Moniz was visiting Albuquerque as part of President Barack Obama’s Quadrennial Energy Review, an initiative launched this year to gather input in regional meetings throughout the country to develop a comprehensive strategy for energy infrastructure development.
Following an invitation by Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., the secretary held a roundtable discussion with local technology transfer professionals, city officials and private-sector representatives about the challenges for commercializing technology from the national laboratories, as well as measures the U.S. Department of Energy can take to ease the process.
Moniz reminded participants that the principal tasks of the DOE’s 17 national laboratories are national security and scientific research and development in critical areas such as energy. Technology transfer, he said, is a secondary goal at places like Sandia National Laboratories.
“I want to make it very clear, technology transfer is not our primary mission,” Moniz told participants. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to raise the game to make technology transfer more important at the labs.”
Moniz said commercializing government technology is mutually beneficial for the labs and local economies.
“The success of our labs is enhanced by a vibrant economy and by vibrant entrepreneurial activity around the laboratory,” Moniz said.
Local leaders said the DOE could help entrepreneurs by allowing laboratory scientists to interact more with investors and businesspeople.
“There should be options for leave and other mechanisms for laboratory personnel to consult more with folks in the community,” said Albuquerque Economic Development Director Gary Oppedahl.
Technology Ventures Corp. President and CEO John Freisinger said the DOE should assist entrepreneurs financially, such as making it less expensive for small firms and startups to sign cooperative research and development agreements, which provide access to scientists and laboratory equipment to further develop new technologies.
The meeting was held at HT MicroAnalytical Inc., an electronic switch-maker that uses technology originally developed at Sandia, following a tour of the plant by Moniz.