Published July 21, 1997
Volume 5, Number 7

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Offers Opportunities for Business Partnerships, Technology Transfer

Tom McEwan
Inventor Tom McEwan with a dipstick that licenses hsi micropower radar technology.

By Jay Hipps
Network Editor

(This is the first of two articles on doing business with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory. Editor)

Businesses in Hacienda have proximity to countless resources throughout the Bay Area and Silicon Valley. One that many businesses may have overlooked, however, is the Lawrence Livermore National Lab. Despite the fact that the LLNL is a public facility, managed by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy, several programs are offered which extend opportunities to the private sector. 

"The Lab has a strong tradition of partnering with industry from the early days of supercomputer development and throughout the history of our laser program," says Karena McKinley, director of the Lab's Industrial Partnerships and Commercialization (IPAC) Office. 

While similar Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADA) exist today, the Lab sponsors a variety of programs in which even small businesses can participate. In addition to CRADA programs, the lab offers "Work for Others" agreements, Licensing Agreements, and Technical Assistance Agreements, among others.

All these projects must follow one common guideline. "As a publicly funded organization, we're strictly precluded from competing with the private sector," McKinley explains. "The only time it's really appropriate for us to contribute is when we have a unique set of skills or capabilities that a company couldn't get elsewherefacilities, technology, or know -how."

Work for Others
One way businesses can take advantage of the Lab's unique abilities is under a Work for Others agreement, where the business would supply the necessary funding to do work directed by the business. These projects often take on more collabo rative elements, according to McKinley. 

"Typically, we'll each have different reasons for being interested in the R&D, but they're overlapping enough so that we can supply something that's useful to the business and still gain something that's critical to our own programs."

Licensing Agreements, More
For companies without the budget to support funding complete projects, several other options exist. LLNL publishes "Opportunities for Partnership," a 100-plus page book describing areas of ongoing research at the lab and opportunities available in these areas, including licensing agreements for Lab inventions. 

For instance, one of LLNL's star technologies available for licensing is micropower impulse radar. This technology uses $10 of off-the-shelf electronics components in such a manner that it outperforms radar and sensor equipment costing as much as $40,000. So far, over 20 products have been licensed using this technology, including fluid level sensors, proximity sensors in automobiles, and home security devices. 

LLNL also has a program designed to work specifically with small businesses, sometimes at no cost. 

"This program allows us to provide technical assistance in small doses to assist small businesses that have a technology program for which a solution can't be readily purchased in the commercial market," says McKinley. "Over the last four years, we have given technical assistance to around 350 small businesses, and informally given assistance to about 500 others. Most of these businesses are in California, and many are in the Tri-Valley area.

"For example, we helped a small energy consulting firm test the accuracy of its computer modeling programs for measuring the insulation of window frame assemblies."

More Information
To contact the Lab, call (800) 556-5724. More information may also be accessed on the World Wide Web at www.llnl.gov.


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