National Lab Ignites Business for Entrepreneurs

A close neighbor to Silicon Valley, it comes as no surprise thatLawrence Livermore National Laboratory's history is steeped in innovation. For 60 years, the U.S. government, and in turn the public, have benefitted from breakthrough technologies sprung from the Lab's fundamental research. Tapping the entrepreneurial spirit of its surroundings, LLNL has leveraged the research of some of the world's most talented scientists and engineers and returned to the Valley a legacy of intellectual property — a legacy that includes the launch of hundreds of successful companies.

During just the past 20 years, five entrepreneurs from the Lab have founded four companies with a current market capitalization of $8.4 billion: Cadence Design, Rambus, Digital Globe and Cepheid. From sub-micron IC design (in essence, designing very, very tiny circuits) to DNA sequencing, LLNL's research has contributed to the technology behind smartphones and tablet computers, new generations of pharmaceuticals and a brand new perspective on how we see our own planet via the Google Earth application.

The Lab's Industrial Partnership Office is launching a new program intended to meet the rapidly rising number of requests for nondisclosure and material transfer agreements, letters of support, cooperative research and development agreements and license agreements. The program intends to accelerate the rate of technology transfer out of the Lab and into business. LLNL is partnering with the Keiretsu Forum, the world’s largest network of angel capital investors in the world, to recruit investors who want to want to return to their roots as successful entrepreneurs and explore technologies from the National Laboratory.

"Any time is right time for business to benefit from government-funded work," said Erik Stenehjem, who leads LLNL's Industrial Partnership Office. "But the current economy demands that we must move ideas out of government labs and into the hands of entrepreneurs who will put them to work creating jobs, delivering dramatic new efficiencies in existing products and, very often, creating entire categories of products that never existed before.

More than 60 investors have already signed up, and since September, have been scouring the Lab for inventions with disruptive market applications (innovations that create a new market and eventually replace an earlier technology). At the 6th Annual Keiretsu Forum Angel Capital Expo today, LLNL announced the expansion of the suite of technologies available to entrepreneurs to those from other national laboratories. For example, on Tuesday, November 15, Oak Ridge National Laboratory presented and made available a breakthrough technology to the group.

“The Lab's motto is 'Science and Technology in the National Interest,'" Stenehjem said, referring to LLNL. "And never before has the nation’s need for the Lab's ideas been so great and the interest so high."