The founding of Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. William Wiley, whom the lab was recently named after, had a dream:
The Laboratory made plans for state-of-the-art research programs in molecular science and for bringing the equipment, facilities, and, most of all, people to support these programs.
It was a gamble. What scientist in his or her right mind would come to work on a nonexistent program, in a nonexistent facility, with nonexistent equipment, in Richland, Washington?
"If the scientific challenge is of such a nature to make it highly attractive, people will come," said Wiley at the time. "Nonexistent programs, facilities, and equipment can be sold to scientists of national and international repute, if they're driven by the nature of the challenge."
THE BIRTH OF A NATIONAL USER FACILITY : EMSL-Molecular Science for the Environment, 10/1996
Between 2003 and October 2005, more than twenty-five universities and national labs announced the creation or opening of nanotechnology research facilities. The average facility cost $44 million, has 117,000 square feet of space, houses 40 researchers and has an average annual operating budget of $28 million. What we haven't seen is 20 or 30 corporations make a similar announcement. Why? A corporation would need to allocate $324 million over ten years to establish a similar nanotechnology facility that may or may not generate viable commercial products. And this is just one possible direction for research in materials science.
"Investment in basic research and development and translation of discoveries into world-changing technologies is the engine that drives economic growth and the key to U.S. competitiveness."
Donald H. Levy, Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories.
Corporations need access to basic research. Lacking in-house facilities, many companies funded university research. But over the last two decades, universities have increasingly retained the results of their research, licensing to all comers or spun-off private ventures. The result has been corporations funding the research that forms the basis for new competitors. Outsourcing has led to a decline in core competencies and in some cases has also led to the creation of new competitors.
"CEOs from two-thirds of America's fastest-growing private companies report that innovation is an organization-wide priority, and almost all say it has had a significant, positive impact on their business. However, one in four of those citing innovation as a priority say they do not have an R&D budget."
"Companies Say Innovation a Priority But Lack R&D Budget", SmartPros, LTD, March 16, 2005
The most reasonable approach is to diversify research into a broad range of areas with many opportunities for cross-discipline collaboration. Such an approach is considerably more expensive than most firms are willing, or able, to bear. S:DRD gives partner corporations a means to fund this approach in a cost effective way while giving them greater access and control of the research results.
S:DRD plans to build a state-of-the-art research lab for up to one thousand researchers in basic and applied research fields. S:DRD will provide the facilities, equipment, support staff and operational funding for in-house basic research teams and teams of applied researchers from our corporate partners. Corporate partners will have exclusive, continuing access to the basic research teams and their results.
Follow one of the links if you would like more information about our plans.