Through licensing agreements, NREL provides industry with an opportunity to commercialize NREL-developed energy technologies and products. Our licensing opportunities are available to both small and large businesses—from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.
The licensing agreement process basically includes seven steps. See the NREL Licensing Agreement Process flowchart.
We are committed to working through these steps in a timely manner. Experience suggests that the fastest means to reach an agreement is through direct communications to create understanding and agree on actions.
1. Identify and Qualify Opportunity
To identify an opportunity, a company can browse the technologies available for licensing.
When an opportunity has been identified, NREL then asks the company to provide information to assess its resources, capabilities, and commitment to commercialize the technology. We use the following forms and questionnaire:
- Licensing Candidate Information – Small Business
- Licensing Candidate Information – Large Business
- Summary Questionnaire for Licensing Candidates
The company must provide this information, so NREL can evaluate whether a licensing agreement would be beneficial for both the lab and the company. If the licensing opportunity meets these qualifications, we ask the potential licensee to review our mandatory license clauses to see if they're acceptable before investing time in the development of a license. If the company finds them acceptable, negotiations may begin.
2. Assess Need for Nondisclosure Agreement
At the beginning of the negotiation process, NREL and the company will assess whether they need a nondisclosure agreement. For more information, see nondisclosure agreements.
3. Negotiate Term Sheet
The next step involves negotiating the business terms of the license, such as field of use, the intellectual property that is being licensed, fees, royalties, milestones, and restrictions.
4. Develop Draft License Agreement
After the company and NREL agree on the terms sheet, NREL will draft a license agreement. NREL's licenses include:
Provide a return on taxpayers' investment in and a market mechanism for the technology.
- Grant of Rights
Subject to the government retaining an irrevocable, nonexclusive, nontransferable, royalty-free license.
- Nonexclusive or Exclusive Terms
Depend on the technology's field of use. See nonexclusive and exclusive licenses for more information.
- Regulatory Approvals
Subject to the need for a licensee to obtain regulatory approvals for applying the technology.
- Limited Warranty
Provides no warranty, expressed or implied, with respect to the merchantability, completeness, or usefulness of the licensed technology, methods, or products.
- Indemnification Language
Requires the licensee and any sub-licensees to indemnify MRIGlobal, U.S. Department of Energy, their officers, employees, and affiliates for all damages, costs, and expenses arising from personal injury or property related to the manufacturing, using, and selling of the licensed technology, methods, or products.
5. Negotiate License Language
The company then reviews and comments on the license agreement draft. If needed, the company and NREL negotiate the license's language. Many aspects of NREL licenses are negotiable, but some are not. Nonnegotiable items include those required under our operating contract with the U.S. Department of Energy. We're also sometimes limited on our flexibility with other items.
6. Execute License
When the negotiation process ends, NREL and the company execute the license under the terms of the agreement.
7. Manage Commitment
Both NREL and the company manage their performance milestones for achieving the license's commercialization goal.
The timeline varies greatly depending on the complexity of the license agreement and the types of grants desired. Our goal is to execute nonexclusive licenses within 90 days of commencing term sheet discussions.
Here you'll find NREL's licensing agreement templates. These documents are available as PDFs.
To submit company information, or if you have any questions about the licensing process, contact Eric Payne, 303-275-3166.
NREL strives to quickly resolve any issue or concern you may have regarding its technology partnership agreement activities. To learn more about our informal resolution process, see information about NREL's Technology Transfer Ombuds.