Changes at Cyclotron Road

Changes at Cyclotron Road

June 13, 2019

Cyclotron Road, the successful entrepreneurial fellowship program founded by Berkeley Lab, will serve as a model for scaling up to reach more science entrepreneurs across the nation.  This is made possible through a grant from Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic initiative founded by Eric and Wendy Schmidt, to Activate (formerly Activation Energy)—the Berkeley-based nonprofit that has co-managed Berkeley Lab’s Cyclotron Road program since 2016. Ilan Gur, who joined Berkeley Lab to initiate and lead Cyclotron Road in 2014, will soon be joining Activate to lead those scale-up efforts.

“Cyclotron Road’s approach—embedding promising entrepreneurial scientists in a community of world-class researchers and instrumentation—has proven to be a winning model for catalyzing science and technology startups,” said Berkeley Lab director Mike Witherell.

Cyclotron Road provides two-year full-time entrepreneurial fellowships to support scientists who are moving technology concepts toward first commercial products. Selected fellows are embedded at Berkeley Lab during their fellowship, where they receive a living stipend and research funding, as well as support from Berkeley Lab and Activate staff and Laboratory facilities. Over the two years, fellows receive personal support, business mentorship, and entrepreneurship training through the program, and have regular engagement with industry executives and investors. Upon graduating, fellows join a growing community of alumni who are leading technology development and applied research efforts across startups, academia, and industry.

The Department of Energy, through its Advanced Manufacturing Office, provided foundational support to Cyclotron Road as the first external sponsor after Berkeley Lab selected the pilot cohort of eight fellows in 2015. Now, the program supports nearly 15 new fellows each year thanks to continued support from DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office and a range of additional funders including the California Energy Commission, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and a number of leading philanthropies and corporations.

Cyclotron Road has already shown impressive results. More than 800 scientists from research institutions around the world have applied for entrepreneurial fellowships since the program began in 2014. Supported by dozens of Berkeley Lab scientists and facilities, fellows have made tremendous progress, making scientific discoveries, building prototypes, winning awards, and raising more than $100 million in additional research funding and private investment. But there are indications that these successes are dwarfed by the potential opportunity ahead.

“Each year, more than 40,000 scientists and engineers earn Ph.D.’s in the U.S. alone,” said Gur. “If we can help more of these people to transform their science into value for industry and society, the impact could be huge.”

Ravi Prasher, associate lab director for the Energy Technologies Area, will assume the role of interim division director for Cyclotron Road while the Lab conducts a search for a full-time replacement. Tom Boussie will continue to support Cyclotron Road as Activate’s managing director for the program.

Contact: Sebastien Lounis, [email protected]