— By Julie Chao
Venkat Srinivasan, Staff Scientist in Berkeley Lab’s Energy Storage and Distributed Resources (ESDR) Division, acknowledged that it has often not been easy for private companies to work with national labs, with the sheer volume of paperwork involved being just one of the obstacles. But his message to representatives from more than 50 companies attending Berkeley Lab’s first Industry Day Wednesday is that much has changed, at least as far as energy storage research.
“Our aim is to make our labs more open to industry,” he said. “We’ll continue our mission of publishing papers and doing great science, but we also want to help you.”
The goal of the Industry Day and Open House at Berkeley Lab, which welcomed about 70 industry attendees, was to give battery companies—from local startups to major multinationals—an overview of how and why to work with national labs. For the last several years, Srinivasan and his team have built up CalCharge, a unique public-private consortium uniting the California Bay Area’s emerging and established battery technology companies with critical academic and government resources.
Now they are hoping to expand collaboration possibilities even further with a new Department of Energy-funded Tech-to-Market program. This program will allow battery startups to get into Berkeley Lab within a couple weeks so that Lab scientists can perform a small proof-of-concept experiment at no cost.
“The only paperwork is an NDA [nondisclosure agreement],” Srinivasan said. “If the experiment is successful, then we’ll establish a CRADA [cooperative research and development agreement] for further collaboration.”
The benefit for the Lab, besides helping technologies get to market quicker, is that Lab scientists will have a better understanding of industry needs.
Wednesday’s program included talks by Lab scientists about the Materials Project, advanced characterization techniques, lab-scale fabrication, and projects to integrate energy storage on the grid. Participants also got a tour of the Advanced Light Source, FLEXLAB, and the battery labs.
Participants found the day informative. “I had no idea there were so many resources available at low cost, like the ALS,” said Marc Juzkow of Iontensity LLC.
In the next year, ESDR has plans for even deeper engagement with energy storage companies, including establishing an industrial advisory board and holding in-depth workshops to train industry engineers on various technical topics.
“We hope this moves us closer to the type of industry engagement all of us would like to see happen,” Srinivasan said.