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February 05, 2013 | Tom Ballard

ORNL’s “Bridging the Gap” planned as opportunity to better understand research areas

Have you ever wondered how you can easily and productively understand more about Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s (ORNL) areas of research emphasis and expertise?

The answer is no doubt “yes,” based on my experience over more than seven years at ORNL, initially as part of the Technology Transfer and Economic Development organization and later as Director of the renamed Partnerships group. I regularly received calls from individuals who wanted to visit and interact with researchers one-on-one, thinking that access to the lab was all that was needed for success. This was clearly not a productive approach for either party.

There is, however, an opportunity next month to have a much more efficient and beneficial exploration. It is the latest iteration of ORNL’s “Bridging the Gap” (BTG) event set for the afternoon of March 5 and into early afternoon on March 6.

“If you want to have a way to understand the capabilities of the lab in several areas, there’s not a better opportunity,” according to Tom Rogers, Director of Industrial and Economic Development Partnerships. He and his team are the event organizers.

BTG has been offered annually for the past few years, mostly showcasing technologies available for licensing. While multiple licenses have been executed as a result of BTG in the past, Rogers says that “we want to take it up a notch” for 2013.

The change is basically showcasing researchers and their innovative work in the areas of energy, advanced materials, and big data as well as how ORNL has worked with partners in two cluster areas – carbon fiber and additive manufacturing.

Rogers says the program is structured in a manner that attendees can understand ORNL’s specific research in the selected areas and make a better decision on the possibility of pursuing a partnership with the lab. If the participants believe that opportunities exist, they will be in a much better position to further explore collaboration.

The three research areas are further subdivided into more specific categories.

  • Energy includes bioenergy, sustainable transportation, and building technologies.
  • Advanced materials include additive manufacturing, carbon fiber composites, and lightweight materials.
  • Big data includes data systems, data analytics, modeling and simulation, and cyber security.

Each of the 10 areas will feature a presentation by ORNL’s top researchers in that field.

The “Cluster Strategies Panel” is set for the morning on March 6, immediately after breakfast, and will feature presentations by two companies actively involved in these areas.

  • Rob Klawonn, President of Toho Tenax America, Inc., in Rockwood, will join Jesse Smith, Director of Technology for Innovation Valley, Inc., in a discussion about the carbon fiber initiative.
  • Mike Knopp, President of Remotec in Clinton, will team with Buzz Patrick, Director of Advanced Manufacturing for Tech 20/20, to discuss current activities in additive manufacturing in the region.

Other speakers include ORNL Director Thom Mason and Charlie Brock, the recently named President and Chief Executive Officer of LaunchTN.

The complete agenda is available at BTG Agenda 1. To register, go to

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