Researchers, staff members and licensees from the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory received top honors in the Federal Laboratory Consortium’s annual awards competition for excellence in technology transfer, excellence in technology transfer innovation, outstanding researcher and regional technology transfer.
The Federal Laboratory Consortium, or FLC, recently announced 32 award winners, ORNL included, for contributions to technology transfer, which turns cutting-edge research into impactful products and services. The FLC represents more than 300 federal laboratories, agencies and research centers nationwide.
“The transfer of lab-developed technology to industry is a critical part of capitalizing on the investments made in science by the Department of Energy,” said ORNL Director Stephen Streiffer. “In working with our partners, we are delivering world-changing technologies that will impact the lives of many.”
ORNL’s FLC awards include:
Kyle Gluesenkamp, senior research scientist in the Buildings and Transportation Science Division, manages a portfolio of thermal energy storage technologies and advanced equipment for buildings, such as heat pumps, water heaters and residential appliances. As ORNL’s subprogram manager for Thermal Energy Storage, Gluesenkamp bridges gaps between science and industry by collaborating with manufacturers and other stakeholders to develop products that can reduce energy consumption and peak demand to enable a decarbonized energy future.
Gluesenkamp has contributed directly to three licenses, 20 nondisclosure agreements and one material transfer agreement. As a lead principal investigator, he has secured more than $20 million in funding from competitive solicitations for energy-efficient building equipment research. He has contributed as a team member to projects that have garnered an additional $10 million. In a single decade at ORNL, Gluesenkamp has published more than 50 journal articles and more than 100 conference articles and technical reports, filed 42 invention disclosures and received five patents and one R&D 100 award — activities that communicate to the energy community the value of the innovations developed at ORNL.
Excellence in Technology Transfer
ORNL’s Heartbeat and Situ technologies offer new methods for advanced cybersecurity monitoring in real time. The Heartbeat system collects power trace measurements directly from computer hardware, is invisible to malware and is resilient to internet service disruption. Situ combines anomaly detection and data visualization to provide a distributed, scalable streaming platform for discovering and explaining suspicious behavior. The licensed technology portfolio includes five patents and two registered copyrights.
This technology transfer is notable because of the proactive approach of licensee U2opia in combination with support from ORNL to achieve a novel solution to the urgent cyberattack issue facing government and industry.
After licensing the technologies, U2opia rapidly secured testing partners and is completing commercialization testing of both technologies. Lastly, recognizing the challenge that other small businesses face in going through the technology transfer process with a federal lab, U2opia is working with ORNL to create a roadmap of the process to pave the way for future collaboration.
ORNL honorees include Andreana Leskovjan, commercialization manager; Stacy Prowell, senior cyber security scientist; and John Goodall, senior staff scientist. U2opia honorees include Maurice Singleton III, president and chief executive officer; Joaneane Smith, chairwoman; and Chris Ford, chief executive officer of Golden Technologies and scientific adviser to U2opia.
Excellence in Technology Transfer
Researchers at ORNL have developed a negative-emissions direct air capture, or DAC, technology that has the potential to significantly impact the global ability to remove existing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
This technology has several benefits over existing DAC technologies, including lower energy requirements, lower temperature needed to release the captured CO2, reusable chemistry that decreases costs and simple, scalable processes and equipment.
The technology was licensed by Holocene, a startup co-founded by Anca Timofte. Timofte has a clear vision for the company, taking advantage of relevant opportunities to ensure the success of Holocene.
Timofte joined Cohort 2022 of DOE’s Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program node at ORNL, Innovation Crossroads, as well as the Spark Incubator Program, an entrepreneurial support program at the University of Tennessee Research Park’s Spark Innovation Center. She is also a Breakthrough Energy fellow.
A commercial license agreement was signed in 2022. As part of the Innovation Crossroads program, Holocene entered into a cooperative research and development agreement with ORNL and is currently advancing the technology from the bench scale to pilot scale demonstrations. Holocene is working side by side with ORNL researchers, performing experiments that will better inform the construction of their first plant.
Thanks to this effort, by the end of the decade, Holocene will have scaled their carbon capture process three times using off-the-shelf equipment and will be removing 500,000 to 1 million tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year.
ORNL honorees include Dan Miller, Innovation Crossroads program lead; Kelly Wampler, Innovation Crossroads business specialist; Alex DeTrana, senior commercialization manager; and Jose Zavala, a former ORNL commercialization manager. Timofte, CEO and co-founder of Holocene, also is named in the award.
Regional Technology Transfer
The Safe Impact Resistant Electrolyte, or SAFIRE, developed at ORNL, is the world’s only patented and proprietary drop-in additive for lithium-ion batteries that prevents fire and explosion through an instantaneous liquid-to-solid transformation upon kinetic impacts, such as ballistic events or electric vehicle, or EV, crashes.
ORNL researcher Gabriel Veith and his team — including Beth Armstrong, Sergiy Kalnaus, Hsin Wang, Katie Browning and Kevin Cooley — developed and advanced the technology over a decade. ORNL gained funding from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, ARPA-E, program and was accepted into ORNL’s Technology Innovation Program for strategic investment. The team participated in the FedTech Spring 2020 Startup Studio where they met Michael Grubbs, co-founder of Safire Technology Group, which was BTRY at the time. Soon after, ORNL’s Technology Transfer Office began negotiations with Safire Group for an exclusive license. The agreement was signed in 2022 for a five-patent portfolio, which enabled Safire Group to attract investments from United States venture capital groups.
Today, Safire Group has a lab at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Spark Innovation Center and continues to work closely with ORNL via a strategic partnership project. The company has been awarded several Small Business Innovation Research contracts to integrate SAFIRE technology in various prototypes for the U.S. Air Force and is currently conducting testing with several EV equipment manufacturers and battery manufacturers. Safire Group intends to build a 10,000-square-foot facility in the Knoxville area, which will ensure economic advantages for the region.
ORNL honorees include Eugene Cochran, technology commercialization group leader; Veith, distinguished staff scientist in the Chemical Sciences Division; and Grubbs.
Technology Transfer Innovation
Successful technology commercialization programs depend on close collaborations with researchers to identify, mature, market and deploy laboratory-developed technologies. To increase researcher engagement in technology transfer, ORNL led a team of 11 DOE national laboratories in launching the Technology Transfer Researcher Liaison, or TTRL, program. The program was initially supported by DOE’s Practices to Accelerate the Commercialization of Technologies, or PACT, Laboratory Call.
The TTRL program provided more than 60 researchers with 40 hours of funding to serve as liaisons between technology transfer offices, or TTOs, and researchers. Liaisons were recruited and trained to be embedded technology scouts, subject matter experts and ambassadors to their TTOs and to serve as advisors for their laboratories. Liaisons assisted their peers in identifying and disclosing new inventions. They also coached their peers on how to interact effectively with prospective licensees and provided assistance with the technology transfer process.
Over a two-year period, participating laboratories saw an 8% average increase in the number of invention disclosures and a 12% increase in first-time inventors reporting inventions. Although the PACT-supported pilot project was completed in May 2022, ORNL has continued its TTRL program with support from its royalty fund.
ORNL honorees include Jennifer Caldwell, director of technology transfer; Michael Paulus, director of partnerships; and Alex DeTrana, senior commercialization manager.
Through education, promotion and the facilitation of relationships and partnerships, the FLC supports these technology transfer community to shepherd technologies out of government-funded laboratories and into the marketplace, where they improve the economy, society and national security.
Award recipients will be honored during the FLC National Meeting, April 9-11, in Dallas, Texas. Adding to the celebration, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the FLC.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science, the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States. The Office of Science is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit energy.gov/science.