Science of Doing Business
Over the last 35 years, more than 30 companies based on technologies developed at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have sprouted up. The latest, Wave ID, is a wireless communication company formed inlate 2000.
Wave ID will develop and sell wireless communication systems based on radio-frequency identification technologies previously developed at Pacific Northwest. These systems include radio-frequency tags, also known as RF tags, that can identify, locate or monitor items. Pacific Northwest researchers have designed RF tag systems to track weapons, soldiers and equipment.
"Wave ID's products will be useful for supply-chain management, security control and any other application where an item's location, history and physical or environmental condition is important," said Curt Carrender, Wave ID's chief technical officer.
Carrender and three others left Pacific Northwest to form the new company's core development team. However, Pacific Northwest has replaced them so that it can maintain its capabilities in RF wireless technology.
Battelle, which operates the Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy, funded commercialization activities and granted Wave ID an exclusive license to the RF technologies.
Wave ID's new employees hope that their business joins the likes of Integrated Environmental Technologies, a successful company that got its start at Pacific Northwest.
IET markets an award-winning system described as "a controlled bolt of lightening" that destroys hazardous, biological and pathological components in waste; converts remaining waste into a stable form; and produces more energy than it uses. The core technology was developed at Pacific Northwest, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Several researchers took entrepreneurial leaves of absence in 1995 to start IET, including president and chief executive officer Jeff Surma. Pacific Northwest also supplied process development assistance to the new business.
IET has sold its systems in the United States and Asia and signed an agreement with a major international waste processor who will purchase and market systems worldwide.
A total of more than 90 companies created since 1965 can credit their beginnings to Pacific Northwest's technologies, staff members who left to apply their expertise to new business ventures and equity investments from Battelle—or some combination of the three.
For example, Pacific Northwest did not develop the technology behind Advanced Diagnostics Inc.'s alternative to traditional mammograms, yet Battelle equity, combined with technical and entrepreneurial assistance from staff, helped get the company off the ground.
Barb Fecht, ADI's director of applications research, left Pacific Northwest in 1995 to help start the business. Her company's OS-2000 Imager creates high-resolution images of soft tissue without exposing patients to harmful radiation and will be available this year. Although based in Seattle, Wash., ADI's research and development activities remain near the Laboratory in Richland, Wash.
Seeds of opportunity
Many companies with similar roots at Pacific Northwest continue to thrive, serving the medical, environmental, information technology, manufacturing, energy and telecommunications industries.
For more information about technologies available for licensing that could lead to additional new business opportunities, see http://www.pnl.gov/hightechcomm/index.htm.
Special thanks to Andrea McMakin for contributing to this story.