A partnership of the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, the Community Reuse Organization of East Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority that aims to attract nuclear energy-related firms to Oak Ridge has been recognized with a state and local economic development award from the Federal Laboratory Consortium, or FLC.
This is the second consecutive year that an ORNL economic development partnership has received FLC honors. In addition, two ORNL projects have earned awards for excellence in technology transfer.
The FLC represents 300 federal laboratories, agencies and research centers nationwide that work collaboratively to shepherd technologies out of government labs and into the marketplace. Since the consortium’s founding in 1986, ORNL has won a total of 76 awards.
The recruitment collaboration being recognized this year has contributed to attracting substantial investments from several fusion energy and nuclear power companies, which together focus on promoting carbon-free energy and creating more than 500 jobs in the Oak Ridge area. The agencies represented by the economic development team provided a collection of vital programs and incentives that leverage regional expertise in nuclear science as a support structure.
“Nuclear energy is an essential piece in securing the nation’s clean energy future,” said Susan Hubbard, ORNL deputy for science and technology. “ORNL’s expertise and world-class facilities, along with the strengths of the Oak Ridge community, are tremendous assets for this collaboration, which will play a critical role in advancing the next generation of both fusion and fission energy for the nation.”
Companies investing in Oak Ridge area facilities include:
- General Fusion, which established its U.S. headquarters in Oak Ridge in November 2021, creating 50 technical jobs to advance the company’s commercialization of fusion energy.
- Ultra Safe Nuclear Corporation, which will invest $17 million and add 40 highly skilled jobs over the next five years as the company establishes its Pilot Fuel Manufacturing Operation in Oak Ridge. The facility, which opened in summer 2022, will help meet demand for USNC’s Micro Modular Reactor and other advanced energy systems.
- California-based Kairos Power, which will invest $100 million and create 55 jobs to deploy a low-power demonstration nuclear reactor in 2026.
- TRISO-X, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rockville, Maryland–based X-energy, which will bring 400 jobs and $300 million in investment to the company’s reactor fuel fabrication facility.
The award honors ORNL’s Jesse Smith and Eugene Cochran, as well as Gary Human of TNECD, Teresa Frady of CROET and Derrick Collins of TVA.
Two ORNL projects received awards for excellence in technology transfer:
ORNL’s licensing of the Multimodal Autonomous Vehicle Network — MAVNet — novel communication protocol to Horizon31. MAVNet enables reliable and redundant command and control of uncrewed vehicles and systems such as aerial drones, wheeled or tracked vehicles and ground sensors. Prior to MAVNet, existing commercial technologies for drones required a dedicated pilot to control a single drone via direct radio communication. MAVNet uses a diverse network of radio, cellular and satellite communication with a cloud-based server to enable truly remote, multi-pilot and multi-agent control.
Horizon31 has introduced MAVNet-integrated products to the market that have the potential to impact a range of applications such as shipping, fleet management and emergency services such as search and rescue.
ORNL’s Andrew Harter and Brad Stinson worked with a research team to develop MAVNet, co-authored the technology’s patent, and founded Horizon31. They are currently the chief executive officer and chief technical officer, respectively. The commercialization team supporting MAVNet’s success includes Eugene Cochran, Mike Paulus and Steve Ventura.
Electrifying the entrepreneurial spirit of a food-waste-to-fuel startup. Electro-Active Technologies, a company with roots at ORNL, brings affordable, efficient and locally sourced hydrogen to market by transforming waste into renewable products. Electro-Active and its chief executive officer, Alex Lewis, benefited from ORNL intellectual property protection and licensing, as well as development through the Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, a joint endeavor with the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. Lewis also participated in Innovation Crossroads, a two-year entrepreneurial fellowship program funded by DOE and TVA.
Electro-Active’s microbial electrolysis technology offers cost savings for commercial food service providers who would no longer need to pay for food waste disposal. As a modular system, the technology can be located on site and is easily scaled based on the application and customer need. This makes the system ideal for urban municipalities and transportation and utility companies.
Lewis teamed with former ORNL researcher Abhijeet Borole, and commercialization efforts were supported by ORNL’s Jennifer Caldwell, Edna Gergel, Dan Miller and Kelly Wampler.
All winners will be recognized at the FLC National Meeting, scheduled for March 28.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. DOE’s Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit energy.gov/science.