Argonne, Fermi host fair to engage small contractors

MIRA supercomputer at Argonne National Laboratory

The Argonne and Fermi national laboratories -- home to supercomputing projects like the one pictured above -- are seeking stronger partnerships with small business.

Two of the most advanced U.S. research laboratories are about to throw open their doors to small businesses in hopes of sharing opportunities to supply goods and services and developing partnerships in technological development and commercialization.

On Aug. 21, the Department of Energy's Argonne and Fermi national laboratories are sponsoring their first business fair at Argonne's Theory and Computing Science Center in Downers Grove Township, Ill. The fair, said Argonne spokesman Alex Mitchell, will offer local small businesses and start-up companies a first-hand opportunity to learn about the labs' procurement group, technology development and commercialization group, user facility staff and small business support staff.

The labs said participants would interact with staff and attend sessions on subcontracting, procurement, technology transfer, sponsored research and how to engage scientific user communities.

Argonne said it spends more than $300 million per year through both large and small contractors.

Mitchell said the fair is aimed at boosting the labs' ambitious small business contracting goals and getting beyond the notion that the laboratories are off limits. "There's a perception that there is a wall around Argonne," said Alex Mitchell.

While all federal agencies are tasked with meeting a target of 23 percent for small business contracts, Argonne and Fermi look to more than double that to 50 percent, according to Mitchell. The labs also set a 5 percent goal for woman-owned, disadvantaged small businesses and a 3 percent goal for service-disabled veteran and historically underutilized business zone categories.

The labs will discuss a range of topics at the fair, including standard procurement of IT and construction, and even janitorial services. Technology development, from partnerships to start-ups, will also be on the agenda. Lab representatives will also talk about providing private access to facilities such as the Advanced Photon Source and Center for Nanoscale Materials.

The response to the business fair has been strong, Mitchell said; the event's registration list is full with more than 140 people from 84 businesses. There is a waiting list, and Argonne stopped taking registrations Aug. 15. The labs plan to make the fair an annual event.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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