Scouting San Diego, Battelle Chemist Seeks Catalyzing Role as Industrial Biotech Arises Here

Xconomy San Diego — 

Like a lot of big companies that offer contract R&D and specialized services, Columbus, OH-based Battelle has kept an office in San Diego for decades, mostly to manage technical programs and help clients like the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps on special projects.

That started to change, though, just over a year ago when Bhima Vijayendran arrived in San Diego from Malaysia. Vijayendran spent his previous three years leading research at a renewable energy laboratory in Kuala Lampur operated jointly by Battelle and Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp for PETRONAS, Malaysia’s government-owned oil and gas company.

“Until recently, this used to be more of a service office in San Diego,” says Vijayendran, a materials expert recognized for his work in polymers and surface chemistry. “Because of my background and my interests, I’m trying to bring a little bit more of a technology flavor” to Battelle’s San Diego operations.

Among other things, Vijayendran says he’s on the lookout for new business opportunities with local companies, as both an R&D partner and as a potential investor. Aside from managing seven federal research laboratories, Battelle has focused its business in three areas—national security, health and life sciences, and energy and cleantech. These focus areas coincide with some of San Diego’s most-prominent innovation clusters, so it would seem like a business match made in heaven.

Battelle is no ordinary business, however. It is the largest private nonprofit R&D organization in the world, known officially as the Battelle Memorial Institute, doing $6.5 billion in contract research with a global workforce of more than 22,000 employees. When Battelle licenses its technology, sells its stake in a startup, or acquires a new laboratory management contract, Vijayendran says the company donates 25 percent of the proceeds to charitable causes. Past inventions include xerography copier technology (which Battelle sold to Xerox), the scannable universal product code, the compact disc, and fiber optics technologies now owned by JDS Uniphase.

“We strongly believe that we’ve got to do creative work,” Vijayendran says. “We’ve got to make discoveries and inventions, but more importantly, these things have got to … Next Page »

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