Blackburn, Luján Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Develop Next Generation of Tech Leaders and Entrepreneurs

April 27, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) introduced the Leveraging our National Laboratories to Develop Tomorrow’s Technology Leaders Act to empower our National Laboratories to support the next generation of science and tech entrepreneurs.


This bipartisan innovation legislation authorizes $125 million over five years for the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP). LEEP is a proven model to provide financial support, training, laboratory access, and research collaboration opportunities to early-career scientists and engineers to scale-up companies using their inventions and discoveries in energy, bioscience, advanced materials, and information technology. LEEP programs create a pipeline between the DOE’s cutting-edge research and U.S. commercial markets, promoting innovation and economic growth.


“Tennessee’s national laboratories are responsible for keeping America on the cutting edge,” said Senator Blackburn. “The scientists, engineers, and researchers at Oak Ridge are innovators. This bipartisan legislation will support their critical research while fostering economic development and expanding the skilled workforce.” 


“National Laboratories in New Mexico and across America are leading the way in developing cutting-edge technologies and maintaining our national security and global competitiveness. Our Labs are critical learning hubs for developing the next generation of tech leaders and entrepreneurs who are tackling our nation’s greatest scientific challenges while creating skilled jobs,” said Senator Luján. “As Members of Congress negotiate bipartisan innovation and competition legislation, I will continue working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues to harness the full potential of our Labs to support our innovation ecosystem and workforce.”


“Through LEEP, Oak Ridge National Laboratory was able to establish Innovation Crossroads in 2017 with the program’s first cohort of innovators,” ORNL Director Thomas Zacharia said. “Five years later, and Innovation Crossroads has supported 26 startups, many of which are now fully established in the Oak Ridge Corridor—creating highly skilled jobs and economic growth for the region. LEEP has provided the funding for ORNL to grow Innovation Crossroads and to support these entrepreneurs as they move their innovative technologies into the marketplace.”


“LEEP is a proven way to support some of America’s most creative and ambitious climate-tech entrepreneurs. By combining the ideas and energy of these entrepreneurs with the unparalleled resources of DOE’s national laboratories, LEEP enhances the odds that their start-up companies will successfully traverse the proverbial ‘valley of death.’ LEEP deserves the whole-hearted support of Congress and DOE,” said David M. Hart, Director of the Center for Clean Energy Innovation at the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).


“BPC Action commend Sens. Lujan (D-NM) and Blackburn (R-TN) for introducing the Leveraging our National Labs to Develop Tomorrow’s Technology Leaders Act. Developing new energy technologies is crucial for mitigating climate change, increasing economic growth, and securing energy independence.  By authorizing the Department of Energy’s Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP), this bill secures a bright future for a program that supports our most promising entrepreneurial talent as they work on next generation technologies to move clean energy forward,” said Michele Stockwell, Executive Director of BPC Action.


Full text of the legislation can be found HERE.