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Companies aren’t the only ones in Southern Maryland looking to market their wares to private industry.

The Technology Transfer Office at Patuxent River Naval Air Station has been promoting federal workers’ inventions to companies nationwide.

“I don’t think people tend to think of the government as being innovative because of the bureaucracy,” said Mike Schroeder, tech transfer office director. “But there is funding available for scientists and engineers to work on research. It provides a spark, or a means for [them] to pursue an idea.”

Employees who develop new inventions that are later licensed to industry are eligible to receive royalties.

The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division has a patent attorney on site at Pax River, and NAWCAD publishes a Patent Portfolio that showcases some of these inventions. They include solvents that help prevent corrosion on aircraft, but can also be used on ground-based vehicles; a composition and process for removing and preventing mildew and fungal growth; and a system that helps a person use gestures to control a robot and its video system.

One invention, which NAWCAD spokesperson Doug Abbotts touted, is a personalized air-conditioning unit, which could be used for war-fighters as well as truck drivers. Using that, rather than an 18-wheeler’s air conditioning, would mean truckers would not have to run their big rigs overnight to stay cool.

Another NAWCAD invention, LED lights for a cockpit, also could be used in mining equipment or in the trucking industry, Abbotts said. The technology gives users longer-lasting lights, that also can be dimmed to reduce glare during nighttime use.

The command is focusing on areas of research, including developing sensors and optics that help vehicles operate with greater accuracy and efficiency, as well as crash protection equipment and acoustic technology.

A Small Business Innovation Research program also allows the Navy to create paid partnerships with industry.

“We’re looking for small, high-technology firms that provide solutions to issues or problems that we want to solve,” Abbotts said. About $250 million in grants is offered each year to businesses, who then may tackle a total of about 60 to 80 projects, Abbotts said.

But only four of those companies were in Southern Maryland. “I’m just surprised that more companies aren’t parking themselves down here,” Schroeder said. “Tech transfer is about creating jobs.”

Still, Abbotts said, “That job creation can take place right here in Southern Maryland.”

There is also a Navy Opportunity Forum held each year in the Washington, D.C., area, where businesses can learn about similar opportunities with other Navy commands. And the Navy enters working relationships — called Commercial Service Agreements or Cooperative Research and Development Agreements — with industry, allowing private firms to use federal labs and test facilities.

nclark@somdnews.com