The Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently recognized the professionals behind the lab's greatest innovations from the past year during its annual Innovation and Technology Transfer Awards ceremony. The event also celebrated NREL's commercialization and partnering successes, recognizing the researchers and engineers--including three honorees in the new Rising Stars Award category--who made it happen.
"The technology transfer momentum continues to accelerate, as NREL scientists and engineers apply their breakthroughs to further our gains in energy systems integration and industry-changing energy solutions," said Kristin Gray of NREL's Technology Transfer Office (TTO).
NREL added 28 new Cooperative Research and Development Agreements (CRADAs) in fiscal year 2013, for a total of 166 active CRADAs–the highest in the Energy Department system. Overall, there were 210 new partnerships signed including the CRADAs, boosting the lab's active total of partnerships to 652 for FY13. CRADAS are one of the many tools industry uses when looking to partner with NREL; for every dollar that the Energy Department invests in a CRADA, it attracts another $6 in total value from all industry contracts. Also during the last year, the lab signed 20 new license agreements and filed more than 60 new patent applications.
Sopori Named Distinguished Innovator
Principal Engineer Bhushan Sopori, one of NREL's top inventors measured by number of patents generated and licenses executed, was honored with the Distinguished Innovator of the Year Award. The award recognizes scientists who have shown leadership that has significantly impacted the commercialization of NREL technologies, demonstrated innovation productivity, and created impactful technologies.
Sopori is a solar energy researcher who has cooperated with a large number of companies, and whose research helped drive down the cost of photovoltaic module production, resulting in accelerated technology adoption and deployment of solar cells. A principal engineer in the National Center for Photovoltaics with more than 30 years of experience, he is creator of NREL's Optical Cavity Furnace and Silicon Photovoltaic Wafer Screening System. He has collaborated with TTO to help transfer foundational technologies to companies with two commercial licenses incorporating his innovations. Since beginning at NREL in 1987, Sopori has contributed more than 315 journal papers, meeting abstracts, books, patents, and copyrights; and he won three R&D 100 awards.
Rising Stars Shine Brightly as Innovators
This year marks the debut of the Rising Star awards. These recognize employees who have less than six years of service at NREL, but who have demonstrated increasing engagement with the commercialization and technology transfer process. The three winners are Kirstin Alberi and Arrelaine Dameron of the Chemical and Materials Science Center and Gregg Beckham of the National Bioenergy Center.
Since coming to NREL in 2010, Alberi has been instrumental in the development of high efficiency photovoltaic and solid-state lighting applications, and has successfully submitted nine Records of Invention. Beckham, who joined NREL in 2008, is focused on biomass conversion, and has 14 Records of Invention to his name over the last three years. And Dameron, who started in 2008 as an NREL postdoctoral researcher, examines deposition and sputtering processes for transparent conducting materials, resulting in 11 Records of Invention in the last three years.
"These individuals are illuminating the way to transform energy usage not only for our country but the entire world. Their efforts will impact generations to come," NREL's Associate Lab Director of Innovation, Partnering, and Outreach Bill Farris said.