Ask Molly: Lab Partnerships

October 26, 2020

Innovation and Tech


Dear Molly,

I came across your recent post on social media about CIA Labs and was hoping you could tell us a bit more about what this means for CIA? Are there opportunities for other organizations to collaborate?


A Hopeful Lab Partner

Dear A Hopeful Lab Partner,

Thanks for reaching out about CIA Labs. I was excited to see this question come through because I’ve been wanting to learn more about it myself. As a big fan of CIA’s history of innovation (see: the lithium ion battery, Charlie the robotic fish, the insectothopter, and many, many more), the news that we would be setting up a federal lab really piqued my interest.

For those who haven’t been keeping up with the recent announcements on and our social media channels, CIA Labs is an in-house research and development arm tied to our Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T). DS&T, as you may know, is the part of our workforce responsible for pushing technological and scientific innovations to meet the demands of modern day intelligence gathering. Launched just a few days ago, CIA Labs is the Agency’s most recent push in this direction and allows CIA officers more latitude to conduct multidisciplinary research, testing, and engineering to address an ever-evolving threat landscape.

And while research and development has always been at the heart of CIA’s mission, the creation of CIA Labs is unique in a handful of ways:

  • As a federal laboratory which joins more than more than 300 other labs, agencies, and research centers in what is known as the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC), CIA Labs has access to leading researchers, tools, and facilities from other partners in the federal government, academia, and private industry. This kind of access greatly expands the scope of possibility for CIA researchers, allowing them to stay at the cutting edge of developments in science and technology.
  • Being a Federal Laboratory provides CIA officers the unique opportunity to obtain patents and licenses for the intellectual property they develop while working at CIA. This means that an individual officer has the opportunity to profit from the work they do supporting CIA’s mission if that work is patented and licensed for commercial use.
  • CIA Labs is working to accelerate innovative technologies into the economy. This is a major tenet of the FLC structure – to push innovation outwards for all to experience. The idea is that, if taxpayer dollars are being used to pursue research and development of new technologies, we should work to ensure (to the extent possible) that those technologies return dividends to our economy. As Deputy Director of CIA for Science and Technology Dawn Meyerriecks explains: “CIA Labs democratizes technology by making it available to the planet in a way that allows the level of the water to rise for all.”

So, how can you get involved? CIA Labs is always on the hunt for innovative ideas and partnerships with other federal labs and academic institutions. Head over to the CIA Labs webpage for information about our research arm and to submit your ideas. Alternatively, if you’re from private industry and are interested in Cooperative Research and Development Arrangements (CRADA) with CIA Labs, you’ll find information on how to submit your proposal by following the same link.

I don’t know about you, but I am so excited to see CIA Labs take-off and can only imagine what kind of scientific discoveries and technological advancements are waiting to be unearthed.

And don’t forget – we are always seeking qualified candidates to join our ranks.  CIA Labs opens lots of new opportunities for current and future officers, so check out our careers page at CIA.Gov/Careers.

~ Molly

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