How to Partner With NASA

    Partnership has always been a vital component of NASA’s mission, whether it is through the infusion of new technologies into NASA, or the Agency transferring its technologies out for public benefit.

    Either one of these types of partnerships may be ideal for your organization, and both provide access to NASA’s world-class facilities, technical expertise, and technology transfer resources.

    NASA encourages individual growth and technological creativity, which means your path to partnership may be as individualized as your expertise.

    As you read through the Steps to Achieving a NASA Partnership, make note of programs, titles, and special projects that best apply to your areas of interests. After the steps, you will find NASA’s “Online Partnering Tool” which will help you align your interests with the most appropriate experts at NASA. You will also be given the opportunity to further explain your specialized area of interest. All of this preparation ensures that NASA’s doors of technology will be opened to you and provide the best chance of a mutually beneficial partnership with the Agency.

    › Click here for NASA's Online Partnering Tool (Beta)

    Steps to Achieving a NASA Partnership (Click on the steps to view.)

    1. PREPARE FOR A NASA PARTNERSHIP: Know your organization's needs.

    Does your organization have an existing technology or innovation, a piece of knowledge you'd like to share with NASA, or are you looking for specific help?

    Many different organizations, including small businesses, universities, researchers, other government agencies—aerospace and non-aerospace—all partner with the NASA for a variety of reasons. Putting careful consideration into your team’s accomplishments, areas of expertise, and what you hope to gain by working with NASA will help facilitate successful agreements and communication.

    Many of NASA’s partners achieved success by reaching out to the Agency with focused goals, ideally a combination of a vision for advancing their work and meeting technology gaps within the Agency. Others set out to further a preconceived innovation while working with NASA scientists and engineers. By systematically prioritizing where your team has been, as well as plans for navigating the future you will steer your organization closer to a potentially rewarding relationship with NASA.

    2. FIND A FIT: Learn what NASA can offer.

    NASA has ten field centers across the country, all of which have different areas of expertise. Each of these field centers supports NASA’s missions in a unique way.

    Which field center you end up working with may not be entirely dependent upon geographic location; rather, a particular NASA mission need may drive your partnership.

    The technology taxonomy within the Online Partnering Tool will help you find which field centers best fit your technology interests.

    Additional Resources

    The annual Spinoff report shows how companies have successfully transformed NASA technologies into viable commercial products.

    The Hallmarks Video Gallery feature short clips explaining how various partners have benefitted from working with NASA.

    NASA Tech Finder is one stop shopping for detailed information on technology and licensing opportunities.

    3. CAPTURE THE COMMONALITIES: Identify areas of mutual interest between NASA and your organization.

    NASA is a mission-focused agency. The greater your technical needs match NASA’s mission needs, the more likely it is that a partnership can be forged. While NASA also gives consideration to what benefits your organization can offer toward the partnership, the primary driver is satisfying mission needs. Aligning your proposal with our mission needs is, therefore, of strategic benefit when trying to work with NASA.

    A note on technological maturity: The agency rates technology development based on levels of flight readiness, and recognizes that not all technologies are at the most advanced stages of development. In fact, we are interested in these nascent, innovative ideas and helping them develop into technologies. An organization in possession of research, but without a tangible invention, may still meet an integral mission need. From simple ideas and observations, to prototypes, and flight-proven hardware, NASA considers all possible innovation technologies that may potentially match a mission need.

    Additional Resources

    NASA’s Technology Readiness Level (TRL) ranking system demystified.

    4. CREATE COLLABORATION: Identify what elements your organization can bring to a partnership with NASA.

    NASA maintains six main partnering tools an organization can use as a vehicle towards collaboration. The Agency strives to establish alliances based on mutual benefits, as well as the strength of an organization's capabilities.

    The manner in which an organization can contribute to the Agency is also weighted when an organization comes together to work with NASA in a partnership. Once your team can identify its strongest qualities, as they match against NASA's needs, together, the two parties can begin to examine the scope of a potential agreement. Consideration to the schedule, cost and risks associated with the new technology or innovation are all be considered. Review the Agency's Vision for Space Exploration for more information on how these priorities are valued and vital to the success of a partnership. Demonstrating a strong level of commitment towards a new endeavor with NASA is of great indicator of an organization's intent to move forward.

    The manner in which an organization can contribute to the Agency is also weighted when an institution comes together to work with NASA in a partnership. Once your team can identify its strongest qualities, as they match against NASA's needs, together, the two parties can begin to examine the scope of a potential agreement. Consideration to the schedule, cost and risks associated with the new technology or innovation are all be considered. Review the Agency's Vision for Space Exploration for more information on how these priorities are valued and vital to the success of a partnership. Demonstrating a strong level of commitment towards a new endeavor with NASA is of great indicator of an organization's intent to move forward.

    NASA is in a position to help facilitate growth of a technology and maintain a Seed Fund, which enhances the Agency’s ability to meet mission technology goals by providing seed funding to address barriers and initiate cost-shared, joint-development partnerships.

    In all instances, however, NASA values a partnership in which an organization offers unique contributions and support to the success of the alliance. An organization's contribution to NASA, in kind, via financial investment, as well as intellectual commitments including specific innovation creation and new technology; all of which helps the Agency realize the needs of the Mission Directorates are of the greatest value to a partnership.

    Even if your organization doesn't have a specific product or innovation which has achieved mature development, partnering with NASA may still be of interest to you and the Agency. NASA considers all research potentially vital to the success of the directorates. For instance, there are plenty of opportunities for small businesses interested in exploring partnerships with NASA. NASA’s Tech Source provides information on current and recently completed SBIR/STTR Phase 2 projects funded by NASA. The purpose of this site is to facilitate the transition of resulting technologies into further development, investment and utilization for NASA mission programs and commercial applications. You may also view the NASA SBIR and STTR Success Stories.

    5. EVALUATE THE APPROACH: Understand how a partnership may be mutually beneficial; examine NASA for a sense of how the Agency operates.

    NASA values both "Technology Infusion", the process of introducing new technology and discovery to the Agency, as well as "Innovation Transfusion". Spinning information both "in" and "out" of NASA, is equally vital to the overall success of NASA's missions. Transfusion encourages broader use of NASA derived technologies in the American industrial and academic communities. Infusion, a dynamic, ongoing process, allows the Agency to strategically identify and bind technical needs with solutions.

    By carefully evaluating how your organization's goals, ideas and innovations match against the Agency's needs, effective communications with representatives from NASA can be conducted. The influx of new information and technology from outside of NASA offers scientists, astronauts and researchers access to very precise, detailed areas of work. An organization hoping to match technology capabilities with NASA's technology needs can expedite the partnering process by becoming familiar with the missions.

    NASA, with the help of experts in partnership, also facilitates licensing and management of intellectual property. The Agency has originated and negotiated licenses, as well as related partnerships with the private sector for more than 1,600 products, all of which are documented in NASA's Spinoff publication. The program has propelled new technologies towards commercialization for a multitude of products in the private sector, while championing ground breaking achievements in medicine, transportation, public safety, consumer goods, agriculture, environmental resources, computer technology, and many other areas of business. Some centers, like the Jet Propulsion Lab located within the California Institute of Technology lead the way in this specified area of development.

    Licensing terms are negotiated on a case by case basis, although technology fields are generally defined as narrowly and exclusive licenses are avoided. NASA, along with other federal research agencies, must foster the technology application from its field centers to academia, other government organizations, and industry. View the NASA Technologies Available For Licensing. Each NASA center licenses the technologies developed at their center and the process requires inventors, working on behalf of the Agency including civil servants and contractors, to submit their work in detail in a New Technology Report (NTR).

    NTRs are used in the commercial assessment of any new invention, a procedure critical to the patenting of any projects reported via a NTR. The reports are also used to provide the latest developments for NASA's monthly magazine, Tech Briefs. NASA's Innovative Partnerships Program has helped to advance science and innovation throughout the United States, and all over the world, and the successes are captured in the magazine.

    6. FIND A MATCH: Match your organization's strengths against NASA's missions.

    NASA facilitates agreements which identify, assist, and ultimately, collaborate with industry leaders from all over the world. Evaluating the current status of your technology against the work NASA is executing within missions will help reveal where the strong matches occur between technology needs, and your organization's technology capabilities.

    Endless opportunities exist for technology and innovative teams from many different sectors to work with NASA in the never ending quest for new discoveries. Your organization could potentially be considered a candidate for joint development if the Agency finds interest in furthering the growth of an innovation, piece of information, or an idea you posses. Regardless of the direction information transfers, setting realistic personal and professional goals for the work your team hopes to accomplish within a partnership, will give your team an advantage. Many organizations have navigated the steps towards successful partnerships with NASA. Through their unique innovations, examples and lessons from working with the Agency, you, too, can begin a productive conversation and potentially develop a solid relationship.

    NASA representatives, at each center, would like to hear from your team once a proposal for a potential partnership can be drafted. The best partnership solutions bring together an organization's accomplishment with the technology and innovation NASA needs most.

    7. PURSUE A PATH TO PARTNERSHIP: Reach out to NASA according to your goals.

    In this section, you will find a summary of contacts and available partnering mechanisms which can be useful tools to assist organizations trying to identify an appropriate channel of partnership within NASA, as well as NASA’s Online Partnering Tool.

    . NASA’s partnership contacts are a good place to initiate discussion of your ideas for partnership with NASA. The six steps are summarized as follows:
    1. Prepared for a NASA partnership: Know your organization's needs.
    2. Find a fit: Learn what NASA can offer.
    3. Capture the Commonalities: Identify areas of mutual interest between NASA and your organization.
    4. Create Collaboration: Identify what elements your organization can bring to a partnership with NASA.
    5. Evaluate the approach: Understand how a partnership may be mutually beneficial; examine NASA for a sense of how the Agency operates.
    6. Find a match: Match your organization's strengths against NASA's missions.
    You should also understand what the potential Partnering Mechanisms are for partnering with NASA and identify which ones may be most relevant to the partnership you are interested in pursuing with NASA.

    Please note this site is currently undergoing internal beta testing. Additional updates on content development and further partnering opportunities will be published as soon more information is available. Send an email to adrienne.j.ross@nasa.gov with any questions, comments, concerns or problems you have using the guide, "How to Partner with NASA". If you need any additional information, please don't hesitate to ask.

    Thanks for your interest in NASA. We look forward to doing business with you.

    › Click here to download the Steps to Achieving a NASA Partnership PDF

    image of solar sails › Click here for NASA's Online Partnering Tool (Beta)

    Familiarize yourself with the Agency's partnering mechanisms:
    Small Business Innovative Research SBIR
    Small Business Technology Transfer/STTR
    The Investment Seed Fund
    Centennial Challenges
    FAST/Facilitated Access to the Space Environment for Technology
    Innovation Transfusion
    Innovative Partnerships/ Ambassador Programs
    Licensing Opportunities