For the past twenty-five years, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's ability to stay ahead of the curve of evolving threats has been possible in large part because of the LDRD Program, which serves as the incubator for “new ideas.”
Since its inception in 1991, the Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program has proven an exceptionally valuable tool for ensuring that Lawrence Livermore remains an incubator of new ideas for meeting its national-security mission. Under LDRD, the Laboratory invests a small portion of its total operating budget in areas beyond the scope of programmatic research, where high-risk explorations could lead to big payoffs. As the Laboratory’s primary source of directed research and development funding, the Program helps maintain our scientific and technical vitality and world-class expertise. Many current Livermore programs trace their roots to research that began under LDRD investments.
LDRD investments help us meet emerging mission challenges, attract and retain top researchers, and foster collaborations with other national laboratories, academia, and industry. Over the years, LDRD projects have produced exceptional returns on relatively small investments, as measured by number of publications, patents, invention disclosures, and prestigious national and international awards. For example, more than half of the Laboratory’s R&D 100 Awards and over 40 percent of the patents stem from LDRD investments.
Among the most valuable aspects of the LDRD Program is its role as an outstanding vehicle for professional growth. Working on LDRD projects has helped a generation of Laboratory scientists establish their careers and, in some cases, follow new research directions that became their life’s work. LDRD projects also attract promising young scientists and engineers. Indeed, LDRD historically supports more than half of Livermore’s postdoctoral researchers.
Not surprisingly, competition is fierce among scientists and engineers for LDRD funding. Proposals receive intense scrutiny by scientific experts and technical peers, and only 1 in 10 proposals is funded. However, researchers whose projects are turned down receive valuable feedback about their submittals and are encouraged to reapply the next year and often succeed.
Herb York, our first director, declared that Lawrence Livermore would be the “new ideas” laboratory because it would always be “pushing at the technological extremes.” Thanks in part to LDRD, we remain true to Dr. York’s vision. We continue to advance the frontiers of science and technology with new ideas, collaborations, and zeal, all in support of our national-security mission.