The nuclear weapons program accounts for the other 40-50 percent of revenue and is the largest customer, Dr. Rottler said. It also continues to be the raison d’être of the lab, and “the reason why we are able to make broader contributions to national security.”
Sandia has three overarching “strategic” or “corporate” capabilities in science and engineering, Dr. Rottler explained. They are high-performance computing and simulation, nanotechnologies and micro systems, and extreme environments. The government, and especially DoE/NNSA, has invested heavily in people and state-of-the-art facilities, some of which are unique to the Labs; These capabilities “cut across all mission elements at our laboratory,” he said.
Below these capabilities, Sandia has six core “research foundations” that stem from investments over the years in a very broad and deep science and engineering base. Some date from the early days of the laboratory, while others are new:
• Computer science.
• Engineering sciences.
• Micro systems.
• Pulsed Power.
Sandia’s entry into bioscience over the past five to seven years may seem a little far afield for an engineering laboratory, Dr. Rottler noted. But bio-fuels and bio-defense relate to its broader national security mission.
Twenty years ago, Sandia began to transfer technology from the lab to the economy, Dr. Rottler explained. Corporate partnerships have been a key part of that strategy. Among the companies with which Sandia has substantive relationships are Hewlett-Packard, Procter & Gamble, IBM, Corning, Intel, Lockheed Martin, ExxonMobil, and Goodyear. They began around 15 years ago as “technical exchanges,” in which the federal government and companies both put in money.
The partnership with Goodyear has been one of the most durable. Sandia and Goodyear collaborated on computational simulation technology that Goodyear wanted in order to improve its tire design and its design and manufacturing processes. After six or seven years, “when Sandia proved it could add value to Goodyear,” the relationship grew, Dr. Rottler explained. Goodyear uses Sandia simulation tools to design a wide range of tires.44 Goodyear now fully funds the program and has invested $40 million over 15 years in research at Sandia.
44 To read about the Sandia-Goodyear relationship, see Pete Engardio, “Los Alamos and Sandia: R&D Treasures,” BusinessWeek, September 11, 2008, <http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/08_38/b4100062751339.htm>.