Several Element 8 members recently had the opportunity to travel to the Tri Cities to meet with researchers and scientists from the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) – one of ten U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratories managed by the DOE’s Office of Science. The trip was an opportunity for Element 8 members to learn about PNNL’s work in sustainable technology and explore investment opportunities in the labs more mature technologies. In the Northwest, PNNL works with countless companies including familiar names like Microsoft, Boeing, Costco, Nike and Amazon, as well as academic institutions like the University of Washington and Washington State University. PNN utilizes revenue from its licensing of IP to the private sector to reinvest in next generation commercially relevant technology.
Element 8 members began the first day of their visit by visiting the PNNL Electricity Infrastructure Operations Center (EIOC) – an integrated energy operations developed with input from electrical utilities and researchers across the Northwest. The operations center uses advanced computations and industry software to draw insights from industry data to help predict and prevent major transmission failures. The programs from PNNL can predict issues in the grid up to seven minutes before they happen, allowing engineers to make adjustments and prevent interruptions to customer power.
Following the visit to the EIOC, members received a tour of the 1700 acre Tri-Cities research park that was developed in partnership with the Port of Benton, Washington State Universities and the U.S. Department of Energy. With over 7000 researchers and scientists working in this area, the project helps position the Tri-Cities as a national leader in scientific research for years to come.
Afterwards, members visited the Port of Benton facility to network with local clean-tech startups seeking funding to scale up their operations. Many of these companies are licensing technology developed by researchers and scientists at PNNL. Element 8 members are always looking for new and innovative clean tech companies and learning about the investment opportunities in the Tri-Cities area was a highlight for many attendees.
The second day of the visit began with a visit to the Bioproducts, Sciences, and Engineering Laboratory (BSEL) – a joint venture of Washington State University and PNNL. The Element 8 visit focused on the BSEL bio refinery, a 2500 square foot facility focused on the integration and scale up of biofuels that can serve as replacements to jet fuel, diesel and gasoline.
The final stop of the trip was the PNNL Interactive Visual Analytics Laboratory, a facility dedicated to developing high impact information visualization tools for its customers. Element 8 Members had the opportunity to see how PNNL is improving the way data is analyzed and interpreted by cutting edge technology like Google Glass, Microsoft Kinect and Oculus VR. Technology born in the Interactive Visual Analytics Laboratory is already being used by wilderness firefighters to improve response time and ensure emergency workers are able to receive valuable lifesaving insights in real time.
Overall, the trip was a resounding success and Element 8 members came away energized about partnering with PNNL and our other Diamond Strategic Partners; Washington State University and the University of Washington’s Center for Commercialization and Clean Energy Institute. By bringing together Washington’s best cleantech research scientists and investors, Element 8 can help scientists and entrepreneurs raise funds, connect with strategic partners, and better position their companies for success in the energy and sustainability markets. In return, investors will be granted insight into cutting edge research and promising advances. Each will help the other better understand the context of innovations in terms of product, sector, and business viability.