Technology Transfer Generates $6 Billion in Revenue for Bombardier Recreation Products  

ocean with wake from boat
Client: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center
In the early 2000s, NASA Marshall approached RTI Innovation Advisors about promoting and licensing an aluminum alloy its scientists had discovered. The NASA 398 aluminum alloy offered high-strength at higher operating temperatures, was resistant to wear, and could be produced in large quantities at less than $1 per pound.  We defined the value proposition and identified applications and potential partners, the most successful of which has been Bombardier Recreation Products (BRP).

Wanted: lighter weight engines, more horsepower, fewer pollutants

When the alloy was discovered two trends were impacting BRP: emissions requirements were increasing, and outboard engine buyers wanted more power per cylinder. BRP was working on a next generation product that would enable a direct-injected two-cycle engine to perform like a four-cycle, but prototype piston failure stood in the way of product launch.

While the four-stroke engine is cleaner and quieter than the two-stroke engine, it is also less powerful and dependable. BRP didn’t want to take the path of other engine manufacturers and abandon its two-stroke customers because of tightening emissions. It wanted the best of both: environmentally-friendly combined with two-stroke power. To get their engine design off the drawing board and into the water, BRP engineers needed a material that would maintain its strength when subjected to higher temperatures. NASA’s alloy was the solution.  

Aluminum alloy results in the perfect piston

RTI Innovation Advisors put the alloy in front of BRP on its path to success. We helped BRP see the alloy’s potential, connected BRP to the best third parties in the innovation ecosystem, and helped NASA negotiate a license agreement. This led to the launch of BRP’s new marine outboard motor: the Evinrude® E-TEC™. The direct-injected two-stroke outboard engine incorporated the NASA alloy into its pistons, resulting in a quieter, cleaner engine that is the most fuel efficient on the market. The engine has generated approximately $6 billion in revenue to date and has been recognized for its significant environmental protection benefits. 

From nearly shelved prototype to award-winning engine  

Before the alloy, BRP had come close to shelving the outboard motor design as prototype after prototype had experienced high temperature failure. The alloy allowed the pistons to remain strong and BRP engineers to combine design features that had never been offered in a single engine. Today, BRP uses the technology in every line of its Evinrude engines.

The E-TEC™’s many accolades include three stars from the California Air Resources Board, and the first outboard to receive the EPA’s Clean Air Technology Excellence Award. The E-TECÔ also received the highest possible customer satisfaction rating in a J.D. Power and Associates study and won a first place Environmental Excellence in Transportation Award by the Society of Automotive Engineering. 

In 2018, Evinrude® E-TEC™ was inducted into NASA’s Space Technology Hall of Fame for its role in commercializing the high-strength, wear-resistant aluminum alloy, NASA 398, an award that wouldn’t have been possible without the expertise and efforts of RTI Innovation Advisors.

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