U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced S. 2932, the Microlab Technology Commercialization Act of 2014, a bill to accelerate technology transfer by establishing off-campus microlabs that would serve as the “front-door” to national laboratories. The microlabs would give academia, local government, businesses owners, and communities direct access to equipment, facilities, and personnel of our national labs.
“If we are going to realize the true potential of technology transfer, our national labs must be able to collaborate effectively with business, entrepreneurs, investors and research universities,” said Sen. Heinrich. “Obviously, we can’t tear down the lab fences and security precautions that have historically limited these interactions, but we can and should create spaces in the communities where our labs reside that facilitate collaboration and commercialization. My legislation will help to build a ‘front door,’ literally and figuratively, where the community can interact directly with the scientists and engineers who are our laboratory’s greatest assets. This will eliminate many of the barriers that have historically limited commercial technology transfer and incentivize the private sector jobs that result from successful commercialization projects.”
A recent Brookings Institution report on technology transfer found that, “Microlabs would help overcome both the problem that most labs are located outside of major metropolitan areas, and the fact that most lab research occurs ‘behind the fence’ of main campuses. These microlabs could take the form of additional joint research institutes or new facilities that allow access to lab expertise for untapped regional eco-nomic clusters.”
There are currently 17 U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories across the country, including Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory. The Feynman Center for Innovation at Los Alamos and the newly announced Sandia Center for Collaboration and Commercialization are examples of outside-the-fence centers where industry collaborators can partner with the labs to commercialize technology for the private market.
The Microlab Technology Commercialization Act of 2014 would authorize federal funding to help cover the national labs’ share of establishing the off-site microlabs.
A copy of the bill is available here.