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Breakthroughs Magazine

Special Report - Commercial Partnerships: Working with a National Laboratory

PNNL is strong asset for Research District

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has led a team of community partners in using a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration to hire AngelouEconomics to develop marketing and land-use plans for the 1,600 acres of property in north Richland known as the Research District. Currently home to 5,000 employees and 85 businesses including PNNL and Washington State University Tri-Cities, community leaders are positioning the Research District to create the Tri-Cities as a regional technology center similar to the Research Triangle in North Carolina.

"PNNL has been the key driving force to moving this study forward in looking at the Research District and how it can benefit the economy of the region," said Carl Adrian, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Industrial Development Council, TRIDEC. According to AngelouEconomics, "research conducted at PNNL greatly enhances the region's image in the technology community and as the area's largest employer, PNNL will positively impact the economy through the realization of its long-term growth plan."

Listed among the selling points of the Research District are the low cost of doing business, technical capabilities (citing the location of PNNL and WSUTC inside the Research District), land availability, and the highly educated workforce, including a very high number of PhDs per capita. Chris Engle, vice president of AngelouEconomics said "The primary draw for science and technology businesses to locate to the Research District will be the opportunity for collaboration with PNNL."

In a recent presentation during the rollout of AngelouEconomics plans, Len Peters said "We agree that the Research District, with its space availability and other features, is perfectly suited for locating dynamic new companies around PNNL." Laboratory management was excited about the work AngelouEconomics did and is on board to support efforts to bring more science and technology businesses to the Research District in Richland.

IR&D spells success for PNNL scientists

Webster's dictionary does not use I, R, or D when spelling the word success. However, some of PNNL's scientists are finding that IR&D can spell success for taking their research to industry.

The Independent Research and Development program requests proposals for projects that support the growth in the contract research business at the Laboratory. This program's annual budget allows scientists to request funding that will assist them to advance their research to a level that is commercially viable for industry. IR&D proposals will focus on support to PNNL's industrial business strategy to enhance the intellectual property base of the Laboratory. Projects are selected based on their overall technical merit and strength of the business case.

"This program is beneficial to industrial R&D programs that are looking for new technology to improve their business," said Rich Chapas, director of industrial partnerships for PNNL. "More and more companies are adopting an open innovation model when looking for new technology that they may not necessarily have the capabilities or time to develop."

One particular success story involves a group of Battelle scientists working with Hewlett Packard. They applied for IR&D funds to provide them with the opportunity to discover exactly the right niche in their research that solved problems important to HP. The funding the scientists received closed the gap with HP and allowed their research to reach a point that the company could offer them a contract of $250,000 per year for up to five years with a potential for up to $1.2 million to continue developing their research for industry.

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