In addition to helping to solve many of our world’s intractable problems, Berkeley Lab’s innovations are also helping drive the economy, improving products and processes in existing industries and building new industries.
By licensing Lab technologies to companies, the Lab transfers those technologies that may be commercially viable to the private sector. As of April 2020, more than 80 Lab technologies, protected by more than 250 patents and patent applications, are being commercialized by the Lab’s licensees. Recently licensed and optioned Lab technologies include:
- a portfolio of materials, structural design, and processes for the fabrication and manufacturing of solid oxide fuel cells licensed by Nexceris for use as a power extender in vehicles,
- a library of synthetic promoters to control gene expression in plant cells, optioned by BASF Plant Sciences,
- a boron nitride (BN) portfolio, licensed by Epic Advanced Materials, that enables new materials applications because of BN’s unique mix of properties such as superior mechanical strength, high thermal conductivity, and electrically insulating behavior.
In addition, the Lab licenses out both open source and Lab proprietary software. An example of the latter is TOUGH3, a popular software package used by academic institutions and for-profit companies. The software enables desktop simulations for predictive modelling of varying temperature and flow of gases or liquids, in fractured porous materials.
“Now more than ever, our economy depends on innovation and invention to stay strong,” said Horst Simon, Deputy Director for Research. “In the past, our innovations have laid the foundation in energy efficiency and biotech, helping to create those industry sectors. Today the inventions we have licensed to industry are revolutionizing the grid, creating brand new products from biofuels, pushing the envelope in high-performance computing, and advancing healthcare, among others. These inventions are the lifeblood of our economy.”
Royalties for the Lab and Scientists
In addition to the impact on the economy, licensed technologies also bring a financial reward to the Lab and to Lab scientists. For FY19, licensed inventions and copyrighted software and books earned royalties of more than $2,456,000. After patenting costs are reimbursed, 65% of net royalties are used to fund Berkeley Lab research– 50% via the general fund and 15% via Area funds– through Innovation grants and other initiatives, and 35% go to the researchers themselves. In FY19, 151 Berkeley Lab inventors and affiliates received a total of over $461,000 in royalties.
Russell Carrington, Chief Technology Transfer Officer, explained that transferring Lab inventions to industry starts with invention and software disclosures to the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). IPO then works with the scientist or developer to determine the patentability and potential impact of the invention or software. IPO protects and markets about half of the technologies and most of the software that are disclosed.
“Disclosing inventions and software is a critical first step in the process,” said Carrington. “I encourage all inventors to disclose their inventions and software to IPO in the next weeks,” said Carrington. “IPO staff are happy to help you determine if you should disclose your invention and to support you in the process.” Please submit invention disclosures here and software disclosures here.