Battelle turns research into projects for steady growth
The company isn't just a think tank
- By Tania Anderson
- Jun 04, 2009
If there’s anything to learn from Battelle Memorial Institute’s success, it is that lots of small and midsize wins will keep the boat afloat and charging forward, even in a challenging economy.
That’s exactly what has helped Battelle bring in $1.3 billion in federal information technology contracts in fiscal 2008 and put the company at No. 21 on the 2009 Top 100. Overall, Battelle is a $4.6 billion nonprofit that spins laboratory innovations into commercial applications, funds technology transfer efforts and manages nine research labs around the country.
“If you look inside our business portfolio, there’s no big gargantuan program that would put Battelle at risk if it went away,” said Steve Kelly, president of Battelle’s national security global business.
Some of the company’s milestones during the past year included the arrival of a new leader, Jeffrey Wadsworth, who became president and chief executive officer after the retirement of Carl Kohrt. But Wadsworth is no stranger to the company, having most recently served as vice president of its global laboratory operations. He joined Battelle in 2002 and has been credited with rapidly growing the Oak Ridge National Laboratory, where researchers focus on neutron science, nanoscience and high-performance computing. He’s now the eighth leader in Battelle’s 80-year history.
Another significant milestone for Battelle in 2008 was the award of an Air Force contract that has a potential value of $3 billion. The company will provide architect-engineering services for environmental, military construction, military family housing and facility sustainment, restoration, and modernization projects at Air Force and other military installations throughout the United States.
Much of Battelle’s work in 2008 also involved laboratory research, including the development of a new instrument to understand and predict climate change. The tool will measure the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the ocean and atmosphere, which will help scientists understand the global ocean uptake of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
Battelle is also working on creating an underwater sensor array that scans all ships as they enter U.S. harbors. The Harbor Shield system scans the bellies of ships entering harbors for weapons of mass destruction, mines, bundles of illegal drugs and other potential hazards.
One of the biggest pieces of Battelle’s business is its energy lab management work. The company manages nine labs primarily for the Energy Department and the Homeland Security Department, including Brookhaven National Laboratory in Upton, N.Y., and Oak Ridge in Tennessee. Battelle is also part of a team that won management of DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., last year.
The company has also managed labs for industry groups, too, including several in Korea, Malaysia, the United Kingdom and Japan. The company has been increasingly expanding its international presence, opening an office last July in Pune, India, to focus on advanced materials research and developing water-related technologies. A dwindling number of DOE labs to manage and a low priority placed on Defense Department labs have forced the company to turn to the international market.
“In terms of the growth sectors in that part of the business, Asia is one of the areas where we see opportunities,” said Don McConnell, senior vice president of Battelle’s energy technology global business.
Battelle executives also see a future in health care and life sciences, supporting Health and Human Services Department programs and the medical device community.
“We’re not just a think tank,” Kelly said. “We do a lot of thinking, but we make sure our ideas get implemented.”
Tania Anderson is a contributing writer to Washington Technology.