Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO) is committed to supporting and expanding Berkeley Lab’s innovation ecosystem and integrating it with regional and national activity.
LBNL Pitch Competition 2019
Eight IPO I-Corps short course graduates pitched their technology commercialization plans to a panel of industry judges at LBNL’s 2019 Pitch Competition. August 1.
The most compelling business cases were awarded funds to continue customer discovery efforts:
- 1st place: Erika Suzuki — radioactivity mapping
- 2nd place: Andrew Voyles — radionuclide production for nuclear medicine
- 3rd place: Arun Persaud — soil health system
The first place winner advances to a DOE-wide pitch competition to compete for cash prizes supporting additional research.
Other entrepreneurial researcher participants included
- Pete Christensen – recyclable polymer for circular plastics economy
- Nicholas DeForest – investing energy resources for buildings or microgrids
- Ernst Oberortner – DNA, RNA, and protein sequence design
- Maren Wehrs and Yuzhong Liu – natural dyes for safer, sustainable textiles
- Ning Sun – renewable ionic liquids
The judging panel questioned each participant to identify top features and next steps for business planning. The panel included
- Thomas Schenkel, LBNL physicist/senior administrator and 2017 pitch competition winner
- Kevin Rodondi, I-Corps instructor and UCSF pharmacy professor
- Rhonda Shrader, Haas School of Business executive director of entrepreneurship
- Virginia Rath, Quotient Design Research consultant and Haas faculty member
- Mike Biddle, Evok Innovations managing director
Interested in a future pitch event and entrepreneurial training? Contact Russell Carrington, KRCarrington@lbl.gov.
DOE’s Energy I-Corps Training
Contact Russell Carrington, KRCarrington@lbl.gov, x6439, if interested in future cohorts.
Based on NSF’s I-Corps™ model, DOE’s Energy I-Corps is an immersive training experience giving national lab-based research teams the tools and training to help transition technologies into products that benefit society and the national economy.
Highlights of the six-week Energy I-Corps program include
- 6 weeks and 100 interviews so you have opportunities to learn more about product-market fit, the business model canvas, and the commercial potential of your technology
- Teams from all national labs so you can network with a broader group of business-minded researchers, mentors, and instructors
- $75k per team to cover time so you don’t have to moonlight as much
Watch short films of LBNL researchers in the MyGreenCar team and Ring Burner team as they participate in past Energy I-Corps sessions. Each film series captures the participants conducting information-gathering interviews with potential customers and supply chain members and then addressing hard decisions about markets, applications, and pivoting.
IPO I-Corps Short Course (LBNL only)
Offered by IPO in partnership with I-Corps instructors, this short course helps Lab employees gain a deeper understanding of the scientific and business ecosystems around their technology and introduces the customer discovery process and business model concepts.
Of the 34 Berkeley Lab participants in the two previous short courses, 95% would enthusiastically recommend the course to a colleague, and 80% said the course changed their understanding of their technology’s market. Contact Russell Carrington, KRCarrington@lbl.gov, x6439, if interested in future I-Corps short courses.
- “I’m convinced it helped us clench an ARPA-E award. What I learned in I-Corps was absolutely essential to understanding and effectively articulating the business opportunity of our battery technology. It significantly altered our outlook on the technological demands necessary to gain market traction.” Peter Frischmann, former LBNL project scientist accepted into Cyclotron Road program, co-founder of Sepion Technologies
- “I’ll never write a funding proposal the same way again.” Brett Helms, staff scientist, Molecular Foundry, co-founder of Sepion Technologies
- “Customer discovery principles are influencing all aspects of my research at LBNL. I’m using them on a daily basis now and they will influence the rest of my career.” Peter Therkelsen, staff scientist in Building Technology and Urban Systems Division.
Past BLIC Events and Slides
Rapid Fire Elevator Pitch Contest
April 24, 2018
Entrepreneur and pitch coach Christina Ellwood provided insightful feedback on elevator pitches from six entrepreneurially-minded Berkeley Lab researchers in a session similar to the one she leads annually at Cleantech Open West Academy. Read Christina’s LinkedIn post on the event.
The Path to Market: Mike Biddle, Evok Innovations
February 22, 2018 – Presentation slides (pdf)
Dr. Mike Biddle, Managing Director of Evok Innovations, presented perspectives on the technology-to-marketplace process from his point of view as a former startup founder and, now, investor.
Writing a Successful Grant: Michel Foure’ of Berkeley Grant Writing
October 12, 2017 – Presentation slides (pdf)
Michel Foure’ translated his grant writing success as a researcher into a consulting business, Berkeley Grant Writing LLC. Michel’s presentation featured an interactive exercise to support grant writing efforts — whether for startup funding or continuing research.
Adam Lorimer / Alphabet Energy (Berkeley Lab startup)
May 9, 2017 (no slides available)
Adam Lorimer, Co-Founder and VP of Engineering for Berkeley Lab startup Alphabet Energy, discussed the company’s path to commercialize hard science cleantech developed at an academic institution. Alphabet Energy offers thermoelectric generator products converting waste heat into energy for a variety of industries.
Steve Visco / Polyplus Battery Company (Berkeley Lab startup)
February 10, 2017 (no slides available)
Steve Visco, founder of Polyplus Battery Company, discussed the evolution of his startup and provided insights into the battery industry. Earlier in 2017, Visco was featured in Nova’s Search for the Super Battery.
Mark Modera / Aeroseal (Berkeley Lab startup)
December 12, 2016 – Presentation Slides (pdf)
While at Berkeley Lab, Mark Modera developed an aerosol-based duct sealing process to reduce heating and cooling energy losses in residential and commercial buildings. Modera established Aeroseal, a startup to commercialize the process, and become the company’s CEO in 1997. Today, Modera is an engineering professor at U. C. Davis, where he also serves as Director of the Western Cooling Efficiency Center and the Sempra Energy Chair in Energy Efficiency. Since its founding, Aeroseal has sealed over 125,000 ducts saving an estimated $4.2 million in annual energy costs. Over 600 dealers in North America, Europe, Asia and Australia make up the Aeroseal network.
More Talk, More Impact
October 18, 2016
Todd Morrill, Faculty Director and Instructor for Bay Area NSF Innovation Corps, on talking to private and public sector “customers” who can help move your ideas forward — even if you don’t want to start a company. More Talk, More Impact (pdf). Berkeley Lab researchers Katy Christiansen and Peter Frischmann will share their customer discovery experiences and outcomes as well. Customer Discovery Experiences – Sepion (pdf).
The Journey from Lab Scientist to Entrepreneur
September 20, 2016
Dr. Peter S. Fiske, published scientist, startup founder, and now CEO of PAX Water Technologies, Inc., on innate similarities between scientists and entrepreneurs and the journey from research to startup. Entrepreneurship for Scientists (pdf)
Navigating Conflict of Interest
April 12, 2016
Berkeley Lab Conflict of Interest (COI) policies and issues from Molly Stoufer, Requirements Program Manager and COI Coordinator, for staff interested in consulting for an outside entity or starting a company to license and develop Lab technology as well as staff with financial interest in a company that could work with the Lab. LBNL Conflict of Interest and Case Study (pdf)
The VC Landscape
March 2, 2016
Insights on the latest in the venture capital world from Doug Collom, a professor of venture capital and entrepreneurship at The Wharton School’s Executive MBA Program in San Francisco and a partner at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. VC Landscape (pdf)
Legal Considerations and Innovation Resources for Startups
January 28, 2016
Larry Adkison, Senior Counsel for the Business Transactions Group at UCOP, and Todd Rumbrger, Partner at Foley and Lardner, on legal considerations for startups. Noore Kadri, Manager of the QB3 Innovation and Incubator Network, on resources to lower barriers to entry for bringing new innovation to market. Legal Considerations for Startup Entrepreneurs (pdf)
December 8, 2015
Hemai Parthasarathy, Ph.D., of Breakout Labs, a funding and support system for science companies, and Entrepreneur Jim Kiles of YStrategies, on his experience advising DOE’s Lab-Corps program and lab-to-market transitions. QB3 – Resources for Innovators (pdf)