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ORNL Technology Transfer Continues Strong Upward Trend

New methods are improving connections between private businesses and technology from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, with 101 licenses and options executed during the last three years.

by Oak Ridge National Laboratory
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Mike Paulus, director of Technology Transfer, says initiatives like SPARK! have been effective at connecting entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts with ORNL technologies and capabilities.Oak Ridge National LaboratoryMike Paulus, director of Technology Transfer, attributes the growth in large part to the Technology Innovation Program, Bridging the Gap and SPARK! These programs helped the lab double the number of licenses for the fiscal years 2012-2014 compared to 2009-2011, and Paulus expects a new initiative, the Invention to Innovation Webinar Series, to help maintain the upward trend.

“We have a talented staff that has worked very hard to identify, develop and market high-potential technologies that provide the best opportunities to licensees,” Paulus said. “Our two-pronged approach focuses on increasing the overall deal volume while at the same time concentrating on our most promising technologies.”

Through the Technology Innovation Program, ORNL invests about half of its royalty revenue to make promising technologies market ready. ORNL scientists and engineers propose technologies for funding and a panel of laboratory leaders and external experts select the winners based on their near-term potential for societal and economic impact.

Two technology forums, Bridging the Gap and SPARK! bring together entrepreneurs, investors, industry experts and economic development leaders to explore partnering opportunities. These conferences, hosted by ORNL, allow potential licensees to meet inventors and learn about some of ORNL’s most promising technologies and capabilities. The next SPARK! is planned for spring 2015.

ORNL received a record $3 million in license receipts and royalties for the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30. Among 2014 highlights:

Vertimass LLC, a California-based start-up, licensed a technology that directly converts ethanol into a hydrocarbon blend-stock for use in transportation fuels. Inventors believe it offers a pathway to biomass-derived renewable fuels that can lower greenhouse gas emissions and decrease U.S. reliance on foreign sources of oil.   

Fiveworx of Knoxville signed an agreement to market a product that will help utilities achieve deeper and broader energy savings from their energy efficiency and demand-response programs.

Dry Surface Technologies of Guthrie, Okla, licensed Barrian, a water barrier that contains superhydrophobic diatomaceous earth that integrates throughout coatings and other materials to provide long-lasting protection.

Through the renewed commitment to focus on technologies with the greatest potential and to execute more licenses, Paulus predicts similar results over the next few years. More information about the Science and Technology Partnerships Directorate is available at /connect-with-ornl/for-industry/partnerships.