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PPPL wins DOE funding for entrepreneurship

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) will expand an entrepreneurship “lunch and learn” program pioneered at PPPL last year and appoint mentors to help and encourage potential entrepreneurs in the Laboratory through two U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) projects totaling $70,000 awarded to PPPL’s Technology Transfer Office.

PPPL will participate in three and receive funding for two of 12 projects through DOE’s Practices to Accelerate the Commercialization of Technologies (PACT) program developed by DOE’s Office of Technology Transition (OTT) to help promote the transition of inventions developed at the 17 national laboratories and plants to the marketplace. 

“I’m thrilled that PPPL received these awards,” said Laurie Bagley, head of Technology Transfer. “We are delighted to have the funding to provide support and training to our entrepreneurs, as well as to provide mentorship and training in collaboration with other laboratories. 

A goal of instilling entrepreneurship 

Steve Cowley, laboratory director, said he is glad to see funding for programs that encourage PPPL inventors. He noted that the DOE set a goal of instilling a culture of entrepreneurship as a “notable” requirement for all national laboratory directors in fiscal years 2019 and 2020. “One of PPPL’s major goals is to develop useful new technologies of all kinds,” Cowley said. “Laurie has done a wonderful job in developing programs to encourage entrepreneurship and these awards are a reflection of that. I hope everyone on our staff will take advantage of these programs and learn how to bring out their inner inventors.” 

PPPL received $40,000 from the DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions to continue and expand the Entrepreneurship Lunch and Learn program begun last year by Bagley, to offer information and support to current and future entrepreneurs at the Laboratory. The additional funds will allow PPPL to bring in a wider variety of experts on a range of topics affecting entrepreneurs, Bagley said. Topics could include how to identify ideal customers, developing marketing leads and plans, intellectual property’s role in a start-up, and entrepreneur success stories. The talks could also help improve the skill set of inventors presenting their technologies at events such as the Innovation Discovery Events, technology showcases or Energy I-Corps programs, Bagley said.  

This award is aimed at encouraging entrepreneurship throughout PPPL’s staff, not just physicists and engineers. “The goal is to get people here thinking more entrepreneurially, so if they are working on a technology that can be patented or have an idea to start a business, they’ll have a deeper understanding to make those decisions,” Bagley said.

PPPL’s Office of Technology Transfer offered four such talks last year to audience members and ranged from advice from a Princeton University entrepreneur on the challenges of starting a business to services available to entrepreneurs through Princeton University and the DOE’s Office of Technology Transition’s Program.

Funding for research liaisons 

The Laboratory will also participate in a $30,000 project through a new pilot initiative, the DOE Technology Transfer Research Liaison Program. The program was championed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) as a collaborative effort with 11 national laboratories, including PPPL. The idea is to strengthen the relationship between the lab’s tech transfer office and its researchers and engineers to identify inventors and encourage and advise them about how to develop technologies, some of which can eventually be brought to market. PPPL will select three liaisons, who will receive training along with liaisons at other laboratories. The liaisons will then serve as champions and mentors by offering help and encouragement on questions about invention disclosures, patents, and other technology transfer issues.

In addition to the awards, PPPL was named as one of 11 partners in another new DOE program, Diversity and Inclusion in InVentorship and EntrepReneurship Strategies and Engagement (DIVERSE), which is aimed at encouraging a more diverse pool of inventors and entrepreneurs.

PPPL, on Princeton University's Forrestal Campus in Plainsboro, N.J., is devoted to creating new knowledge about the physics of plasmas — ultra-hot, charged gases — and to developing practical solutions for the creation of fusion energy. The Laboratory is managed by the University for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science, which  is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visitenergy.gov/science.

U.S. Department of Energy
Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory managed by Princeton University.

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