Argonne National Laboratory

Successful startup founder to lead entrepreneurship program at Argonne

December 4, 2017

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory has named John Carlisle as the director of Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI), a program funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy through its Advanced Manufacturing Office and aimed at accelerating job creation through innovation.

Carlisle has been serving as interim director of the program since May 2017. CRI is one of three Lab Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs sponsored by the DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office to develop energy, materials science and advanced manufacturing technologies with the goal of creating jobs and increasing American competitiveness. CRI gives innovators resources, access to world-leading research tools and scientists at Argonne, as well as mentoring on how to take ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace.

 “CRI is a new way to bring outside ideas into the laboratory.” - John Carlisle, director of Chain Reaction Innovations.

“CRI is a new way to bring outside ideas into the laboratory. Innovators from across the nation are paired with scientists at Argonne to develop technologies to solve energy-related challenges such as efficiency, sustainability and the need for new higher performance materials,” Carlisle said. “These technologies also must help America compete by enabling new manufacturing jobs or improving existing processes.”

Carlisle was recruited for the director position because he brings with him deep knowledge of Argonne and the national laboratory system from his early years as a researcher at Argonne, but also the agile, customer-focused mindset of an entrepreneur. Carlisle co-founded Advanced Diamond Technologies, which spun out of Argonne in late 2003. At ADT he developed and brought to market four distinct product families based on a new synthetic ultrananocrystalline diamond (UNCD) coating technology he co-developed at Argonne. He and several others were recognized by the Federal Laboratory Consortium in 2006 for this achievement. Carlisle has a Ph.D. in Physics from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. ADT continues to be a collaborator and licensee of Argonne.

“The program is also highly focused on training a new generation of innovators,” Carlisle said. “We help the innovators develop the technical and business skills needed to help form businesses that deliver products into applications with high societal impact.”

In return, the laboratory benefits from fresh outside ideas from innovators who are continually in contact with industry leaders, and are always thinking about how to apply science to a new product.

“I’m a firm believer that doing basic and applied research are complementary, not conflicting, activities,” Carlisle said. “I saw this first-hand when I incubated my own startup company at Argonne 14 years ago. Working with the Chain Reaction innovators gives us the chance to see how fundamental science can directly drive industrial interests in a technology. You will also be surprised how often issues raised by industry can raise new questions that lead to fundamental discoveries in the lab. The synergy is real and immediate. All of these outcomes enhance Argonne relative to its fundamental science and engineering mission.” 

To see and hear how CRI is helping the first cohort of innovators grow their technology, watch this video. Along with the CRI team, the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago and the Purdue Foundry at Purdue University mentor CRI innovators.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) supports early-stage research and development of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies that make energy more affordable and strengthen the reliability, resilience, and security of the U.S. electric grid.

EERE's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) supports early-stage applied research & development of new materials, information, and processes that improve American manufacturing’s energy efficiency, as well as platform technologies for manufacturing clean energy products.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.