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Include everyone at the table

Newswise – ALBUQUERQUE, NM – In less than three years at Sandia National Laboratories, competitive intelligence specialist Kelli Howie has made waves throughout the federal lab complex by creating programs to drive diversity in transfer business. technology.

Howie’s focused work to develop and advance female inventors has been recognized by the Federal Laboratory Consortium with a National Rookie of the Year Award. The award honors only two employees or teams who are new to technology transfer and have demonstrated the ability to create significant impact beyond standard responsibilities.

“Inclusion and diversity are important in every way,” Howie said. “I was honored to be nominated for the award and honored when I received it. I am optimistic about the future of Sandia as we are constantly reviewing areas for improvement and this award demonstrates the labs continued commitment National and Consortium members towards diversity, equity and inclusion practices.

The Consortium of Federal Laboratories is a network that honors significant achievements in technology transfer among more than 300 federal laboratories and research centers. The annual awards are among the most prestigious awards given to federal laboratories that demonstrate outstanding achievement in technology transfer. The winners will be celebrated this summer at the national consortium meeting.

Initiatives attract over 700 participants

Since joining Sandia in 2019, Howie has focused on engaging and educating women about the inventor and technology transfer in labs and across the DOE enterprise. She is Sandia’s staff lead for the Diversity and Inclusion in inVentorship and EntrepReneurship Strategies and Engagement-Women, or DIVERSE-W, program, which is funded by the DOE Office of Technology Transitions as part of its practices for accelerating technology commercialization. . . The program was announced in October 2019 and launched the following year in partnership with 11 other national laboratories.

Howie’s team researched university technology transfer programs that had not been adopted by federal labs. Early results at these universities have shown a positive impact following the creation of inventor programs targeted at women and minorities. Even so, according to the Patent and Trademark Office, only 13% of patent inventors in 2019 were women. According to 2017 data from the National Bureau of Economic Research, female CEOs receive just 2.7% of all venture capital funding and women of color receive just 0.2%.

“We can’t just rely on the pipeline to fill that gap and bring in more people,” Howie said. “We need targeted programs that bring women into the patent ecosystem.”

Combining academic curriculum ideas with the culture of national labs in a virtual environment due to the pandemic, Howie led the development of educational programs, communication strategies and a 2021 lecture series for women inventors to increase awareness and participation in technology transfer and commercialization activities.

The series focused on an overview of technology transfer and partnerships, the specifics of the patent process, effective engagement and customer discovery, the basics of entrepreneurship, and the value of networking. DIVERSE-W events attracted over 700 attendees that year.

“Kelli took the time to understand the many facets of technology transfer, from developing intellectual property to executing deals,” said Joel Sikora, manager of technology partnership deals, intellectual property and commercial and competitive intelligence at Sandia. “During her short time at Sandia, she worked to increase the engagement of scientists in the disclosure process and became one of the DOE labs’ leading advocates for increasing women’s involvement in innovation. “

In addition to her work on the DIVERSE-W program, Howie was appointed leader of the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, Accountability and Solutions Working Group of the Quantum Systems Accelerator, one of five newly DOE-funded National Quantum Information Science Research Centers in 2020. The Quantum Systems Accelerator is a multidisciplinary team of dozens of researchers from 15 laboratories and universities. Together, they collaborate to turn crude quantum computers and related technologies into machines that do valuable work for the nation.

The Howie-led IDEAS Group is focused on growing quantum information science as a discipline that fosters innovation, engagement, and psychological safety for all participants, including those from underrepresented backgrounds. . She works to create equitable access to resources and opportunities in the field.

Howie has also established a new internal partnership between Sandia Integrated Partnership Organizations and the Sandia Women’s Action Network, which encourages participation in community outreach activities that encourage women and girls to pursue fulfilling careers.

Leverage a larger pool of innovation

From an early age, Howie began to see the importance of inclusion and diversity. As a teenager, she worked with students in public school ESL programs. Inspired by her experiences there, she helped develop a similar program, in partnership with churches in Texas, which offered English classes to families in the community.

Howie’s early career began in criminal defense as a paralegal. She then worked for seven years at the University of New Mexico in program development, operations, and health equity research. In 2018, she earned her Masters in Business Administration from the university. When she transferred to Sandia to focus on technology transfer, Howie brought her passions for writing, research, inclusion and diversity.

“In terms of technology transfer, I had no experience before taking office and once arrived here, I felt like a sponge. It was all so fascinating to me,” Howie said. “How cool is it that we’re taking amazing technologies from national labs and finding new uses for them in industry? This creates a dual use so that audiences get the best of both worlds from everything we create. »

As a mother of two girls fascinated by science, Howie said creating targeted programs for women has become personal.

“I hope something like this paves the way for them in the future,” she said. “Women have been shut out of STEM for centuries and as a result they are catching up even today. The opportunities Sandia creates through these programs could help level the playing field so that when it comes to transfer of technology, we were bringing all the talent into the equation and really tapping into a pool of innovation that grows and grows when we include everyone at the table.”

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