Creating a National Fellowship for Entrepreneurial Scientists and Engineers

Authors: Ilan Gur, Cheryl Martin, and Fernando Gómez-Baquero


The next administration should establish a national fellowship for scientists and engineers to accelerate the transformation of research discoveries into scalable, market-ready technologies. Entrepreneurship is driving innovation across the U.S. economy—with the troubling exception of early-stage science. Transitioning scientific discoveries from the laboratory into prototypes remains too speculative and costly to garner significant support from industry or venture-capital firms. This makes it difficult for many of our nation’s science innovators to translate their research into new products and puts the United States at risk of falling behind in the quickly evolving global economy.

Entrepreneurial fellowships for scientists and engineers have emerged as an effective strategy for translating research into new products and businesses, showing tremendous early impact and a readiness to scale. The next administration should advance this proven strategy at the federal level by creating a national entrepreneurial fellowship. This new entrepreneurial fellowship would leverage our nation’s investments in science to drive national prosperity, security, and global competitiveness.

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About the Authors

Ilan Gur is the CEO of Activate, whose fellowship program enables entrepreneurial scientists and engineers to transform their research into world-changing products and businesses. Activate's entrepreneurial fellowship model originated at Cyclotron Road, a division of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab that Gur founded in 2014. As an entrepreneur, Gur founded two science-based startups including Seeo, an advanced battery startup acquired by Bosch. He then served as Program Director at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy. Gur holds Ph.D., M.S., and B.S. degrees in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley. He is an advisor to the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in support of the Moore Inventor Fellowship and serves as a judge for MIT Technology Review's TR35 award.

Cheryl Martin leads Harwich Partners, a consulting firm she founded to engage public and private sector entities on implementation of solutions for complex problems, especially those related to energy, sustainability, urban development and technology adoption. Until November 2018 she was a member of the Managing Board at the World Economic Forum where she was responsible for a range of business and innovation initiatives. Previously Dr. Martin served as the Acting Director of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency–Energy (ARPA-E). In addition, she was the Deputy Director for Commercialization at the agency where she developed the Technology-to-Market program, which helps breakthrough energy technologies succeed in the marketplace. Prior to joining ARPA-E, Dr. Martin was an Executive in Residence with the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers, and was the interim CEO of Renmatix, a start-up company focused on renewable materials. She also spent 20 years with Rohm and Haas Company in roles ranging from technology development to finance and business management and where, most recently, she had been the General Manager for the Paint and Coatings business in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Dr. Martin earned a B.A. in chemistry from the College of the Holy Cross, where she currently serves on the Board of Trustees, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in organic chemistry from MIT. Dr. Martin serves as the chair of the Board of Directors for Sound Agriculture, an early stage sustainable agriculture technology company, as well as on the Boards for the Clean Energy Trust and Elemental Excelerator.

Fernando Gómez-Baquero holds a Ph.D. in Nanoscale Science and Engineering from the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany, SUNY. His research has focused on advanced nanomaterials for energy storage applications, on the economic impact of pervasive nanotechnologies, and on technology entrepreneurship. Dr. Gómez-Baquero has more than 20 years of experience in the nanotechnology industry, starting with production and characterization of carbon nanotubes and developing of polymer/nanotube composite materials. Dr. Gómez-Baquero is recognized as a leader in the fabrication of nanoengineered electrodes for lithium-ion batteries using semiconductor processes and using nanotechnology to improve the performance of lithium-ion batteries. Dr. Gómez-Baquero has several publications in nanomaterials research and on the economic impact of nanotechnologies and number of patent applications in diverse applications of nanomaterials. Dr. Gómez-Baquero has been a co-founder and early technology lead of variety of companies such as Besstech, NanoColombia Ltd., Innovate Prefabricate, Dendron Nanomed, Midstate, Revela Medical, FlashCharge Batteries among others. He is also the Director of Runway and Spinouts at the Jacobs Technion–Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, where he is mentoring postdoctoral entrepreneurs and propelling them to build companies out of deep digital technologies in diverse fields such as digital health, telecommunications, education, cybersecurity, and IoT.