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Heinrich, Gardner Introduce Bipartisan Bill To Boost Technology Transfer, Establish Microlabs

WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 18, 2015) - U. S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced S. 784, the Microlab Technology Commercialization Act, 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 national laboratories. 

"Scientists and engineers at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories are known for developing advanced technology and scientific breakthroughs," said Sen. Heinrich. "If we make it easier to partner those talents and entities with New Mexico's research universities and private industries, not only will we realize the true potential for technology transfer, but those results can also boost entrepreneurship and create good, private sector jobs."

"This will further increase the value of scientific research by making it more accessible to the organizations that could use it the most," said Sen. Gardner. "The Microlab Technology Commercialization Act would create a link between cutting-edge scientific facilities and small businesses, local governments, and academic institutions. In Colorado, institutions like the National Renewable Energy Laboratory conduct the research that powers our new energy future. This bill will help make those innovations more available to the public, to small businesses, and to everyone who could benefit from advanced research."

The bill directs the Secretary of Energy, in consultation with directors of national laboratories, to establish microlabs based on criteria to include whether employees of a national laboratory and persons from industry, academia, and government are available to be assigned to the microlab and cost-sharing or in-kind contributions from state and local governments and private industry.

A 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 17 U.S. Department of Energy National Laboratories across the country, including Sandia National Laboratories and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, and National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.  The Feynman Center for Innovation at Los Alamos and the 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 bill authorizes $50 million to cover the federal share of establishing microlabs at the participating 17 national laboratories.

A copy of the bill is available here.