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MSI Connect: Promoting Opportunities, Innovation, and a Diverse Workforce
New initiative will link minority serving institutions with DOE labs to boost commercial impact of federally funded research and entrepreneurial skills
December 18, 2023
Fellows the first cohort will set out to participating labs next year to develop a commercial plan for a DOE technology.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory is teaming up with partner laboratories, minority serving institutions (MSIs), and a key industry partner, FedTech, to launch a pilot fellowship program that will connect top entrepreneurial talent within the MSI community with opportunities to commercialize DOE technologies.
Brookhaven Lab leads the program, called MSI Connect, which is designed to boost the impact of technology transfer operations—how lab innovations are turned into products— at the labs.
“To me, this is about empowerment for the MSI community, and it starts with awareness and exposure to opportunity,” Poorni Upadhya, principal investigator of the project and Brookhaven’s technology transfer manager, said. “MSI Connect will show students there are many ways to interact with a national lab, whether they become researchers themselves, pursue a path as tech transfer and intellectual property professionals, or become entrepreneurs and industry partners working with lab innovations.”
Brookhaven Lab, five other national laboratories, 10 MSIs, and FedTech will build a curriculum for the first phase of MSI Connect, which will include a total of up to 39 fellows who are MSI undergraduates, graduate students, and alumni.
Groups of three fellows each in the first cohort will set out to participating labs next year to develop a commercial plan for one technology. In this phase, fellows will focus on technologies in nuclear energy, renewables (primarily wind energy), and fossil energy and carbon management, including work such as point-source carbon capture, methane emissions reduction, critical mineral production, and removal of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the atmosphere.
“This program is such a great fit for our MSIs and our communities,” said Michelle Penn Marshall, vice president for research and innovation at Texas Southern University, one of MSI Connect’s partners. “I am excited about the outcomes, which will be impactful and sustainable.”
Fellows will collaborate closely with researchers, all with guidance from a member of FedTech’s team and lab technology transfer staff, to learn about lab innovations and think about how research fits in the marketplace. Then, they’ll develop a pitch to present at a pitch event hosted at Brookhaven. The plan is for two teams to be selected to receive seeds grants and move forward for MSI Connect’s second phase: further developing the commercialization of the idea.
"FedTech is delighted to take part in a program that brings together a whole new group of institutional stakeholders that provides access to DOE technologies, creating opportunity and space for robust team dynamics,” according to a company statement. “As an industry partner, FedTech is a leader in deep tech innovation and provider of entrepreneurial programming integrating our expertise in the MSI Connect program."
Program organizers intend to host a second group of fellows in 2025, Upadhya said. Throughout its first two years, MSI Connect leaders will emphasize finding additional corporate, state, and local partners who can help create a sustainable program.
The program will also leverage its ties with MSIs to ensure its curriculum fits the needs of their fellows.
“We hope that participants will also take their new tech transfer mindsets back to their own institutions and think about technologies there that could be valuable to boost,”Upadhya said.
MSI Connect is funded by the DOE Office of Technology Transitions’ Technology Commercialization Fund and DOE’s Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, Office of Nuclear Energy, and Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy.
Brookhaven National Laboratory is supported by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit science.energy.gov.
2023-21510 | INT/EXT | Newsroom