Sandia National Labs FY20 LDRD Annual Report


Laboratory Directed Research and Development FY20 Annual Report From the Chief Research Officer

do not work as expected are not failures if they add knowledge and enable researchers to move on to ideas that may succeed; the only real failure is failing to try. At Sandia, our principal investigators (PI) and LDRD teams see a bigger picture. The national labs are entrusted to deliver solutions for nuclear deterrence, national security, energy security, nonproliferation, and counterterrorism, among others. We are called on to combat climate change, guard the nation’s data, protect our grid, advance energy storage, and combat terrorism in its many forms. Many of the new materials, forward-thinking prototypes and significant breakthroughs needed to fulfill these missions happen through LDRD. Our nation’s priorities are shaped by a changing global landscape; this is why we need to recruit and invest in inspired, innovative engineers and scientists. It’s their leading-edge research and development ideas and our rigorous internal LDRD framework and strategic priorities that allow us to thoughtfully respond. During the 2020 fiscal year (FY), 672 idea proposals were submitted. Of those, 283 were invited to submit full proposals, and 172 new projects were funded. When added to ongoing projects and late- start projects, there were 447 active projects in FY20. The FY20 LDRD Annual Report touches on many of the technological advances, awards, and patents achieved by Sandia’s LDRD teams who rise up to meet today’s emergencies while contributing to capabilities that will one day revolutionize the world.

It often takes unprecedented times to achieve unprecedented success. During 2020, the national labs pivoted to meet the numerous challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. As CRO of Sandia National Laboratories, I’m privileged to see groundbreaking

research every day, but it was my great honor in 2020 to see our staff meet critical needs with such exceptional speed and creativity. On March 15, one day after the national emergency announcement, Sandia finalized an integrated process to help direct research and development ideas to senior research leaders who could help vet their potential. Two days after the emergency announcement, I sent a memo to the 14,000+ individuals in our workforce asking them to submit revolutionary concepts that could potentially help our country. Within hours, proposals flooded the system. LDRD played a huge role during this time because innovation is at the very heart of the program. Sandia’s LDRD program fosters an environment conducive to innovation and mission success. When we read about new medical therapies, satellite systems, distributed energy technologies or radiation sensors, we rarely stop to consider their origin stories or the numerous components needed to pull off such advances. Discovery science is an essential ingredient in each recipe. It takes researchers and teams working on transformational science, technology, and engineering projects to fuel these innovations. LDRD is inherently high risk and high reward. To achieve new techniques or create new applications, it takes knowledge, creativity, and a bit of fearlessness. The most successful innovators recognize that failure is part of the creative process. Projects that

Susan Seestrom Chief Research Officer

Associate Laboratories Director Advanced Science and Technology



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