Innovators to be honored in 2013 Fermilab Inventor Recognition Awards

The Fermilab Inventor Recognition Awards ceremony takes place on Monday, Nov. 18, at 1:30 p.m. in Ramsey Auditorium.

In a special lecture and awards ceremony next week, Fermilab Director Nigel Lockyer will formally recognize 50 lab employees for their technological innovations over the past 10-plus years. These employees are responsible for a variety of patents and record-of-invention submissions that have contributed to important advancements in technology between 2000 and 2012. The ceremony will take place on Monday, Nov. 18, at 1:30 p.m. in Ramsey Auditorium.

The 2013 Fermilab Inventor Recognition Awards, historically an annual event to honor pioneers of technology employed at the lab, will be the first of its kind since 2000. Cherri Schmidt, head of Fermilab’s recently formed Office of Partnerships and Technology Transfer, said the awards symbolize the lab’s rekindled interest in technology transfer.

“We are going to put a stake in the ground and say invention and innovation are important,” Schmidt said. “It is an opportunity for us to thank those scientists and engineers who have invested their time, energy and creativity in this.”

The types of innovations to be recognized include an blown-air-assisted data transmission cable and a method for incorporating inorganic powders into extruded plastic scintillator.

Schmidt explained the event is part of an initiative to improve the way patents and licenses are managed at the lab and to develop more relationships with private industry. This sentiment is one being echoed in Washington, she said, as illustrated by several new bills in Congress that encourage laboratory-industry partnerships.

“It is important that we leverage our investments in the laboratories and get more technology into the private sector,” she said, adding that doing so is one way to increase revenue and fund other experiments at the lab. “Patenting is important, just as publishing papers is.”

Eric Fossum, professor of engineering and faculty coordinator for Dartmouth’s Ph.D. Innovation Program, will give a talk following the awards ceremony. Fossum is probably best known for inventing the CMOS camera, the basis for almost every camera in every cell phone and tablet in the world.

“He is an example of what inventors can do with their ideas,” Schmidt said.

The lab encourages all employees to submit records of invention for their ideas, Schmidt said, so the resultant patents can then be marketed toward applications in the private sector.

“Invention and innovation are a part of Fermilab’s future,” Director Lockyer said. “We want to encourage people to develop those inventions that could eventually become commercial successes.”

Fermilab Today will feature recipients of the 2013 Fermilab Inventor Recognition Awards in a future issue.

Sarah Witman