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September 2001

The Laboratory
in the News

Commentary by
Jan Tulk

Zeroing In
on Genes

Big Glass for
a Big Laser

Lasershot Makes
Its Mark

Tracking the
Global Spread
of Advanced
Technologies

Patents

Awards


 

 

Jan Tulk, Asssociate Director of Administration

Jan Tulk
Associate Director,
Administration

Technology Transfer Takes a Team


A new method for making laser glass. A way to isolate expressed genes in DNA. Laser pulses to mark metal parts. Developing these inventions took a team of people from within the Laboratory or made up of Livermore scientists and engineers working with industrial partners. R&D Magazine recently honored these inventions with R&D 100 Awards. The products of Livermore research have received one or more of these coveted awards almost every year since the competition began in 1978. To date, Livermore has won 85 R&D 100 Awards.
Almost all scientific advances at Livermore are the result of multidisciplinary teamwork. Physicists, materials scientists, microbiologists, engineers, and others pool their varied talents to solve problems related to the Laboratory’s mission. This multidisciplinary approach, this confluence of many kinds of expertise, is what makes a laboratory like Livermore a special place to do research.
Gene Recovery Microdissection was developed at Livermore by biomedical experts as a way to identify cancer genes in chromosomal regions for which there was no genomic information. The developers envisioned other possibilities for the process. Once it has been commercialized, Gene Recovery Microdissection will likely benefit research in toxicology, veterinary science, agriculture, and environmental science.
Sometimes finding solutions requires help from a commercial partner. The development of a faster, less costly technique for making high-quality laser glass for the National Ignition Facility is a case in point. It resulted from an alliance with Schott Glass Technologies of Duryea, Pennsylvania, and Hoya Corporation USA of Fremont, California, the two leading laser glass producers internationally. Not only will this process benefit the National Ignition Facility, but it will also benefit these industrial partners with a technology that is a springboard to new glass products.
Metal Improvement Company, Inc., worked with Livermore scientists to refine laser peening, a process developed earlier at the Laboratory for strengthening metal. Together, they created the Lasershot Marking System. A number of firms are already interested in using this permanent identification mark on their products.

When an industrial partner joins a Laboratory team, the focus of the effort extends beyond the scientific research to the needs of the business sector. Ultimately, when an invention is ready for full commercialization, Livermore’s patent attorneys and other experts in transferring intellectual property join the team.
As Laboratory general counsel, I typically get involved in the technology transfer process both before and as it occurs. Also, as associate director for Administration, I am responsible for the Industrial Partnerships and Commercialization Office, which manages the transfer of technology from the Laboratory to the private sector.
The concept of technology transfer is relatively new in the federal sector. Its purpose is to take processes developed for a federally funded project and apply them to the needs of the private sector.
Even after a technology transfer team is fully formed—with scientists, business people, and intellectual property experts at the table—commercialization of a Laboratory invention does not happen overnight. It takes time for a new technology to mature. The three inventions that won R&D 100 Awards this year are still in their infancy. As they mature, Livermore scientists may continue to be involved with follow-on research to improve them. The business community is well aware of the skills resident at Livermore. Laboratory scientists and engineers are often the only ones with the expertise to evaluate and resolve technological difficulties that arise.
Since its inception, this Laboratory has taken a multidisciplinary approach to solving problems. Technology transfer is a more recent development, but it plays off that approach well. Teamwork among researchers and business people—and attorneys—is key to assuring that Livermore’s scientific advances find their way to the private sector successfully.

 

 



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UCRL-52000-01-9 | September 25, 2001