University, companies discuss Sandia Labs contract

University of New Mexico talking to several companies about managing Sandia Labs contract

Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) -- The University of New Mexico is talking to several private companies about the possibility of collaborating on a bid to manage the $2.4 billion Sandia National Laboratories.

UNM president Bob Frank told Albuquerque Journal on Tuesday (http://bit.ly/ZpppiC ) that a number of private companies have expressed interest in partnering with the university, and the school has met with all of them.

"If the contract is rebid, we'd like to see ourselves as a significant collaborator with the contractor that wins the award," Frank said.

The contract for longtime manager Lockheed Martin expires in September with a potential six-month extension. Meanwhile, the National Nuclear Security Administration has said it plans to put a new contract to bid. Lockheed Martin has managed Sandia since 1993 and said it wants to continue doing so.

Frank said a management partnership including UNM could result in a more integrated relationship, with a greater number of university faculty and students working in the labs. More important, it could lead to the commercialization of technologies developed at the lab.

For example, the university's nonprofit, Science and Technology Corp., or STC.UNM, could help commercialize Sandia inventions that otherwise would go unsold. It fosters university research and inventions by helping its creators found startups. The organization founded seven in 2012, according to its website.

What's more, school officials said UNM would provide faculty advisement and graduate students to work on Sandia projects. In turn, the partnership would help UNM "give some of our students not only a Ph.D., but some experience with a startup," said engineering professor Joe Cecchi, who is spearheading the initiative. It could also help attract more faculty members to the university, he said.

Officials said they would like the UNM partnership to be modeled after one at the University of Tennessee where the school partnered with a private contractor and formed a limited liability company. Last year, UNM officials took a three-day tour of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which is managed by a limited liability partnership between the University of Tennessee and Battelle Memorial Institute, a private nonprofit headquartered in Ohio.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory, which has a $1.65 billion budget and employs more than 4,400 full-time employees and 841 students, conducts energy, science and national security research.

Battelle also manages six other U.S. Department of Energy labs, including Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York and Idaho National Laboratory in Idaho Falls.

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Information from: Albuquerque Journal, http://www.abqjournal.com

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