What is New Mexico LEEP?

Innovators and start-up companies working to solve a broad range of national security challenges through advanced materials, advanced computing and artificial intelligence, biotechnology, clean energy transition, and space technology are invited to apply for a two-year entrepreneurial fellowship at Los Alamos or Sandia national laboratories. The fellowship, which is part of the New Mexico Lab Embedded Entrepreneur Program (LEEP), is sponsored by the National Nuclear Security Administration, Los Alamos National Laboratory, and Sandia National Laboratory in partnership with Los Alamos Commerce and Development Corporation, Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer, and US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration. The program provides fellows with funding and an opportunity to immerse their organizations in the Laboratories’ technology and talent.

The program, which requires a two-year relocation to New Mexico, offers an annual stipend of up to $120,000 plus health insurance, a travel allowance, and a relocation allowance. Stipend rates are determined by New Mexico LEEP officials, and are based on the candidate’s academic and professional background. Each innovator also receives technology-advancement support in collaboration with the Laboratories and their large network of mentors, customers, and investors.

New Mexico LEEP is the fourth LEEP program in the nation, with other successful LEEP programs at Argonne, Lawrence Berkeley, and Oak Ridge national laboratories. The new program at Los Alamos and Sandia is unique in its focus on national security-related applications and products.

What should I know about Los Alamos National Laboratory?

Once dubbed the “Secret City,” Los Alamos was born in 1943 as part of the then-secret Manhattan Project. Nearly 80 years later, the Laboratory is a leader in national security science and developing new innovations in the field, including stabilizing the U.S. power grid, developing clean energy, combating climate change, preventing disease, and maintaining the nuclear deterrent, among many others.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, a multidisciplinary research institution engaged in strategic science on behalf of national security, is managed by Triad, a public service oriented, national security science organization equally owned by its three founding members: Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle), the Texas A&M University System (TAMUS), and the Regents of the University of California (UC) for the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration.

Los Alamos enhances national security by ensuring the safety and reliability of the U.S. nuclear stockpile, developing technologies to reduce threats from weapons of mass destruction, and solving problems related to energy, environment, infrastructure, health, and global security concerns.

How is New Mexico LEEP different from other lab embedded entrepreneur programs?

What sets New Mexico LEEP apart from other LEEP programs is its unique ability to embed startups at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories, garnering access to the Laboratories’ cutting-edge research tools, unparalleled knowledge, breakthrough technology leaders, and hands-on support. Through immersive training and intensive technology validation, New Mexico LEEP allows participants to rapidly advance their technology. This program gives immediate access to customers looking to adopt new technologies to solve a broad range of our nation’s toughest problems.

Today, it is more important than ever to harness the current wave of innovation, mitigate its potential disruptions, and capitalize on its transformative power. New Mexico LEEP supports a new generation of visionary innovators solving complex challenges in national security—from global disease surveillance, advancements in AI/machine learning, clean energy innovations, and space systems—and matches them with researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories to move them into the market.

If selected for the cohort, how will I be supported?

The program offers an annual stipend of up to $120,000, plus health insurance, travel allowance, and a relocation award. Each project also receives technology-advancement support in collaboration with the Laboratories and their large network of mentors, customers, and investors.

Los Alamos National Laboratory provides a two-year fellowship to the selected AI and advanced computing, advanced materials, biotechnology, and space systems fellows.

Sandia National Laboratories provides a one-year fellowship to the selected energy transition fellows for their first year, with the potential for a one-year renewal for a total of two years of mentorship. Sandia provides innovators a personal stipend on an 80 percent time appointment.

The 80 percent time appointment recognizes that fellows will need to spend additional time on non-educational activities, such as collaborative research with laboratory employees. The remaining 20 percent is provided by the participants, or future research partners of the participants, through the course of their ORISE assignment.

Personal stipends provided by the ORISE fellowship have a base rate of approximately $90,000 per year at 80 percent appointment, but may increase based on the number of years of professional experience beyond a first degree.

In addition to the personal stipend, fellows receive an annual travel allowance of $10,000, a relocation reimbursement up to $5,000, and health insurance.

What do applicants need to apply?

  • An application or product idea that fits into one or more of our five technology areas: advanced materials, AI and advanced computing, biotechnology, energy transition, or space systems.
  • An initial identification that Los Alamos National Laboratory or Sandia National Laboratories has the expertise to support your technology development.
  • Intention to transition your technology into a product.
  • Early customer discovery and interest in your solution.
  • Ability to commit to New Mexico LEEP for two years (Los Alamos) or one year (Sandia).
  • Relocate to New Mexico for at least the program duration.

What are your selection criteria?

Our primary selection filter is based on applicants’ individual strengths as project leader. We are looking for highly qualified, outcome-oriented innovators who have the drive and ability to build a foundational technology vision and lead a team through its development. While ideas may evolve, we want to ensure that the initial project concept is technically sound, reasonably differentiated, and addresses a well-framed problem with significant long-term impact potential.

Will I be required to move to New Mexico?

Yes. Participation requires participants to be within driving distance of Los Alamos National Laboratory or Sandia National Laboratories for the duration of the program. Possible locations include Los Alamos, Santa Fe, Espanola, or Albuquerque.

Is the entire company required to relocate to New Mexico?

No. Other components and individuals involved in the participants’ company can be located anywhere. Only the individual who is participating in New Mexico LEEP (typically the applicant) must relocate to New Mexico. However, if other players in the company want to relocate, we welcome that.

How should innovators identify proprietary information in the application?

Do not include proprietary information in the application. Explain the innovation without including proprietary details as much as possible.

Can applicants have already started a company?

Yes. While innovators apply to the program and are supported as an individual, having already established a company is common.

Do you take equity?

No. We have a nonprofit mission to help innovators find the optimal path for their project to go to market, regardless of the specific business model.

Will my application materials be kept confidential?

Applications will be reviewed by scientific and industry experts from within and outside of Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories. Reviewers will be asked to recuse themselves from handling any application that may pose a potential conflict of interest for the reviewers.

Can I participate in the program part-time?

No. Participants are expected to be dedicated and working on their project full-time. While a full stipend award requires at least 80% commitment to the LEEP program, we expect that they are working on their technology and/or business with 100% of their time. We encourage applicants to participate in other complementary programs simultaneously to fill the other 20% of their time.

What happens if I am an innovator who is affiliated with a national laboratory?

Innovators affiliated with Sandia National Laboratories or its operator, National Technology & Engineering Solutions of Sandia, LLC (a wholly owned subsidiary of Honeywell International, Inc.), or Los Alamos National Laboratory or its operator, Triad, LLC (the University of Texas A&M, University of California, or Battelle) are eligible to apply. However, applicants must indicate that they have an affiliation with any of the foregoing on their application.

How do innovators work on research with the Laboratory?

Each fellow works with a Principal Investigator (PI) at either Los Alamos or Sandia through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA). The fellow and PI work together to draft a scope of work to be performed by researchers at the laboratory.

What is a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or CRADA?

A Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) is a legal document that allows Los Alamos National Laboratory or Sandia National Laboratories and the private sector to work together to optimize their resources, leverage technical expertise and capabilities, and generate intellectual property emerging from the collaboration. Outcomes from the CRADA are designed to accelerate the partners ability to impact its industry. CRADA partners receive a first right to negotiate a license of the IP created through a CRADA. The US Government retains rights to practice the IP generated and benefits from collaborative research supporting DOE missions and program objectives. What distinguishes a CRADA from other partnership mechanisms is the collaborative nature of the work.

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