California’s Federal Laboratories: A State Resource

Author(s): Windham, Patrick H.

Release Date: February 1, 2006 | Last Updated Date: February 1, 2006


This report clarifies the contributions that national laboratories make to the state, what actions should be taken to ensure the stability of the national labs in California, and what can be done to further leverage their contributions to the state.

At a time when California’s economic future increasingly relies on scientific and engineering expertise, the federal labs provide critically important know-how and highly specialized facilities. Today, going beyond their federal missions, the labs should work hand in glove with California state agencies, industry, and universities to collaboratively solve local problems and pursue new research initiatives. The labs remain a largely untapped resource. Given their many contributions and remarkable potential, it is to California’s advantage to ensure that the federal laboratories flourish.

The report was requested by Senator Jackie Speier. Senator Speier, in a news conference held at the Capitol on 2/1/06, said “In short, federal labs are a major untapped resource in California at a time when the state’s economic future increasingly relies on scientific and engineering expertise.”

Principal recommendations:

  • Streamline the contracting process with the state. Allow state agencies to pay for technical services in advance, per federal procedures, and develop standardized contract models.
  • Create bridges between laboratory and state officials. Targeted information exchange workshops facilitated by CCST will enhance working relationships and help match laboratory expertise to pressing state agency needs.
  • Use the laboratories to enhance state research on key issues such as homeland security. Livermore, Sandia and Ames are developing important homeland security technologies; some contact has been made here, but more could be done.
  • Assess the state’s competitive edge. Find out what research capabilities and facilities the state will need to remain competitive in key fields and industries, to help the laboratories and the state effectively partner to bring these resources to California.