Karmis won't identify anyone who submitted proposals because the process is confidential. But he said only academic institutions and nonprofit 501c3 corporations can apply.
"We got a wonderful array of universities, some of whom have a significant track record on health and safety, and some of whom are newcomers," he said.
He said the newcomers are welcome because they can bring a fresh perspective to longstanding problems.
The nonprosecution agreement also required Alpha to build a training center, and it opened the $23 million Running Right Leadership Academy in Julian Thursday. It gives safety instructors a place to create and control crises while miners get realistic preparation for the day they hope will never come.
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin said the lab employs some of the state-of-the-art equipment Alpha is deploying to its mines under the settlement, including a continuous oxygen system that replaces the belt-worn air packs miners have long used when trying to escape.
Mod-Air of Chapmanville designed a self-contained breathing apparatus that resembles a firefighter's gear. It has a full facemask, a back-worn tank and stations where those tanks can be replenished.
The academy gives manufacturers a place to work out potential problems with their equipment without risking miners' safety.
For example, Goodwin said, Mod-Air learned it needed to make connection hoses in various lengths because multiple miners would be using the oxygen station simultaneously. Feedback from miners also prompted Mod-Air to use magnets to ensure those hoses stay connected.
"The hope is that once Alpha deploys and embraces these various aspects of safety technology," Goodwin said, "that will set a bar for the rest of the industry to reach."