Director's Corner

Release Date: January 02, 2018

Guiding Innovations to Market

Vannevar Bush, America’s first presidential science advisor, came up with a great description of technology transfer when he wrote that, “New products, new industries, and more jobs require continuous additions to knowledge of the laws of nature, and the application of that knowledge to practical purposes.”

At NETL, we identify with Bush’s description. It’s reflected in our mission to discover, integrate, and mature technology solutions to enhance the nation’s energy foundation and protect the environment for future generations.

NETL is home to some of the world's most advanced technologies, facilities, and scientists and helped position the United States as a leader in energy and technology innovation. Along with DOE’s other national laboratories, NETL has helped provide strategic advantages in the global marketplace. But one of our most important challenges is making sure that the innovations made possible in the laboratory make their way to the marketplace.

There are many internal and external activities associated with NETL’s commitment to commercializing its innovations. Our technology transfer professionals maintain close working relationships with researchers to assess and understand the market potentials of the intellectual property developed in our Laboratory; develop a network of external contacts and inform them about new innovations, lab capabilities, and researcher expertise; and then pursue commercial partnerships that put our research results to work for the nation.

It all requires effective communication between industry partners and NETL researchers to guide innovations to successful commercialization.

A cerium-oxide-based coating that NETL developed for applications in power generation is a prime example of the Laboratory’s innovation/commercialization success. To produce power more efficiently and cleanly, the next generation of power plant boilers, turbines, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFCs), and other essential equipment must be operated at extreme pressures and temperatures. To avoid equipment failure with such extreme conditions, NETL’s cerium oxide-based coating was developed to increase oxidation resistance. The coating has application in any market where oxidation-resistant metals are needed, from advanced power plant components to SOFCs. The technology has been recognized with prestigious national innovation awards and was ultimately the subject of a brand-new company start-up that serves a wide market.

Fostering connections and forming collaborations through research partnerships and licensing agreements is the route to realizing the true value of technology and encouraging entrepreneurship in the United States. Without technology transfer, innovation would flounder in the gap between the laboratory and the market.

As Acting Director of NETL, Sean I. Plasynski, Ph.D., builds on an extensive background in energy as he leads NETL in its mission to enhance the nation’s energy independence and protect the environment for future generations. For more information about Sean Plasynski's experience, please click here.