Mechanisms For Partnering

with the

Fuels, Engines, and Emissions
Research Center

at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) has a program designed to provide technology-based solutions to organizations ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies to academic institutions. Underlying this philosophy is our belief that strong partnerships with U.S. industry are the best way to share technological know-how with the private sector. Regardless of the activity—entering into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) or Work for Others (WFO) agreement, or interacting with an industry or university through other means—we are committed to outcomes that create beneficial opportunities for the external organization as well as the laboratory. We welcome the opportunity to explore ways that our collective interests can unite to strengthen the competitiveness of our nation and its research enterprise.

ORNL offers U.S. companies a range of mechanisms for accessing federally developed technology, and this guide describes those most commonly used by the Fuels, Engines, and Emissions Research Center (FEERC) when working with industry partners. The first step is to contact FEERC and discuss the scope of the desired project. Further discussions can be protected easily under a Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA), as described below. Once a work statement is mutually agreed upon, then the work can proceed under one of the mechanisms outlined below.

ORNL cannot respond to RFPs or otherwise compete directly with the private sector.

If one of these agreement types is of interest to you, please communicate with your point of contact, or you can contact the Center Director.

Robert M. Wagner, Ph.D.
Director, Fuels Engines and Emissions Research Center
Distinguished Research Staff Member
Oak Ridge National Laboratory
2360 Cherahala Boulevard Knoxville, TN 37932 Phone: (865) 946-1239 Email:

Nondisclosure Agreement (NDA)

DefinitionThis agreement protects proprietary information exchanged between parties (one way or involving two or more parties exchanging information) during initial interactions and discussions between the laboratory and another party on specific technical areas
Protection of Generated Information None
Rights in Intellectual Property None. No IP is generated by either party under an NDA.
Industry Resource Commitment None
Laboratory Resource Commitment None
DOE Approval Required? No
  • This is an agreement that proprietary information provided by one party to another will be protected from further disclosure.
  • It is frequently used to cover initial interactions between the laboratory and a potential industrial partner.
  • An agreement normally protects informtation from public disclosure for at least 3 years.

User Facility Agreement (UFA)

DefinitionThis agreement permits outside users from industry, universities, and other governmental agencies to conduct research using the laboratory’s unique experimental research equipment and facilities, and in some cases, collaboration with laboratory scientists.
Protection of Generated Information Information is given proprietary treatment by the user under a proprietary UFA. Information generated under a nonproprietary UFA is publicly available.
Rights in Intellectual Property The user retains rights to inventions under both types of UFAs.
Industry Resource Commitment The user covers all costs associated with using the facility for the tasks defined in the scope of work under a proprietary UFA. These costs may be significantly reduced or eliminated for the tasks defined in the scope of work under a nonproprietary UFA.
Laboratory Resource Commitment The use of laboratory facilities is subject to availability and must not interfere with laboratory programs.
DOE Approval Required? Proprietary agreements require DOE Patent Counsel approval and DOE Site Office program approval.
  • The laboratory has multiple unique experimental facilities and laboratories available for use by U.S. companies, universities, and foreign entities.
  • The industrial partner conducts the activity that occurs within the framework of the UFA.
  • Examples of industry use are fabrication, calibration, testing, and evaluation of products and processes.

Nonfederal Work for Others Agreement (WFO)
Definition This agreement enables a nonfederal partner to have the laboratory to perform a defined scope of work on a list of tasks that draws upon the unique capabilities of the laboratory.
Protection of Generated Information Proprietary treatment of data available under some circumstances.
Rights in Intellectual Property Rights to laboratory inventions generated under a WFO may be available to a sponsor under DOE’s class patent waiver.
Industry Resource Commitment The sponsor covers the cost of all laboratory work (including personnel and materials) to be completed under the statement of work signed by both parties.
Laboratory Resource Commitment Personnel, equipment, and facilities are used at the expense of the sponsor.
DOE Approval Required? Yes
  • WFO agreements specify reimbursable work performed at the laboratory or “sponsored research and development.”
  • Work must use a unique capability of the laboratory and not place the laboratory in direct competition with the private sector.
  • These are full-cost-recovery agreements.

Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA)
Definition This agreement enables industry, academia, and nonprofit entities to collaborate with the laboratory for the purpose of joint research and development (R&D) activities.
Protection of Generated Information Commercially valuable but un-patentable information generated under a CRADA may be protected for up to 5 years.
Rights in Intellectual PropertyRights to intellectual property (IP) generated under a CRADA are negotiated separately. The industry partner receives first right to negotiate a license for any new laboratory IP developed under the CRADA.
Industry Resource Commitment The cost is shared through contributions of personnel, equipment, services, facilities, and funds by both the government through laboratory funding and the industry partner’s own resources.
Laboratory Resource Commitment When program dollars are available, the laboratory shares the cost. In the absence of program dollars, the industry partner is responsible for the full cost of the project.
DOE Approval Required? Yes
  • A CRADA requires R&D participation by industry partners.
  • It is sometimes accompanied by a license or option agreement.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) must approve a Joint Work Statement and the CRADA before work is initiated.
  • Each party has the right to elect title to the IP created or invented by its employees.
  • The laboratory cannot pay out funds to the industry partner.
  • The U.S. government retains a nonexclusive, nontransferable, irrevocable, paid-up license to practice or have practiced for or on behalf of the United States any IP developed under the CRADA.


Technical Highlights October 2015Oct 2015 highlights

Journal Paper to Report the Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNLs) Recent Discovery of Incompatibility between Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) and Zinc Dithiophosphate (ZDDP)...