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Sandia’s technology transfer programs moving

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

Sandia National Laboratories is taking its technology transfer efforts to the next level with plans for a one-stop shop for the lab’s tech-transfer programs – located outside Kirtland Air Force Base.

The new Center for Collaboration and Commercialization will be at the Sandia Science and Technology Park, just east of Kirtland.

“We want to expand Sandia’s front door by creating an open and accessible environment at the Science and Technology Park,” lab director Paul Hommert said at a news conference Friday morning.

The new center, to be known as C3, will also provide a central place for lab scientists and personnel to work directly in partnership with private investors, entrepreneurs, the state’s research universities and others to take new technologies to market, he said.

C3 will, for the first time, concentrate all of Sandia’s commercialization efforts outside the laboratory fence, providing much greater access by community partners to lab innovation and to the scientists behind the research, Hommert said.

John Freisinger, head of Technology Ventures Corp., which works to facilitate tech transfer at Sandia and other national laboratories, welcomed the move.

“A key component for businesses to get started is gaining access to lab ideas and scientists, and this really allows for that,” he said. “To access research and scientists today, you have to go through the Air Force base, the Department of Energy gate, and building security. With this center, it’s just one stop where you pull up to the parking lot and walk through the front door.”

Hommert said the center will add a new dimension to the lab’s tech-transfer efforts, which have focused heavily in the last few years on educating Sandia scientists to consider market opportunities in everything they do. And the lab has worked to provide more information to investors and entrepreneurs about technology available for commercialization through public forums and other outreach, while streamlining the licensing process to make it easier to take those inventions to market.

But Sandia’s efforts are generally scattered among different offices and administrative personnel, and a lot of it remains behind the fence, Hommert said.

“We want to build on the activities we already do but which today are less concentrated and collaborative,” he said. “The new center will be a physical place that provides opportunities to share things more completely. It will be a place where scientists can sit and talk with investors and others about the details of how to move technology forward.”

The center’s physical details and building costs must still be developed, but Sandia envisions a space with multiple facilities, including meeting and conference rooms, offices where investors and community partners can co-locate, and incubation space for new companies, Hommert told the Journal . The center will begin operating at existing buildings at the park, with a 2017 target for opening a new, dedicated facility.

“We want space where our staff and partners can roll up their sleeves and work together,” Hommert said.

Tom Brennan of Arch Venture Partners, a veteran of technology transfer at New Mexico’s national laboratories, said his company would take advantage of the opportunities the new center offers.

“For Sandia to get outside the gate in a place where people can go is super positive,” Brennan said. “So much so that I believe we at Arch Ventures would consider having an office there.”

Recently, Sandia has been forging closer partnerships with public and private entities in Albuquerque. In September, for example, Sandia launched a new effort with the New Mexico Angels – a group of individual investors who pool their resources to build startup companies – to market select lab technologies.

“We’ve seen a real change at Sandia in the last year where they’re actively engaging investors and entrepreneurs in a way they hadn’t before,” said NM Angels President John Chavez. “Sandia is really getting on board.”

Sandia executives said C3 will also support city and UNM efforts to build a high-tech research and innovation district Downtown. Albuquerque Mayor Richard Berry and UNM Chief Economic Development Officer Lisa Kuuttila joined Hommert in announcing the new initiative on Friday.

“We view C3 as part of the city’s Innovation District, as the eastern end of an innovation corridor that extends along Central Avenue from Downtown east to Eubank Boulevard and the Sandia Science and Technology Park,” said Julia Phillips, Sandia’s deputy chief technology officer.

Hommert said Sandia wants to join UNM and the city in strengthening the local economy.

“It’s all about stimulating innovation, cultivating entrepreneurs, and generating jobs,” Hommert said.