Event honors Sandia efforts to advance the science frontier with innovative technologies
On Oct. 27, Sandia/California hosted a hybrid Innovation Award Celebration to recognize innovators at the Labs. The annual event — which went on hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic — honors Sandians who have developed innovative technical solutions to the nation’s most pressing national security needs, spanning areas across biology, computer science, energy, materials science and more.
The event was an opportunity to celebrate people who received patents and copyrights for the intellectual property they developed at Sandia in 2021. Also honored were new Sandia innovators who received various innovation awards, including R&D 100, Federal Laboratory Consortium, Classified Innovation Recognition awards and the winner of the DOE National Laboratories Pitch Competition.
Michelle Gonzalez, manager of the California Partnerships and Innovation organization, served as master of ceremonies and opened the celebration by speaking about the power to create change through innovation.
“Our inventors are rising to the occasion as we collectively evolve to meet the new, post-pandemic economy,” Michelle said. “It takes an innovative mindset to create change, and each of you is at the forefront of this wave of innovation at Sandia.”
Innovating at Sandia — past and present
As Sandia prepares to commemorate its 75th anniversary in 2024, Michelle noted that the Labs’ history has shown creativity alone is not enough.
“While creativity leads to new ideas, the process of seeing an idea through to fruition is innovation,” Michelle said. “Creativity is the spark from which new ideas grow. Innovation fans that spark, activating those ideas and putting them into action.”
In recorded remarks, Associate Labs Director Andy McIlroy lauded the Sandia innovators for their patents and awards.
“These are tremendous accomplishments, and it is my great privilege to be asked to help honor and recognize all of you today,” Andy said. “I hope to convey my deep admiration for each of you and the work you’ve accomplished. Your groundbreaking research and your commitment to entrepreneurship and technology transfer are the key to advancing the Labs’ mission of creating innovative solutions to our nation’s most challenging national security problems. We are inspired by each of you, and we encourage you to continue trailblazing by nurturing your creativity and your innovative mindset.”
Accelerating technology transfer at the national labs
Deputy Associate Labs Director Trish Benguerel highlighted several programs designed to accelerate the transition of technology developed at the national labs to the marketplace. These programs help researchers leverage Sandia’s entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem to identify technology gaps and open partnership opportunities.
One such program, the National Lab Accelerator Pitch Competition, took place on Nov. 16 in Palo Alto, California.
Virologist Brooke Harmon was recognized at the celebration for winning the competition last year. Brooke’s pitch on partnership opportunities for her antibody therapeutics work was selected as the favorite from among the national labs in 2021.
This year, Mara Schindelholz will represent Sandia, pitching her idea for “nDetect: Tunable Nanoporous-Based Sensors for the Near-Zero Power Detection of Gaseous Pollutants.”
Energy I-Corps, a key initiative of DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions, is another upcoming opportunity for researchers to connect with industry mentors while learning to define technology value propositions, conduct stakeholder discovery interviews and develop viable market pathways for their technologies.
After an intensive two-month training, researchers return to their home organizations with a framework for industry engagement to guide future research and inform a culture of market awareness within the national labs.
Principal investigators interested in Energy I-Corps can contact technical business development specialist Connor Johnston to learn more about this opportunity.
Honoring innovative mindsets and actions
Susan Altman, deputy for Sandia’s Energy and Homeland Security portfolio, traveled to Livermore from Albuquerque to celebrate with the California site honorees. She congratulated and thanked them for demonstrating Sandia’s continued commitment to developing innovations and partnerships that help secure our nation’s future.
“We look forward to seeing what new innovations you will dream up and bring to fruition,” Michelle said at the close of the celebration. “We are always available to partner with you. Let’s intentionally choose to chart a path forward to bring Sandia ideas to the marketplace, and let’s continue to transform ideas into value propositions that are not only profitable, but deployable for the U.S. public good.”
The celebration was followed by a reception to honor Sandians who received patent awards, copyrights, classified innovation recognition awards, Federal Laboratory Consortium technology transfer awards, R&D 100 awards and the DOE National Laboratories Pitch Competition winner.