This month marks the fifth birthday of the Office of Technology Transitions. First launched by former Secretary Ernest Moniz on February 11, 2015, OTT was created to expand the commercial impact of DOE research across the board—accelerating taxpayer return on investment and contributing to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.
With the arrival of Secretary Rick Perry, OTT continued its growth trajectory, gaining new prominence when the Secretary named OTT Director Conner Prochaska the first-ever DOE Chief Commercialization Officer. Since then, we have worked overtime to expand our mission and effectiveness. At the end of 2019, we welcomed Secretary Dan Brouillette, and today, the OTT team is stronger and more capable than ever. Secretary Brouillete has been an active supporter of the Department’s commercialization activities, and we look forward to serving the Secretary and the DOE complex to continue our innovation mission in support of our incredible National Labs under his leadership.
For its fifth birthday, we wanted to take a look back on the past year—a busy one indeed—as well as offer a glimpse of what new initiatives lie just around the corner.
2019 was an exciting year for OTT. We posted quite a few accomplishments, and we are all committed to making 2020 even more fruitful.
Our office has grown in size and productivity. Late last fall, Marcos Gonzales Harsha became our first Principal Deputy Director. Elise Atkins became OTT Chief of Staff in addition to her role as Senior Advisor. We also welcomed back OTT veteran Shane Harper, who has filled the role of Business Operations Lead. Our team continues to improve and optimize, and we are doing our best to keep this energetic machine running smoothly.
OTT has worked hard to expand its reach through new capabilities, events, and initiatives designed to further bolster American economic competitiveness and national security. Here are just a few selected highlights showcasing what we’ve been up to:
OTT forged new connections with the private sector in 2019 by hosting its second, third and fourth InnovationXLab Summits. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory hosted the Grid Modernization Summit in January, while Oak Ridge National Laboratory welcomed attendees to their Advanced Manufacturing Summit in May. Argonne National Laboratory convened leaders in Artificial Intelligence at their AI Summit in October. These three landmark summits proved to be incredible opportunities for the Department to showcase the promising technologies and capabilities of the National Labs, as well as elevate the profile of technology transitions staff across the country. The events have also proven to be a new avenue for industry, universities, and investors to partner with Lab experts and discuss potential commercialization opportunities.
At the end of January, OTT held its fifth event, the InnovationXLab Biomanufacturing Summit, hosted by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. With two more summits already in the hopper for 2020, it’s safe to say we’re not slowing down on sharing the amazing work coming out of our Labs and facilities daily.
PACT Lab Call
The Practices to Accelerate the Commercialization of Technologies (PACT) Laboratory Call is our newest program designed to encourage Labs to develop and implement innovative ways to increase technology commercialization by reducing barriers to accessing Labs’ capabilities, lowering transaction costs and improving the complex’s ability to serve the private sector effectively. In October 2019, OTT announced the selection of 12 projects, engaging all 17 National Laboratories, one NNSA facility and six external partners.
These projects receive about $2.5 million in awards, combined with over $1 million in cost share. We believe the PACT Call will inspire exciting collaborations year after year, and we are excited to see the results of this initiative to empower and enhance lab-to-market activities.
Lab Partnering Service
OTT’s Lab Partnering Service (LPS) further expanded its capabilities as the premiere tool to connect with our National Laboratories. The introduction of facilities search enables innovators to quickly access labs’ best-in-class equipment and expertise, while the creation of web portals for artificial intelligence and space create tailored experiences for these fast-growing segments of our economy. We continue to update this platform to ensure it grows as an essential mechanism for investors to connect with our DOE experts and facilities.
Technology Commercialization Fund
OTT issued the fifth selections for its Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF), a Department-wide initiative to guide promising technologies out of DOE labs and facilities toward the market by pairing projects with a private-sector partner organization. This year’s selections comprised 77 projects across 12 labs for a total of $24 million in federal funding. The TCF enables DOE’s applied energy program offices to pursue a strategic, forward-looking approach to commercializing technologies.
In 2019, OTT released a Request for Information (RFI) to gain input on how we could improve the TCF through changes to the program and its structure. One such area of interest was in partnerships—and how OTT could help the Labs attract private-sector partners. In response to the RFI and feedback from the labs, OTT is leveraging the capabilities of the Lab Partnering Service to communicate TCF information and announcements. For the FY20 cycle, OTT has put the TCF Notice of Intent and Solicitation on the LPS website to help drive interested, potential partners to connect with labs.
November 2019 marked the completion of the landmark tenth cohort in the pioneering Energy I-Corps entrepreneurship program. Ten teams from six different National Labs came together to enhance the tech-to-market pathways for their innovative technologies in battery storage, carbon capture, nuclear power, and more. First started in 2015, the Energy I-Corps program is managed by OTT in partnership with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). It has become a tremendous opportunity for lab researchers to learn and address industry engagement and market awareness.
Looking Ahead: 2020 and Beyond
As we forge ahead into the New Year, we have a growing portfolio of programs and initiatives that will continue to promote commercialization, elevate our mission, and deliver results on the mandate given to us.
We hope to see many more opportunities to engage with the private sector on innovation, such as the May 2019 agreement signed between ExxonMobil and our National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL)—allocating $100 million over 10 years to advance groundbreaking, low-emissions energy technologies.
Several new InnovationXlab Summits are in the works to showcase the Department’s newest transformative R&D, including topics like quantum networks and the many uses for carbon.
We also hosted two roundtable events in 2019—in Chicago and Houston—with two more already planned for 2020 in developing tech hubs. These curated events serve to strengthen the bonds between DOE-powered research, state and local governments, universities, and regional businesses to bolster the innovation ecosystem.
2019 saw OTT hire two new Commercialization Executives to forge direct links between regional and local innovation ecosystems and research at DOE labs. Sarah Habansky serves as our Chicago field executive, while DC-based Rima Oueid focuses on new ways to leverage multiple funding sources to maximize impact for communities. In 2020, we’re welcoming an additional executive to increase the impact of DOE’s $270+ million SBIR program.
As an office, OTT is pursuing multiple market analysis efforts. We’re uniquely positioned to engage with program offices and laboratories across the DOE complex, industry, and state and local officials. Our market analysis portfolio comprises numerous efforts to engage each of these communities with the market analysis they need to accelerate the commercialization of DOE-developed technologies.
As we strive to further empower our National Labs in their tech transfer mission, we’re elevating the Technology Transfer Working Group (TTWG) to carry out the lab-to-market objectives of the Department. By working with the Labs to give their tech transfer personnel more autonomy and access to resources, we are sending a clear message that commercialization of lab research is critical to the commercialization ecosystem and American innovation.
In DC, we’re raising the profile of the Technology Transfer Policy Board (TTPB), unifying and concretizing the Department’s approach to tech transfer with well-conceived, market-focused policies. We’re also looking forward to the launch of an all-new program to meet the Department’s strategic objective for commercialization as laid out by the White House.
The OTT team is constantly thinking beyond the boundaries of commercialization, and consistently proposing new programs and mechanisms to enhance the impact of DOE investments. With the help of the Department, our National Labs, support from state and local officials, our interagency partners, and the private sector, we will continue to work hard and strive for solutions that create measurable outcomes that deliver real wins for the American people.