Re$earch Re$ources

Bridges vol. 42, December 2014 / News from the Network

US National Laboratories Welcome Entrepreneurs    

What if groundbreaking research could be paired with the disruptive, market-penetrating elements of entrepreneurship?

The Department of Energy (DOE) has decided to augment this wishful thinking by launching a new $2.3 million pilot program intended to transfer clean energy technologies from DOE’s National Laboratories and make them available to the public. “In support of the President’s Lab-to-Market Initiative,” says Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy David Danielson in the report, “the Lab-Corps program launched today supports the entrepreneurial spirit at our national labs and will bring new lab technologies to market that advance American leadership in clean energy.”

The Lab-Corps program in essence opens the US National Laboratories to outside entrepreneurs to collaborate with and empower national lab researchers to successfully transition their discoveries into high-impact, real-world technologies in the private sector. As a result, Lab-Corps relies strongly on the National Science Foundation’s successful Innovation Corps (I-Corps™) model, which is a specialized technology accelerator that provides lab teams with candid market feedback on their technologies, hence fostering cross-pollination between laboratories, industry partners, and start-ups.

These efforts will look to augment what the White House initiated back in 2011, namely the “Lab to Market” pathway, for which the President signed into effect a memorandum directing all Federal agencies with research facilities to accelerate Lab-to-Market activities such as the aforementioned DOE initiative or the Pracademic Center of Excellence in Technology Transfer set up by the Department of Defense (DOD) at Arizona State University in January 2014.

Overall, six national labs have been selected to participate in the Lab-Corps pilot program: Argonne National Laboratory, Idaho National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. 

Programs such as Lab-Corps plan to not only embed scientific research better in the marketplace, but also to significantly increase the taxpayer’s return on investments in federally funded research. Such a shift in access could eventually bolster the public perception of government-funded research and its practicality.