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Coordinating, Developing, and Delivering Highway Transportation Innovations

 
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Publication Number:  FHWA-HRT-21-004    Date:  Summer 2021
Publication Number: FHWA-HRT-21-004
Issue No: Vol. 85 No. 2
Date: Summer 2021

 

Guest Editorial

The Road to Technology Transfer

We've been in the innovation and technology transfer game for more than 70 years at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center. Over that time, we've turned scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs into products that transform entire industries. One example of technology transfer (T2) success is how the Dynamic Angle Validation (DAV) kit improved SuperpaveTM design. The gyratory compactor dynamic angle measuring device was developed by the Federal Highway Administration in partnership with its equipment partners.

The creation of the angle measuring device spurred competitors to develop similar devices. The invention of the dynamic angle measuring device has dramatically changed the practice of asphalt testing by producing more consistent test results between laboratories. Most transportation departments and asphalt suppliers are now using gyratory compactors to verify the volumetric data and compaction consistency. For more information, see "Tech Transfer Success: How the DAV Improved Superpave Design" on page 4 of this issue of Public Roads.

FHWA's T2 activities include direct technical and financial assistance, training, peer exchanges, collaboration with industry groups to disseminate knowledge and information, and evaluation of deployment methods to determine effectiveness, assess needed improvements, and document outcomes. FHWA uses a series of successful T2 venues including Every Day Counts (EDC), the Accelerated Innovation Deployment Demonstration program, the Accelerating Market Readiness program, and the State Transportation Innovation Councils, a State-based innovation deployment approach. EDC is a State-based model that identifies and rapidly deploys proven, yet underutilized innovations to shorten the project delivery process, enhance roadway safety, reduce traffic congestion, and integrate automation. The EDC program has made a significant positive impact in accelerating the deployment of innovations and in building a culture of innovation within the transportation community.

Key T2 stakeholders include State departments of transportation and local agencies, Federal land management agencies, Tribal governments, and industry groups. These stakeholders are often the intended audiences for the research deployment outputs. The Local and Tribal Technical Assistance Program centers and other deployment programs play a critical role in T2 activities with these stakeholders. FHWA markets products and demonstrates to these stakeholders that the FHWA research products (such as ultra-high performance concrete and diverging diamond interchanges) are valuable, practical, and constitute best practices. For example, the FHWA-patented in-situ scour testing device (ISTD) was piloted in 19 States and is now being improved based on the lessons learned from the pilots. The ISTD is a field testing device used to determine the scour-depth potential of soils relied upon to support structural foundations placed in flowing water.

As I mentioned, we've been in the business of innovation and T2 for a long time, and we're still at it today. To paraphrase Acting Administrator Stephanie Pollack's statement in the Spring issue of Public Roads, FHWA has some of the world's most innovative road and bridge engineering and planning expertise, and access to important and actionable data. It is the perfect place to lead in solving some of the most difficult transportation challenges. Thus, the mission of FHWA's T2 program is to ensure that innovations developed for the U.S. transportation system are broadly available to all levels of the government and the general public—maximizing the benefit to the Nation.

Dr. Kelly Regal
Associate Administrator for Research, Development, and Technology
Director, Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center
Federal Highway Administration

 

 

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