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Frequently Asked Questions about the Federal Technology Transfer Act Program

Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs)

What is a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA)?

A CRADA is a collaborative research partnership between an EPA lab or office and one or more external parties, such as:

  • Universities
  • Companies
  • Domestic or international governmental organizations
  • Trade associations
  • Individuals

The CRADA defines:

  • The specific project approach
  • Responsibilities
  • Staff involved
  • Protection of intellectual property that is brought into the agreement or which may be developed during the course of the project

When is a CRADA used?

A CRADA is an appropriate mechanism for conducting collaborative research between EPA and an external party, such as:

  • A university
  • A company
  • A trade association
  • An individual
  • A state, local, or international governmental organization


  • Protect the development of intellectual property (which can be patented)
  • Establish clear areas of responsibilities
  • Address potential liability issues
  • Can be used to provide funding to the Agency for the specific project

Collaborations conducted without an appropriate agreement in place can lead to legal issues and can result in loss of patent options.

What if I have an idea for a CRADA but not a partner?

FTTA staff can assist you with advertising the opportunity for a collaborative project.

Can EPA contact a Potential CRADA collaborator directly to see if they want to partner on a project?

That depends. EPA wants to ensure that it is not showing favoritism to one party over another, for example. If a potential collaborator approaches EPA for a project, then that is not a problem. Or if a discussion at a conference or other event leads to discussion about a potential CRADA, that is also fine. In some cases, if a potential collaborator has unique expertise or technology, then we can justify going directly to one party. In most cases where the partner does not initiate a collaboration, EPA will need to advertise the opportunity to collaborate.

Can EPA give out money under a CRADA?

No. EPA is not authorized to give out any funding under CRADAs. We can provide in-kind services, such as:

  • Expertise
  • Staff time
  • Laboratory facilities
  • Supplies
  • Use of intellectual property

Can EPA accept money under a CRADA?

Yes. EPA can accept funding toward a specific CRADA project. The funds must be used only for the CRADA project, and the use of the funds must be specified in the Statement of Work. Unused funds are returned to the partner when the agreement ends or is terminated.

Collaborators are not required to provide funds under CRADAs. Collaborators can also contribute in-kind services, such as:

  • Supplies
  • Expertise
  • Facilities
  • Use of intellectual property

With Whom can EPA partner under a CRADA?

Nearly any entity can potentially partner with EPA under a CRADA. Appropriate partners include:

  • Industry
  • Academia
  • Trade associations
  • State, local, and international government agencies

EPA partners may be an ORD research laboratory or center, a regional laboratory, program office, or Region.

Can EPA work with a foreign nationals or foreign entities on a CRADA?

Maybe. EPA staff can often collaborate with foreign governmental agencies or companies, however we must receive approval from the U.S. Trade Representative for these partnerships. Often it is not a problem to partner with a person or institution from another country, if the country has good relations with the U.S.

What is a materials transfer agreement (MTA)?

An MTA is an agreement to transfer research materials or data from one party to another. EPA can transfer materials or data to an external party, or EPA can receive materials or data from an external party. There cannot be an exchange of money associated with an MTA. If the exchange of materials also involves some collaborative research then a CRADA or Materials CRADA would be a more appropriate mechanism.

When do I need to use a materials transfer agreement (MTA)?

An MTA is necessary any time that EPA is receiving or providing research materials to an external party, such as:

  • A university
  • A company
  • Another government entity

The agreement specifies what types of research can be conducted with the materials, what happens to the materials at the end of the process, and discusses any liability or ethics issues.

What is a materials CRADA (MCRADA)?

MCRADAs are a hybrid between an MTA and a CRADA. They involve an exchange of research materials or data and also have some degree of collaboration between the parties. These agreements typically last one year.

How long does it take to get an agreement in place?

This varies considerably, based upon:

  • Complexity of the partnership
  • The number of parties involved
  • How closely the agreement follows EPA’s standard language in our document templates
  • Responsiveness of the collaborator and their attorneys

Generally speaking, for a basic CRADA it takes about three months to get an agreement in place. Agreements can be reviewed more expediently by FTTA staff and EPA’s Office of General Counsel if the agreements maintain EPA's standard document template language. Additionally, it is helpful to discuss any potentially complicated issues with FTTA staff early in the process.

How to Get Started on a CRADA, MTA, MCRADA, or NDA

Great, you have an idea for a research collaboration or exchange of materials. Contact FTTA staff or start drafting an agreement using EPA's standard FTTA document templates.

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Licensing Patents

How do I license an EPA technology?

EPA negotiates licenses with qualified businesses and individuals who want to commercialize inventions resulting from federally supported research performed at EPA. Interested parties can apply for a license by completing EPA's license application and submitting it to FTTA staff. Licensing involves royalty payments to the EPA, and includes an up-front payment and annual sales reports. Incoming royalties are shared among the EPA laboratory or office where the invention originated and the individual inventor(s).

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Patenting Inventions

What is intellectual property?

Intellectual property refers to ideas of the mind. Intellectual property (IP) involves new ideas or inventions, and improvements to existing inventions or technologies.

What is a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) or a confidentiality agreement?

EPA uses the terms “non-disclosure agreement” and “confidentiality agreement” interchangeably. These agreements attempt to protect intellectual property and other proprietary ideas from disclosure beyond the parties involved in the discussion. These agreements establish the intent not to disclose, and can be used when new inventions are being discussed prior to patenting. They can also be used to discuss potential modifications or improvements to existing patented technologies.

When do I need to use a non-disclosure agreement?

Non-disclosure agreements are a good idea prior to discussing specifics of a CRADA or license agreement. FTTA staff can help you assess if these agreements may be necessary, and can help you get them into place.

What if EPA and an outside partner invent something together?

If the invention occurred under a CRADA, then intellectual property protection is in place. EPA or the collaborator can apply for a patent, accounting for all inventors. Typically the co-inventing party would be given the first option for an exclusive license on the technology. Even if the invention did not occur under a CRADA, either party can apply for a patent, with all co-inventors included. A patent can be invalidated if all inventors are not included on the patent application.

I’m Confused…Help!

Contact EPA’s FTTA staff for more information on any of the FTTA mechanisms.

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