With a R&D budget of $1 billion, government-supported facilities have been producing scientific breakthroughs for the past 55 years that are available for public license and commercialization. In the past two decades alone, the Richland, Washington-based laboratory has issued 670 intellectual property licenses to everyone from startup founders to Fortune 500 companies.
Some of the technologies currently available include:
- Oil-producing super microorganisms used to make sustainable transportation fuels
- Software to help grid operators prevent and manage power outages
- Silicon-carbon composites for high-performance batteries
- Liver disease biomarkers
- Fish’s “Fitbit” seeks safer hydropower dams
In addition to the discovery phase, PNNL also has the infrastructure to support the technology transfer process.Seattle Sarah Hunt He is one of six commercialization managers working for the laboratory, pushing new technologies to the wider world.
We interviewed Hunt about PNNL’s role in driving the startup pipeline and the laboratory’s efforts to make it easier for the company to commercialize new technologies. The answer has been edited for clarity and length.
GeekWire: What role do PNNL and 16 other US Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories play in developing technology?
hunt: “Generally speaking, the research conducted in national laboratories is more about high-risk, high-return technologies. The scientific discoveries we are doing may be more risky than the industry and certain entrepreneurs are interested in. Therefore, we are science Early catalysts in the discovery process.”
GW: What is the journey from the laboratory bench to the pitching to the company?
hunt: “We monitor ongoing research in the laboratory and spend a lot of time working with industry. This is the perfect place to work with science, industry, and the legal department.
“Once we have identified an invention internally, we will look at what market opportunities are there. What are the viable ways to deploy it? Who are the key potential partners, etc.. Then we developed a commercialization plan for the technology, This includes marketing and promotion interactions with potential end users.”
GW: You have multiple procedures to facilitate technology transfer, including a $1,000 exploratory license. Can you explain what it is?
hunt: “We want to make these laboratory innovations more accessible to entrepreneurs and start-ups, so Exploration permit Create a license to test drive the technology.In the past year, we have done [essentially] It’s free, so within six months, they can access information, talk to researchers, and conduct market and technical due diligence during this period without registering high license fees.
“We received a lot of great feedback [on the program]. It has been recognized by the Federation of Federal Laboratories and won an award. “
GW: What support does PNNL have for the company in this process?
hunt: “For the royalties we received and some research budgets guided by our laboratory, we reinvested in further demonstrating and developing promising technologies. If a company comes to me and says,’This is great. We have obtained a research license. , But we are still trying to find out x, y, z.” or “Can you attribute it to this performance or this cost?” We can make internal investments to help reduce the risks of these technologies and thereby realize commercialization opportunities.
“And the U.S. Department of Energy has various plans, including Technology Commercialization FundThe US Department of Energy provides US$20-30 million in funding for laboratory projects each year, which is a direct cost sharing. If a company is interested in a technology, DOE will match the company with 50% of the cost to help further explore the technology. “
GW: Do you like to help roll out these technologies?
hunt: “The ultimate goal is to authorize it, to see that something is just in someone’s head-what they think of when sending children on the way to work or anything else-and to see that it is actually deployed as a commercial advertising product or service …Just very interesting.”