Turning military inventions into golden opportunities

Military innovations are often the perfect launching pad for commercial businesses far outside military base fences.

For that reason, Nicholas Ripplinger, founder of Dayton’s Battle Sight Technologies, doesn’t see TechLink as just another program.

Neither does Timothy Shaw, president and chief operating officer of Riverside’s GlobalFlyte Inc.

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TechLink — which calls itself the U.S. military’s sole national “partnership intermediary” for technology transfers to private companies — helped Ripplinger, Shaw and their companies get launched. The organization does the same for dozens of companies across the nation.

Just in fiscal 2018, TechLink, based at Montana State University, facilitated 91 technology license agreements across the Department of Defense (DoD) , including 48 from the Air Force, 28 from the Navy and 15 from the Army. (The company's database can be found here.)

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Ripplinger was able to get his business rolling with a military idea: a reusable glow stick that warfighters and emergency responders can write with, leaving marks or slashes on walls or doors to signify that they have checked an area or moved in a certain direction.

The marks are invisible to people without night vision equipment.

“With TechLink, we went directly to the Air Force,” Ripplinger said recently. TechLink played a “huge role” in acting behind the scenes, cutting through red tape and helping with the “waiting game,” he said.

“TechLink got us in front of our No. 1 target customers,” Ripplinger said.

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“It’s a great process,” Shaw said.

BattleSight’s technology was created by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s (AFRL) Materials and Manufacturing Directorate, Ripplinger said. The first patent was issued in 2012; its second patent was issued in August this year.

Battle Sight has exclusive rights to both patents.

Military labs, including the Air Force Research Laboratory based on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, do a lot of cutting-edge work. Often, when that work isn’t classified, the labs will patent their inventions.

Such patents give inventors credit and also protect taxpayers, said Troy Carter, senior writer and editor for TechLink. And patents expose possible “dual-use” technologies — technology ripe for use outside the military — to entrepreneurs hungry for such ideas.

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That’s where the “patent license agreements” come in. TechLink helps craft those, connecting DoD innovations with commercials companies which perhaps can find private uses for those ideas.

“We’re kind of like a neutral third party in all this,” Carter said.

GlobalFlyte’s technology also originated with AFRL. Shaw — who also works for Chantilly, Va.-based SP Global — and his team had what become their “multi-modal” communication technology demonstrated for them at Wright-Patterson.

“We liked it so much,” Shaw said.

In fact, they liked it enough to ask for an exclusive technology transfer license from a tech transfer officer on the base. “We said, ‘You know, we’d like to license this.’”

That led to conversations with TechLink. It also led to serving customers such as the city of Fairborn and the University of Cincinnati.

The company’s communications, mapping and smart phone technology helps not just warfighters but civilian first responders to stay in touch with each other and on top of evolving situations in the field.

The entire transfer process sped by very quickly. GlobalFlyte was seeing revenue in just 20 months, Shaw said.

“If we didn’t have the multi-modal communication, we would be just another software app, we would just be another map app,” Shaw said. “Without TechLink assisting us … we wouldn’t have started this company.”


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