Since 2017, when she was named director of SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory’s relatively new Proposal Advancement Office (PAO), Susan Simpkins has changed the way the lab approaches and processes sponsored research and technology transfer.
The PAO was formed to improve the management and processing of SLAC research proposals, technology transfer agreements and contracts. In this role, Susan has made a tremendous difference for the laboratory.
“Susan Simpkins brings a remarkable combination of skills to every technology transfer project,” said Steve Eglash, Director of SLAC’s Applied Energy Program. “She has a keen and perceptive business insight that makes her an ideal strategic partner. She has an extensive understanding of Department of Energy [DOE] contracting and proposal processes. And she has a very strong understanding of contract law. These skills enable Susan to bring together the science, business, DOE, and legal perspectives needed for success.”
Simpkins has demonstrated many lab values, but the one with the most impact on the transformation of the sponsored research and partnerships at SLAC has been collaboration.
She supports tech transfer initiatives at SLAC by representing the lab at meetings of the Department of Energy (DOE) National Lab Technology Transfer (NLTT) network and the Technology Transfer Working Group. Additionally, Simpkins has strengthened the lab’s relationship with Stanford University’s technology transfer and contracts team and with the DOE.
As an active member of the NLTT network, Simpkins gathered best-practice information from various federal and non-federal labs and introduced new policies, procedures and systems at SLAC. Susan’s leadership has enhanced SLAC’s project risk review process, streamlined clearance processes and ensured contractual and fiscal compliance for SLAC’s growing portfolio.
“Susan Simpkins brings a remarkable combination of skills to every technology transfer project,” said Steve Eglash, Director of SLAC’s Applied Energy Program.
Simpkins is also a founding a member of the Bay Area Lab Innovation Networking Center (LINC), which provides a front door to the four DOE national laboratories in the San Francisco Bay Area, linking corporations, startups, and investors to DOE’s world-class research and unique facilities.
The transformation of SLAC’s technology transfer administrative support has enabled SLAC to work with more diverse research partners, support more proposal and agreement requests and provide compliance without hindering researchers or sponsors.
“It is not always easy to support small businesses working with federal agencies, but with Susan’s support we have many successful examples,” said Michael Fazio, Associate Laboratory Director, SLAC Technology Innovation Directorate.
Simpkins’ effort has led to a dramatic increase in T2 funds-in throughput – a 63% increase from FY2016 to FY2019, a period during which SLAC’s overall funding grew by 14%. She began her role as PAO manager with responsibility for 5% of the lab’s overall funding, and as a result of her success is now supporting more than 7% of that funding, all without increased staffing and while providing compliant support.
Susan makes every effort to ensure efficiency before increasing cost. The DOE Contracting Officer has applauded her efforts to provide thorough documentation, advance notification and updates. SLAC researchers have been educated on processes, sources of funding, invention disclosure and available engagement opportunities, such as small business outreach events, economic development forums and XLab events.
The new processes, systems and policies Susan has developed to support tech transfer at SLAC bring both transparency and accountability to the process, creating the foundation necessary to support the lab’s growth.
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