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 non-prosecution agreement also required Alpha to build a training center, and it opened the $23 million Running Right Leadership Academy in Julian on 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 state-of-the-art equipment that 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 face mask, 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."