'Bridging the Gap'
Partnerships Directorate initiative paying dividends for ORNL, partners
With a dozen licenses and cooperative research and development agreements since Oct. 1, business is flourishing in Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Science and Technology Partnerships Directorate. One of the forces behind the bustle is Bridging the Gap, which kicked off just one year ago with a two-day conference that attracted 65 attendees.
This year, participation in this month's event ballooned to 130 as entrepreneurs, investors, industry experts and economic development leaders gathered at ORNL to learn about some of the lab's most promising technologies. Ten scientists gave presentations that ran the gamut from a technology to help quickly share, find and use sensor data online to optical quality superhydrophobic material and wireless charging for electric vehicles.
"Our goal is to bring together entrepreneurs, investors, industry experts and economic development leaders and tell them about some of ORNL's most promising technologies," said Mike Paulus, director of the Technology Transfer Division.
Bridging the Gap and SPARK! are the brainchild of Tom Rogers, director of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development, and Paulus. SPARK!, a collaboration with Technology 2020's Center for Entrepreneurial Growth, was established to provide a process to identify and qualify some of the most promising technologies available for commercialization. The response to the showcase was encouraging to lab organizers.
"The fact that attendance doubled demonstrates the need for these outreach activities and, also, that Oak Ridge National Laboratory is totally committed to collaborating and commercializing technology," said Rogers, who expects attendance at the annual conference - along with the number of licenses and CRADAs -- to continue to increase.
In the last six months, ORNL has licensed nine technologies and entered into three CRADAs.
The most recent license was signed by Dry Surface Coatings, which will be working with ORNL and Oklahoma State University to develop superhydrophobic coatings with superior anti-icing, anti-fouling and anti-corrosion capabilities. These coatings are being developed specifically for the oil, gas and marine industries to increase safety and decrease corrosion in severe operating conditions.
"We will have a complete line of powder coat resins, polyurethanes, epoxies and specially formulated anti-fouling coatings," said Stewart Kennedy, president of Oklahoma-based Dry Surface Coatings. Kennedy expects the first product to be ready for market by the fourth quarter of this year.
Meanwhile, the most recent CRADA involves Campbell Applied Physics, a partner in a joint venture called Water Resources Group. Through this research agreement, the California-based company will be part of the team developing titanium heat exchangers and carbon materials for capacitive deionization of seawater. Robert Fien, president of Campbell Applied Physics, sees a world of opportunities.
"The multi-task CRADA streamlines our ongoing work with ORNL both in the materials development and technology commercialization fronts and lays the foundation for our participation in ORNL's new Manufacturing Demonstration Facility," Fien said. "We consider our CRADA and Manufacturing Demonstration Facility participation to be cornerstones of our technology commercialization program."
Another recent license of note is LABRADOR, a technology to detect clandestine graves. This device, licensed to Knoxville's Agile Technologies, features an array of metal oxide sensors optimized for the detection of volatile chemicals known to be present during various stages of human composition.
Agile Technologies President Keith Vaigneur expects LABRADOR (Lightweight Analyzer for Buried Remains and Decomposition Odor Recognition) to be useful for law enforcement, military, homeland security, disaster response and anthropological research. LABRADOR could be on the market in about a year.
Another nearly two dozen license agreements are on the board for this year, and Paulus and Rogers credit Bridging the Gap and SPARK! with helping to make this happen.
"ORNL's Science and Technology Partnerships is committed to supporting the process of innovation, which we define as translating basic science and research performed at ORNL into successful market applications," Rogers said.— Ron Walli, March 28, 2012