Speaker Interview: John Harvey, Argonne National Laboratory

John HarveyIn this speaker spotlight, Conference Producer Fleur Jonker speaks with John Harvey, Business Development Executive at Argonne National Laboratory, about the laboratory’s foam technology developments.

John has 20+ years’ experience in business development, identifying opportunities and developing projects from startup to multi-million-dollar businesses throughout the world. He has developed diverse businesses in solar energy, LEDs, LCD and plasma displays, nanostructured and microstructured optics, media storage and safety markets throughout the Americas, Asia and Europe.

Please tell us about your role as business development executive at Argonne. What are your key focus areas?

Business Development Executives at Argonne National Laboratory support our 1,600 scientists and engineers and 400 postdocs in a number of ways. We provide guidance on intellectual property decisions, sponsor engagements, and collaboration and licensing agreements. We also work closely with laboratory and individual division management to develop and implement strategic plans for research and industry engagements. Finally, we provide coaching and training on basic business practices for laboratory personnel, such as developing a value proposition, engineering a pitch, sponsor discovery and engagement, networking, proposal writing, etc.  


What excites and challenges you about your work?

The Business Development Executive role at Argonne is both exciting and challenging because it is never the same two days in a row. We have a small team of roughly 10 BDEs to cover our 1,600 scientists and engineers and 400 postdocs, so we are constantly working with different researchers and on different technologies. Argonne has a 70+ year history as one of the best research institutions in the world. Therefore, we have a front row seat for some of the most groundbreaking technological advancements in the world. I personally take a lot of pride and joy in helping bring some of those groundbreaking technologies into the ‘real world’.



You will be presenting in the session on innovative foam research for commercialization. Can you tell us a little bit more about the technology Argonne has have developed?

We all probably remember the Deep-Water Horizon disaster that happened in 2010. That was the first major incident where there was an oil leak below the surface of the water – 5,000 feet below the surface. Unfortunately, no technology existed to absorb oil out of the water column.

Nanoscientists, chemists and process engineers at Argonne collaborated to design a technology we call the Oleo Sponge, which absorbs oil and other petroleum products from water not only at the surface but within the water column as well. The Oleo Sponge has unparalleled sorption performance, can recover different types of oil and petroleum products, and is reusable. You can simply squeeze the oil out of the Oleo Sponge and place it back into the spill to absorb more.


Where do you see the opportunities for this technology?

Argonne National Laboratory Oleo Sponge technology can be utilized in a number of applications. It was specifically designed for oil spill mitigation so saltwater and freshwater oil clean-up is the primary focus.

The reusability aspect of the Oleo Sponge makes the technology very interesting for a number of other applications as well. Water treatment facilities and industrial wastewater streams have interest in removing oils and other petroleum products. The Oleo Sponge can be used in ports and harbors to collect oils leaking from boats and ships. Another opportunity for the technology is in cleaning the oiled water that is produced during fracking.


Do you have any other foam-related projects in the pipeline at the moment?

Think of the numerous other pollutants that are found in our oceans, lakes and rivers. The scientists at Argonne National Laboratory are currently investigating a number of other sponges, or foam-based technologies, using the expertise obtained with the Oleo Sponge.


In terms of industry news, what development, announcement or otherwise has stood out most to you this year?

As a relative novice with respect to foam technologies, I was unaware of the vast array of applications for foam. The many new advancements in foam for bedding have been front-page news this year. Because I spend most of my life around cutting-edge science and technology here at Argonne, I am also interested in all of the high-tech applications for foam technologies.


We’re looking forward to seeing you at Conference @ Foam Expo 2018. Can you tell us what you’re most looking forward to at the show?

I am looking forward to attending Foam Expo 2018. I hope to gain a better understanding of various foam technologies and their potential applications, and network with the companies behind them. My goal is to bring that knowledge back to Argonne to share with the scientists and engineers working on technologies that may benefit from collaboration with these foam technologies and companies.

John Harvey spoke at the Foam Expo Conference 2018.