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March 08, 2012 | Tom Ballard

“Bridging the Gap” attendance doubles from last year

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) wrapped-up its second annual “Bridging the Gap” commercialization conference yesterday with attendance that doubled the number who participated in the inaugural event in 2011 and an announcement that emphasized the event’s title.

“Almost everyone who came the first year came the second year,” event organizer Tom Rogers proudly noted. “They are clearly seeing value in the event.”

Rogers is ORNL’s Director of Industrial and Economic Development Partnerships. Prior to joining ORNL nearly four years ago, he ran Tech 20/20, the region’s long-standing entrepreneurial support organization which has a strong commercialization alliance with ORNL.

During the Thursday morning session, ORNL signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with California-based Campbell Applied Physics (CAP), a firm specializing in advanced technology-based infrastructure projects. Robert Campbell, CAP’s founding Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and Jim Roberto, ORNL’s Associate Laboratory Director for S and T Partnerships, represented the two organizations.

During the signing ceremony, Roberto underscored the symbolism of executing the CRADA during the “Bridging the Gap” conference where Campbell’s Chairman was a panelist.

“We know about inventions, and we are learning about innovation,” Roberto said. “You are helping us take our inventing to innovation” which he noted “bridges the gap.”

The CRADA executed yesterday was the latest in a series of agreements that CAP has signed with ORNL. Roberto said that there was a previous CRADA, a Work for Others agreement and a patent license, a history that underscores the importance that ORNL places on long-term relationships with commercial entities.

Prior to executing the CRADA, Chairman Campbell joined two other individuals – Jeff McCay, President of Top Five, Inc., and Alex Borla, founder of Borla Performance Industries, Inc. – in a panel discussion about their respective experiences working with ORNL.

BTG kicked-off on Wednesday afternoon with a presentation by ORNL Deputy Lab Director Jeff Smith and sessions focused on innovations in data analytics and advanced materials. A total of seven technologies were presented in the two areas. Three additional innovations in clean technologies were presented on Thursday morning.

On Wednesday evening, long-time Knoxville entrepreneur Chuck Witkowski shared his experiences with the group.

With the 2012 version of BTG now history, Rogers has already started thinking about the third annual event. “We want to have one public event every spring where we connect entrepreneurs, investors and industries with the new technologies at ORNL.”

Jeff Smith, ORNL Deputy Lab Director for Operations, gives the opening address.


Entrepreneur Chuck Witkowski speaks at the Wednesday dinner.

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