August 2, 2019

Lab producing groundbreaking research, innovation sets a perfect stage for AWB event

By: Lori Maricle   Comments: 0
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, operated by Battelle, in Richland. Photo courtesy Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Humans have been inventing, tinkering and innovating since before the dawn of civilization. Inventions brought us the Industrial Revolution and adoption of innovation made our machines and industry safer, more efficient and reliable.

This includes compact discs that revolutionized the way we store data and listen to music. Airport scanners for safer travel. High-efficiency batteries for a more reliable power grid. Light-weight material for more fuel-efficient cars. “Digital ants” that crawl throughout your networks to identify cyber-attacks. These are just some examples of innovations that have come out of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), based right here in Washington.

This August 19-20, the Association of Washington Business will host the third Federal Affairs Summit at the PNNL main campus in Richland.

PNNL is a Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory. Its scientists and engineers perform research supporting the missions of several U.S. federal agency sponsors and focuses on three areas: scientific discovery, energy resiliency, and national security. The lab contributes nearly $1.5 billion to our economy. PNNL employs over 4,000 scientists, engineers and support professionals, making the lab the top employer in the Tri-Cities.

All that expertise and knowledge has produced 935 U.S. patents in the last two decades, and PNNL has received a combined total of 2,700 U.S. and foreign patents since 1965.

In addition, a primary objective of the lab is to move innovations into the marketplace. PNNL is making a profound impact on the integration of innovation into manufacturing and commerce across the globe. Through services the lab provides, the business of manufacturing and technology in our state has a unique and extraordinary resource right in our back yard.

So far, the lab has contributed to 193 companies.

The lab participates in collaborative research development to transform technologies into customized products and even sponsored research through strategic partnerships. This means companies that qualify can have access to the PNNL instruments, technologies, software and software applications, intellectual property, and more, through exclusive and nonexclusive licensing agreements. A company can even take advantage of an exploratory licensing agreement, which allows it exclusive access to “test drive” a technology for up to six months without the risk of another company or entity beating it to the marketplace.

For companies with more of an entrepreneurial mindset but not the capacity to bring an idea all the way through research and development to market, the lab offers a menu of resources:

  • interactions with nationally and internationally known, entrepreneurial-minded staff who understand the fast-paced, solution-focused culture of industry
  • connections to a vast entrepreneurial ecosystem for specialized expertise
  • access to specialized instruments in PNNL laboratories and EMSL, the Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.

According to PNNL, “making our broad array of intellectual property and expertise available to businesses is part of our mission as a taxpayer-funded laboratory operated for the U.S. Department of Energy.”

Because the lab has been developing technology and collecting expertise for over 50 years, it is a resource that employers of all sizes can tap into. The lab has partnered with hundreds of businesses, from local startups like Carbitex to Fortune 500 companies like General Motors and PepsiCo.

The laboratory was created in 1965 when the government's research laboratory at the Department of Energy's Hanford Site was separated from Hanford operations. The lab operations were contracted to Battelle, a nonprofit applied science and technology development company headquartered in Columbus, Ohio.

Before 1965, the General Electric Company had operated the site since 1946 to oversee research and development activities for plutonium production for the Manhattan Project. The original mission of PNNL focused on nuclear technology and the environmental and health effects of radiation. Since those early years, the mission and work of the lab has evolved and grown to include nearly every field of basic science.

The facility was named a national laboratory in the mid-1980s to reflect its diversified mission, but the lab's name was not changed until later in 1995. The PNNL mission is to create a world that is safer, cleaner, more prosperous, and more secure.

PNNL’s Discovery Hall is a fitting backdrop for the Federal Affairs Summit. The event will bring together Washington’s congressional delegation and the state’s employers to discuss policy and build strong connections that will allow Washington’s economy to thrive. On the agenda this year are discussions about the future of energy and innovation, and a discussion on bipartisanship. These topics are integral to the future success of the state’s economy amidst projected growth that sets the state population at nine million by 2040.

Registration for the 2019 Federal Affairs Summit, sponsored by Battelle, runs through August 12. Complete event and program details, and online registration are available at