system. The lights indicate to pilots that it is unsafe to take off because a runway ahead is occupied.

The Runway Status Lights system developed in collaboration with the Federal Aviation Administration to warn pilots and air traffic controllers of the presence of aircraft on runways has been operationally demonstrated at Boston's Logan International Airport. This technology won a 2010 R&D 100 Award for being an innovation with potentially significant application.

One reason for the Laboratory's success in transferring technology is its participation in collaborative programs with industry.

Lincoln Laboratory's focus on adapting and demonstrating new, advanced capabilities to enhance existing systems results in important technology transfer opportunities. The continuing adaptation of emerging enabling technologies ensures not only that critical national systems expertise is sustained but also that additional innovations can be transitioned to the services and industry as rapidly as possible.

Tech transfer strategies
Transfer of technology is an important part of Lincoln Laboratory's mission and is accomplished in several ways as circumstances allow:

  • direct transfer of designs and specifications
  • funded industrial development of Lincoln Laboratory–designed subsystems
  • establishment of advanced test bed systems against which industry can develop systems and verify performance

A common strategy for transitioning technology is to share the "architectural recipe" and work with commercial component and subsystem suppliers to assure that technology advances demonstrated by the Laboratory can be duplicated by industry.

One reason for the Laboratory's success in transferring technology is its participation in collaborative programs with industry. For example, the Laboratory's Microelectronics Laboratory, a world-class silicon integrated-circuit research facility capable of fabricating advanced prototype electronic devices, enables cooperative research programs with industry to develop advanced semiconductor manufacturing tools and processes. Such collaborations complement the Laboratory's work on developing and prototyping new device concepts.

The Laboratory accomplishes less direct technology transfer by sharing concepts with technical communities at various venues:

  • one-on-one technical meetings
  • open technical seminars
  • industry-wide workshops in areas of the Laboratory's expertise

Contributions to U.S. economy
A direct measure of the Laboratory's contribution to the nation's economy is its success in patenting technology. Since 1951, approximately 730 U.S. patents and 256 foreign patents derived from work at Lincoln Laboratory are held by MIT; 337 U.S. patents have been licensed to industry (see Selected Patents page for recent patents).

In the 62 years since Lincoln Laboratory’s inception, about 95 high-technology companies have been started by Laboratory technical staff. These companies' services and products range from multimedia software services to advanced semiconductor lithography. The steady formation of new companies attests to the Laboratory's continued commitment to pursue technology that is at the forefront of the field. And, as the United States relies on high-technology firms for significant contributions to economic vitality, the Laboratory's technology development for the DoD and other government agencies continues to open new frontiers for commercial applications.

Example Successful Technology Transfers

Space Surveillance TelescopeSpace Surveillance Telescope
The Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) at right achieved first light in 2011. Lincoln Laboratory developed enabling technologies for the telescope—an innovative curved charge-coupled device imager and a specialized shutter. The Laboratory provided algorithms for the SST's control and data processing, and was responsible for integration of the entire SST system.



Pathogen Analyzer for Threatening Environmental Releases (PANTHER)
The portable PANTHER CUB sensor (at right) uses the Laboratory-developed CANARY (for Cellular Analysis and Notification of Antigen Risks) technology for detecting pathogens and soluble protein toxins. The technology has been licensed to Innovative Biosensors, Inc., who, in January 2008, began marketing a product, BioFlash, based on the PANTHER technology.
Photo of PANTHER CUB sensor

Past Award Winners
Lincoln Laboratory contributed foundation technologies to two systems that received the 2002 Packard Excellence in Acquisition Award:

The Joint Biological Point Detection System—Bioaerosol sensing and microlaser technologies for this system are in commercial production.

Geosynchronous Lightweight Integrated Technology Experiment (GeoLITE)—The optical communications technologies used in the GeoLITE free-space optical communications satellite demonstration system are now commercially available for use in follow-on optical communications programs.

Photo of Joint Biological Point Detection System The Joint Biological Point Detection System (at left) incorporates a biosensing system that was developed by Lincoln Laboratory and that has been transitioned to commerical production.



top of page