New SNF Industrial Affiliates Program

Jim Plummer plummer at ee.stanford.edu
Fri Nov 2 06:53:21 PST 2001


Labmembers:

As you are all well aware, SNF is an unusual and remarkable resource; 
it is a high tech  "sandbox", made openly available to industrial, as 
well as academic researchers.  Over the past several years, SNF has 
seen a tremendous growth in lab membership and in the number and 
diversity of research projects.  Lab use has nearly doubled over the 
past three years. The most recent months have set all time records 
for lab use and revenues from lab fees.

The two sources of support which sustain the SNF are lab fees which 
come from lab use, and the NSF NNUN contract which supports not just 
the SNF but also the other four university labs which are part of the 
NNUN. To first order, lab fees and the NSF contract each provide 
about half of the annual operating budget for the SNF.

Both of these sources of funds are quite restricted in how they can 
be used. The NSF contract is a federal government contract and in 
many cases the user fees paid monthly also come from individual PI 
government contracts. Thus both sources of support for the SNF are 
"restricted" by all of the policies that govern federal contracts.

There are many situations in which a more flexible source of funds 
supporting the SNF would provide great benefit to all lab members. 
Examples include:

o the ability to quickly react to modest capital equipment purchase 
needs and opportunities to upgrade the lab;

o providing a source of funds for non-salary compensation (overtime 
or bonuses) as performance incentives or to reward staff;

o covering bad debts in the rare cases when industrial users do not 
pay their bills (if a startup goes out of business, for example).

Most faculty running large research programs have flexible 
unrestricted accounts that they can use for these and other similar 
purposes. The sources of these funds are most often gifts that come 
to individual faculty or to research centers. The SNF at present does 
not have such an account.

To address these issues, I am announcing a new initiative: the SNF 
Industrial Affiliates Program.  This program will fund an 
"unrestricted" account, which because of the nature of the funding 
source, is not subject to the constraints described above.  This will 
allow us the flexibility to act on opportunities (such as equipment 
acquisitions), respond to problems (such as those requiring staff 
overtime), and provide insurance for continued open operation in 
these uncertain economic times.

We are asking all the industrial organizations who use the SNF to 
support us by joining the SNF Industrial Affiliates Program. A 
description of this program is attached. Although participation in 
the Program is entirely voluntary, the fee is nominal ($2.5K per 
year), particularly when compared to the value that SNF provides to 
our industrial labmembers.  Over 100 companies made use of SNF during 
the last calendar year; if every industrial organization 
participates, the SNF will have significant flexibility in responding 
to future needs and opportunities.

I ask that every industrial labmember help us by encouraging your 
companies to participate in this program and by providing the 
appropriate corporate contact information to the SNF staff.  The SNF 
is a dynamic and diverse community of researchers. All lanmenbers 
will benefit in a significant way if this new program is successful. 
Thanks for your help.
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