Source: JC Online | Mehan Holden | August 2, 2016
Purdue University could be the next to enter an elite group of universities that take part in managing a national lab.
Lockheed Martin chose to partner with Purdue, along with New Mexico State University and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, to compete for a $2.9 billion contract to manage and operate Sandia National Laboratories for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.
The labs’ research focus varies from basic science to energy technology to national security.
“For Purdue to be affiliated with a company like Lockheed, it’s a big thing,” said Tomás Díaz de la Rubia, chief scientist and executive director of Purdue’s Discovery Park. “It’s very prestigious and a fantastic opportunity.”
The company’s hoping Purdue’s successful history in technology transfer and its standing as a strong research institute will help it win the bid to continue its 20-year run managing Sandia.
The university would will lead technology transfer initiatives for Sandia by partnering with New Mexico-based and national startups and entrepreneurs to license technology for commercial use.
The decision is reflective of the university’s recent strides in its startup and commercialization efforts. For fiscal year 2016, the university reported 27 startups that originated from Purdue-licensed intellectual property, marking the third record-breaking year in a row.
“Not many universities can say they’ve had 76 startups in the past three years from their own technologies,” said Suresh Garimella, Purdue’s executive vice president for research and partnerships.
Lockheed Martin Spokesman Matt Kramer said technology transfer is critical to Sandia’s national impact. One of its main objectives is to take its research out of the labs and into the marketplace, he said.
“Purdue really brings a capability and proven track record of technology transfer,” he said.
Having a well-known research institute like Purdue also could boost the bid.
University partnerships add outside expertise and talented people to the mix, which makes a bid more attractive to the government, Kramer said.
Another team in the running includes a pairing between The Boeing Co. and Battelle with the University of New Mexico, the University of Texas System and the Texas A&M University System.
“The word transformational is used a lot, and is probably overused,” Garimella said, “but if we succeed in this bid, this could truly be transformational for Purdue like nothing has been before.”
It hasn’t yet been determined when the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration will make its decision, but Rubia said he’s hoping it’ll be by the end of the year.
Sandia’s 10,000 employees are primarily located in its two largest locations in Albuquerque and Livermore, California.
Rubia said probably 200 faculty from across various departments would be able to spend sabbaticals and summers doing research in the labs. Ph.D. students also would be able to work on research with Sandia.
The university already has a strong relationship with the research institute. Last spring, Purdue was one of a few other universities who signed a “memorandum of understanding” with Sandia to establish a strategic alliance. Additionally, Sandia’s current and former director are Purdue alumni.
“This would form a great next step with Purdue,” Garimella said.