WASHINGTON, D.C. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, introduced S. 2973, the National Laboratory Technology Maturation Act. The bill would launch a new National Laboratory Technology Maturation Program (NLTMP) at the U.S. Department of Energy to facilitate successful commercialization of laboratory-developed technologies.
The new program would provide funding to each national laboratory to be used by small businesses with a licensed technology from a laboratory, such as Sandia National Laboratories or Los Alamos National Laboratory, to purchase up to $250,000 in assistance from lab scientists and engineers to help commercialize the lab-developed technology. The goal of the program is to encourage small businesses to further advance new products or services until they are market-ready. The bill emphasizes national labs partnering with near-by small businesses.
"Supporting partnerships between small businesses and our national labs to develop new technologies is a job-creating formula that will spur innovation. And that's what my bill helps do," said Sen. Heinrich. "New Mexico business owners and the scientists and engineers at our national labs' have the intellect and capacity to provide a steady stream of technologies that could yield dividends in commercial markets. Great things can happen when we bring our small businesses and national labs together -- it sparks the imagination of future innovators and widens the impact for great discoveries."
A recent Brookings Institution report suggested a voucher program for local businesses could help connect national laboratories with their regions and support innovation and economic growth. The report indicated that the labs should "embrace a new mission that includes more active engagement with regional innovation systems within which they are located. Such engagement will not substitute for the labs' critical national mission, but will instead complement and advance it." The authors further note, "the labs can maximize their impact on the national economy by maximizing their local economic impact."
Senator Heinrich is a strong proponent of bolstering tech transfer from New Mexico's two flagship national laboratories. He recently 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.
A copy of the National Laboratory Technology Maturation Act is available here.