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Udall Introduces Updated Bill To Expand DOE Tech Transfer, Build NM’s Economy

on November 26, 2015 - 10:36am
WASHINGTON ― U.S. Sen. Tom Udall unveiled his updated bill to streamline the process for moving cutting-edge research and development from our national labs into the marketplace.
Udall has championed technology transfer as a way to advance high-tech industries and create jobs in New Mexico.
While Udall has successfully pushed the Department of Energy (DOE) to improve tech transfer, there is still much work to do.
The Accelerating Technology Transfer to Advance Innovation for the Nation (ATTAIN) Act will cut bureaucracy and better facilitate public-private partnerships at the federal, state and regional level. 
Udall recently solicited input on the legislation from several New Mexico businesses that have commercialized technologies created at Sandia and Los Alamos National Laboratories and added their suggestions to his bill.
“From scientists at Sandia and Los Alamos to researchers at our universities, New Mexico is home to some of the most innovative minds in the world. Those innovators are creating technologies that can improve our everyday lives — but we need to streamline the tech transfer process so they can move their ideas into the marketplace and increase their impact,” Udall said. “I'm proud we've made some real strides on tech transfer, but that means we need to build on the momentum and keep pushing to make more progress. Supporting tech transfer will encourage entrepreneurship, creating more high-tech jobs here in New Mexico and growing our economy. If we can fully realize New Mexico’s potential, we can lead the nation in high-tech innovation.” 
Udall first announced his legislation to improve technology transfer in August 2013 after collaborating with labs, entrepreneurs, investors and educators.
Thanks to Udall's advocacy, DOE has taken several steps to encourage technology transfer, including the creation of the DOE Office of Technology Transitions.
Udall has also passed legislation to require the agency to prioritize spending on tech transfer and to increase lab-directed research and development.
“Working in partnership with our national labs, universities and entrepreneurs, we’ve already made significant progress expanding tech transfer,” Udall added. “Sandia alone has seen a 38 percent increase in commercial licenses in just the past year — that’s a 130 percent jump from 2012. But there’s still room to grow, and the ATTAIN Act is a comprehensive plan to get our labs and startups the resources they need to jumpstart high-tech commercial innovation in New Mexico.” 
The ATTAIN Act takes a four-pronged approach to expanding tech transfer. It will: 
  • Measure technology transfer progress at DOE. This includes permanently codifying DOE’s new tech transfer office and improving coordination between the agency and the labs.
  • Increase public-private partnerships. Expanding the DOE Lab Corps program will encourage collaboration with foundations and nonprofits to support tech maturation, entrepreneurs and mentors.
  • Expand startup funding to underserved areas. Modeled after the Small Business Administration’s program for economic development, a similar tech transfer program will channel capital to regions with untapped potential. 
  • Enhance regional engagement and research partnerships. The bill will require DOE to make it easier for small- and medium-sized businesses to compete with larger firms to develop products from research at DOE labs. It also would enable state governments, including public universities, to benefit from the products developed by researchers at labs (for example, a researcher's patented medical device could be used at a public hospital). This provision would help further tech transfer by expanding the ways marketable products could be brought out of the lab and into practical use. 
As he updated his bill, Udall specifically drew on the findings of DOE's Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories.
Udall also incorporated suggestions made by tech transfer entrepreneurs who participated in his October roundtable discussion with Jetta Wong, the acting director of DOE's Office of Technology Transitions.
Those changes include: a measure encouraging DOE to draw on universities’ experience with tech transfer to benefit commercialization at the labs, and the creation of a grant program to help post-doctoral graduate students — who often lack the resources of other lab researchers — market products based on their work.
Additionally, roundtable participants encouraged Udall to add the provisions increasing access to research partnerships for small- and medium-sized businesses, local and state governments, public universities and economic development organizations.
Several New Mexico universities and businesses support Udall’s bill, including the University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, Santa Fe Community College, Aquila, UbiQD, HT MicroAnalytical and Technology Ventures Corporation. 
“The ATTAIN act is a great step in the right direction toward commercializing Department of Energy-funded technology and recognizing the importance of supporting post-graduate researcher entrepreneurship,” Dr. Hunter McDaniel said, Founder and President of UbiQD, LLC, a low-toxicity, low-cost quantum dot manufacturer whose technology is licensed from Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. “As a former postdoc myself, I believe the DOE’s biggest untapped resource in technology commercialization is in enabling post-doctoral scientists to pursue startups leveraging research developed at the national laboratories.” 
“I am entirely in favor of extracting greater economic gain from our country's laboratories. Within the DOE there is tremendous technology transfer opportunity and I am glad to endorse the Senator's bill,” Todd Christenson said, President and CTO of HT MicroAnalytical, Inc. “Quite possibly this type of legislation would also help to foster entrepreneurial attitudes in our younger generations. In particular, if those who are STEM inclined could see an enlivened robust technology transfer spirit within the national laboratories this would be a 'double win' to enhance recruiting of the best and increase proficiency in the labs while also growing the national industrial tech base and economy.” 
“Aquila is pleased to support the ATTAIN bill. We’re pleased the bill recognizes the value of including industry and that the bill provides a pathway for industry to participate in improving the DOE’s technology transfer process,” said Judy Beckes Talcott, President of Aquila.
“The ATTAIN Act seeks to accomplish two very important objectives,” John Freisinger said, President and CEO of Technology Ventures Corporation. “First, it seeks to clarify the authorizations for the DOE to meaningfully enact the Technology Commercialization Fund and the Office of Technology Transfer Coordinator as prescribed in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPA2005). Second it allows the laboratories additional latitude in how they can engage with their local communities in a substantive way. The ATTAIN Act provides direct legislative support of the renewed emphasis within the DOE on technology commercialization and local communities' research-centric entrepreneurial development activities.”
“Udall’s ATTAIN Act goes a long way towards addressing the need for better collaboration between national labs, local research universities, and entrepreneurs to help move promising technologies out of the labs and into the marketplace,” Robert G. Frank said, President of the University of New Mexico. “More needs to be done to streamline bureaucratic procedures to allow DOE greater cooperation and technology transfer with research universities and industry. Provisions in Udall’s bill, including incentives for labs to coordinate technology transfer activities with local research universities, will foster greater regional collaboration and spur economic growth and workforce development.” 
“NMSU is excited about the opportunity to partner with national and government labs to promote technology transfer and advance the engine of economic growth in the local community and region. At the same time we are looking forward to educating and training our students to think innovatively and contribute to the economic growth working with our government partners,” Dr. Vimal Chaitanya said, Vice President of Research, New Mexico State University.
“SFCC’s interest in tech transfer between educational institutions, the national labs and business has been increasing and we are excited to see the support for this at the congressional level,” Luke Spangenburg said, Director of the Biofuels Center of Excellence at Santa Fe Community College. “Allowing our local entities access to this kind of support in our state creates a robust economy that retains higher paid workers. Supporting this kind of innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation is a tangible part of SFCC’s mission to empower students and strengthen community.”