LIVERMORE — In its five years of existence, the Livermore Lab Foundation (LLF) has not only funded research projects and scholarships for future scientists, but also has become a model for similar charitable organizations taking root across the nation.

Now, the Department of Energy (DOE) could possibly establish its own foundation, if the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act is passed and signed into law. LLF Executive Director Sally Allen said this national conversation is similar to the one Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) supporters held years ago when they saw a need for a separate charitable nonprofit. Other similar foundations have since followed their blueprint.

“National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Colorado just started its own foundation based largely on LLF’s model,” Allen said. “It’s an interesting observation to me that it seems there’s a broader recognition that an independent foundation can accelerate and advance the science and innovation technology at these labs in new and creative ways.”

Allen said the refined vision for the Foundation is two-fold: to advance science and inspire future scientists.

“Not everyone immediately sees the need for a lab foundation,” Allen said. “Some see it as, ‘Well, you’ve got a multibillion-dollar national lab with a budget from the Department of Energy. Why should I give any money to that?’ And that’s why LLF was established as a fully separate 501c3 nonprofit that did not fall under any regulatory restrictions, and certainly, we aim to support things the Lab can’t fund or can’t easily fund — particularly on the student side with scholarships.”

Allen reported that LLF further engaged LLNL's director for the Office of Strategic Diversity and Inclusion Programs, Tony Baylis, to forge a partnership with SMASH Rising — an organization with a mission to build a more diverse and socially conscious tech workforce.

“In the wake of so much unrest following the death of George Floyd, there has been a conversation across the country about how to be more intentionally inclusive,” she said.

LLF designed high school programs to give summer residential experiences to young students who might be interested in science, but wouldn’t otherwise have exposure to the Lab. The Foundation is also trying to expand the diversity of its board leadership, she reported.

Taking stock of their years of work since 2016 when the Foundation was established, LLF recently gathered with officials from LLNL to reflect on the past and look toward the future at its first in-person event since the start of the pandemic.

During a gathering held outdoors at Concannon Vineyard on Sept. 9, LLF Board President Dona Crawford shared with former and current Lab officials that the Foundation decided to embark on a “listening tour.” She said members of LLF asked 70 stakeholders what the Foundation does well and how it could continue to leverage the research and new ideas emerging from LLNL.

The Foundation received direct feedback, such as suggestions to focus on climate or neurodegenerative diseases. She thanked the attendees for their evaluations and also shared that the Foundation will launch a new fund later this month — the William B. Schueler Fund for Neurodegenerative Research. Overall, Crawford said, the reviews helped LLF compile data that will be used for building the strategy for the Foundation going forward. A complete presentation of the findings will go before the board in October.

“Lawrence Livermore National Lab has always made history and will always make a difference,” Crawford said. “I’m very proud to have worked at the Lab and to now be affiliated with the Lab through the Livermore Lab Foundation.”

Taking a turn at the podium, LLNL Director Kim Budil also shared an update on the Lab’s recent successes — including a major advance in generating copious fusion energy with the National Ignition Facility laser, growth in Lab employment, along with its work connected to the pandemic.

“The Lab has been ahead of the curve on this, working on developing novel pipelines for rapid drug discovery and therapeutic discovery. Working on this for the last decade, we now have the full attention of the nation’s government on this problem, and we’re really poised to take an important next step to bring our capabilities to bear in that area,” Budil said. “The Foundation is an important partner for us in this realm, because it really gives us the opportunity to work on adjacent problems that might not necessarily be in the sweet spot for government investment but allow us to build partnerships with other entities and access the vast resources of the philanthropic community, which is really important to us.”

Crawford went on to say that the listening tour allowed LLF to look at the Foundation’s accomplishments and goals in a fresh light.

She concluded, “The Foundation accomplishes its vision of advancing science and inspiring next-generation scientists by leveraging the unique capabilities and facilities at the Lab, by bringing in philanthropic support.”

For more information, visit livermorelabfoundation.org.