Energy projects from Lawrence Livermore (LLNL) and Sandia national laboratories were selected Wednesday to participate in a pilot Energy Department program to facilitate the commercialization of technologies with the potential to rapidly benefit society.
The award to the two projects was announced Wednesday at an event hosted by Livermore’s i-GATE Innovation Hub and attended by Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., Livermore Mayor John Marchand, Sandia Vice President Marianne Walck, acting LLNL Deputy Director for Science and Technology Greg Suski and i-GATE executive director Brandon Cardwell, as well as local entrepreneurs and other officials from LLNL and Sandia.
“This program underscores the value of the partnership between Sandia Livermore, Lawrence Livermore and i-Gate to successfully commercializing laboratory ideas,” LLNL Director Bill Goldstein said in a statement. “I look forward to seeing these energy technologies move to the marketplace.”
The winning principal investigators selected to participate in the pilot DOE LabCorps pilot program were LLNL’s Yining Qin for his project “Optimization of building efficiency” and Sandia’s Jeff Koplow, “Twistact — the key to proliferation of windpower.” Qin and Koplow will each receive $75,000 to develop commercialization plans for the technologies. The two project teams, which consist of the principal investigator, an entrepreneurial lead and industry adviser, will attend LabCorps entrepreneur training later this year. The teams also will have access to a suite of commercialization resources, including technology validation and testing, facility access, techno-economic analysis and other incubation services.
“Transitioning clean energy technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace is difficult, but it’s also vitally important that we do so,” Walck said. “This is a great opportunity for our researchers to receive federal support for their entrepreneurial efforts.”
Qin and Koplow’s entries were selected from nine energy projects proposed by researchers at LLNL and Sandia. Other Livermore projects included: Tom Buscheck, “Subsurface energy storage”; Julie Bowen, “NMR for water diagnostics"; Brian Guidry, “Advanced fuel systems”; and Michael Stadermann, “Desalination of brackish water.” Sandia projects included: Ethan Eagle, “New particle image velocimetry method”; Ryan Davis, “Seagoing algae biorefinery”; and John Solis for “CodeSeal for energy grid protection.”
Qin is working on a technology to improve energy efficiency in commercial buildings by up to 30 percent. His team is developing a control technology based on an innovative algorithm that offers efficient performance, smart diagnosis and optimized control for the large-scale systems commercial buildings represent. Qin notes that commercial buildings account for 40 percent of domestic electricity consumption and 1.5 billion metric tons of CO2 emissions in the United States for a total cost of $400 billion. In addition, commercial buildings remain the fastest growing energy consumption sector in the country.
“This is a low-cost and high-return technology with huge market potential and economic value,” Qin said.
Noting the difficulty of selecting from worthy projects, Deputy Director of LLNL’s Program Development Support Office Christine Hartmann said: “We will do our level best to support every entrepreneur.” Each was given a key to the i-GATE Innovation Hub offices so they can use its resources to continue pursuing commercialization of their technology. In addition, the business development executives in LLNL’s Industry Partnerships office will work closely with all teams to ensure their success in partnering with industry.
The Livermore Valley Site LabCorps program is a collaboration between LLNL, Sandia, the i-GATE Innovation Hub and the University of California at Davis Child Family Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Over the past two months, researchers attended a series of seminars at the university and i-GATE to prepare for the final pitch Tuesday before the Livermore Valley Site selection committee.
The goal of LabCorps is to accelerate the transfer of innovative clean energy technologies from the Department of Energy’s national laboratories into the marketplace. The program aims to better train and empower national lab researchers to successfully transition their discoveries into high-impact, real-world technologies in the private sector.
Buck Koonce, a founder of LLNL’s business development effort who recently returned to the Lab as a special adviser to the director, also attended the event. “Programs such as LabCorps that encourage and facilitate the commercialization of new technologies will help attract scientific talent to the labs and business talent to the Tri-Valley, a potent combination for economic growth,” Koonce said. “The Tri-Valley now has an expanding innovation ecosystem replete with the expertise and resources needed to turn good ideas into sound businesses. That wasn’t the case just a few years ago.”