Tech Transfer eNews Blog

Rebranded Los Alamos Lab expands its vision of tech transfer, embraces economic development role

By David Schwartz
Published: November 6th, 2013

The Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico is revamping its tech transfer division in an effort to double its annual impact on the Northern New Mexico economy. In light of the recent cuts to federal funding for research, LANL officials are working to connect with other government agencies and become more visible through strategic partnerships with industry.

“We’re going to be rebranding, remaking and repositioning the division of technology transfer as a whole new topic,” says David Pesiri, leader of tech transfer at LANL. “We’re trying to carry a different message for the laboratory, about commercialization, jobs and the marketplace.”

For example, LANL recently partnered with Chevron to form the start-up Area 52, which develops prototype oilfield technologies. More broadly, the lab’s corporate managers have invested about $2.4 million in the past several years in local companies and start-ups, and Pesiri cites a $48 million return reported on that investment. The lab also spends about $500 million annually in procurements and services in the region. The 10-year time-frame for doubling its $2 billion impact is a “stretch goal,” meaning it won’t be easy.

“We’re going to have new construction and new jobs that give the labs competitiveness,” says Pesiri. The lab has also changed the name of its tech transfer division after one of its first patent holders, the remarkably multifaceted physicist and 1965 Nobel winner Richard Feynman. The reimagined tech transfer division, now called the Richard Feynman Center for Innovation, “is inspired by [his] legacy… creativity, unconstrained thinking about big problems, keen insight into solutions and a flair for communications,” says Duncan McBranch, LANL’s Chief Technology Officer.

The economic development plan is a complex, institution-wide set of changes, he comments. “We have a large patent portfolio that is underleveraged and sitting on the shelf and getting old, despite a lot of effort,” McBranch says. In addition, the lab has developed many new portfolios with high commercial potential, including IP in quantum cryptography, communication security systems, and medical isotope production.

“Technology transfer is not just about us trying to get things into the marketplace, but how do we think differently about the role of the lab,” McBranch observes. “Our ability to be a national resource as a national lab is tied to our ability to connect to the outside world in different ways.” While it will remain a critical resource for national security, the lab must also learn how to be more visible and relevant to the private sector through strategic partnerships with industry, he says.

LANL officials say the entire region needs to become more economically diverse to avoid getting hurt by the increasingly unpredictable federal budget. “Rather than grow another Los Alamos, the question is how we get the next $2 billion worth of capacity in Los Alamos County, in the Española Valley, Santa Fe and all of Northern New Mexico,” says Pesiri. “So that’s the goal.”

Source: The Santa Fe New Mexican

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