Two Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's Innovation and Partnership Office (IPO) employees who brought the television hit “Shark Tank” to LLNL and the Department of Energy (DOE) complex have been honored for their technology commercialization efforts.
Hannah Farquar, an IPO business development executive, and Roger Werne, an IPO senior adviser, received two awards during a recent meeting of the DOE Technology Transfer Working Group (TTWG) in Boulder, Colorado.
The duo developed the National Lab Accelerator Program, where scientists and engineers work with business mentors to develop commercialization “pitches” — like on the program “Shark Tank” — to make to investors.
They won awards for the 2023 “Best in Class for Innovative Technology Transfer” and the DOE Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) Director’s Award from OTT Director Vanessa Chan.
“Hannah and Roger are the champions when it comes to entrepreneurship at LLNL,” said IPO Deputy Director Elsie Quaite-Randall. “They created a program not just for LLNL scientists but also for entrepreneurial scientists at the other national labs.”
The National Lab Accelerator Program started in 2017 as a local event at LLNL for only Lab scientists and engineers.
However, it took off in 2019 as Farquar and Werne invited other national labs to send representatives to a national competition. Eleven other labs, including Brookhaven, Los Alamos, Sandia, Oak Ridge, Lawrence Berkeley, Idaho, Argonne, Pacific Northwest, Fermi Lab, the National Renewable Energy Lab and the National Energy Technology Lab sent representatives.
The inaugural National Lab Accelerator Program, held at the University of California, Davis’s Bishop Ranch facility in October 2019, saw a then-LLNL postdoc Scott Compel and a Lawrence Berkeley researcher tie for first place and split a $25,000 first prize.
Due to the COVID pandemic, the accelerator program went virtual in 2020, with 10 national labs competing, and in 2021, with 11 national labs sending scientists and engineers to the Zoom-based competition.
In November 2022, the event returned to an in-person competition — this time in the heart of Silicon Valley — with nine national lab representatives vying at the headquarters of Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich and Rosati, a Palo Alto-based law firm that has represented technology pioneers associated with virtually every milestone innovation.
“The accelerator program opens up the Silicon Valley investment network and the start-up culture of the larger Bay Area to the entire DOE national lab culture,” Farquar said.
“Even though the pitches can be exciting, it’s not simply a national pitch event for businesses and investors. It takes a six-to-nine-month journey with the help of IPO staff teaming with its investor network to work with Lab scientists and engineers to take a nascent technology and develop a business model and pitch,” she added.
To date, under the accelerator program, LLNL has trained 36 researchers in the art of entrepreneurship and hosted 10 pitch events that have included participants from 15 DOE national laboratories.
More than 70 Bay Area investors and entrepreneurs have acted as business mentors and between 30 and 50 investors have attended the pitch events. So far, three companies have been formed through the accelerator program.
Founded in 2005, the TTWG is a community of technology transfer practitioners from the DOE national labs, plants and sites that promotes the commercialization of DOE-developed technologies.
wampler1 [at] llnl.gov