Energy Secretary Steven Chu is fond of saying that America has the world’s greatest innovation machine. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, our mission includes not only delivering the scientific discoveries and technical breakthroughs that are the feedstock for the nation’s innovation machine, but also carrying out the translational research and development needed to accelerate the deployment of solutions to the marketplace.
This issue of the ORNL Review offers a closer look at how we are executing that mission, with an emphasis on advanced manufacturing processes and materials technologies. The importance of a dynamic domestic advanced manufacturing sector to our national security and economic prosperity was highlighted by President Obama’s announcement in June 2011 of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which is focused on helping US manufacturers reduce costs, improve quality, and accelerate product development. The US Department of Energy is supporting the AMP by investing in the development of transformational manufacturing technologies and innovative materials that could enable industrial facilities to dramatically increase their energy efficiency.
ORNL has a long history of collaborating with industry partners who have made use of our distinctive capabilities. We are building on that history and exploiting new facilities and mechanisms to accelerate innovation in this key sector of the nation’s economy.
For example, we are participating in the Department’s pilot project for a new partnering mechanism, the Agreement for Commercializing Technology, which is intended to give private-sector companies a new means of working with the national laboratories. ORNL helped to develop ACT, which provides more flexible terms than existing technology transfer mechanisms.
We are also working to accelerate the implementation of ORNL innovations by encouraging entrepreneurial activity within the laboratory. We have established a new Research Conflict of Interest Committee to expedite the consideration of outside professional activity requests by ORNL staff. In addition, we are investing discretionary resources in innovative new projects with the promise of near-term societal or economic impact. Entrepreneurially minded staff members are given the opportunity to compete for R&D funding and access to external mentors, to develop new ideas, and to transform
these ideas into commercial applications.
Innovation begins with an idea, and we have plenty of those. But turning ideas into reality requires perseverance, creativity, flexibility, and a willingness to take considered risks. At ORNL, we are committed to doing all we can to keep the innovation machine running smoothly.
Deputy Director for Science and Technology
Oak Ridge National Laboratory