Department of Energy

Department of Energy needs to better link federally funded research to commercialization.

Reform national laboratory systems to better support clean energy innovation. In the United States the Department of Energy National Laboratory system needs to better link federally funded research to the market to accelerate commercialization.

The Department of Energy should create a high-level task force to develop Department-actionable reforms to improve the effectiveness, accountability and technology transfer efforts of the National Laboratories.

The Labs system is integral to the United States federal research enterprise, representing nearly $20 billion in annual public research dollars. However, as the pace of innovation has accelerated and the complexity of national challenges has increased, the national laboratory system has not kept stride. Significant reforms are required to better catalyze innovation in the 21st century economy.

The Department of Energy should merge the existing Under Secretaries of Science and Energy into a new Office of Science and Technology to consolidate management of the National Labs and better coordinate basic and applied research efforts.

The current management of the National Laboratory system is diffuse and disorganized, reducing the overall effectiveness of the system. Consolidating a majority of the labs under one office will improve oversight and strategic development.

The Department of Energy should create a “BatteryShot” Initiative modeled after the successful SunShot program to align battery innovation programs.

The Secretary of Energy should create a BatteryShot Initiative that coordinates government battery RD&D efforts and establishes clear metrics for success, such as ARPA-E’s goal of producing a battery with a total system cost of less than $250/kWh and a range of at least 300 miles per charge. The new Initiative should be even more ambitious and set more aggressive goals to make EVs more competitive than gasoline cars.

National climate policy strategy should include aggressive reductions of soot, methane, and other non-CO2 climate “forcings” (i.e. nitrogen oxides and fluorinated gases).

If our current climate trajectory has us hurtling towards a world of substantial warming, aggressive reductions of soot, methane, and other non-CO2 climate “forcings” (i.e. nitrogen oxides and fluorinated gases) should be a central component of any climate policy strategy. These are the “fast acting” efforts that can yield critical near-term reductions in warming while delivering substantial co-benefits that justify the relatively modest costs of mitigation. There’s no reason not to act on this front, and fast.

Federal research grants should routinely require “token cost sharing” from the sector identified as the ultimate customer for the research.

One way to expand academic linkages with industry is to require more industry or other organization funding of research. Doing this would broaden the range of inputs during the framing of research projects. Contributions should be small and could be cash or in-kind; the purpose is merely to force up-front communication outside the academic sector. Research projects designed to ultimately yield consumer product or service innovations should have a $5K-$30K cost-sharing requirement with industry; those designed to produce education innovations should have a $1K-$30K cost-sharing requirement from the public or from educational institutions not receiving funds under the grant. Evidence of the origin of the donations would be required.

The Secretary of Energy should create a pilot program to fund and support collaborative, public-private clean energy research consortia that can act as regional anchors for competitive industry clusters.

The Secretary of Energy should establish a program that supports public-private clean energy research consortia and should make grants of $10-30 million annually for up to three years to three or more consortia. Eligible consortia should consist of two or more research universities or governmental research facilities and at least three other private sector firms engaged in research, development, or commercialization activities. Consortia must enter into an agreement to perform collaborative translational research activities focused around a key technical theme (e.g., more efficient, affordable solar cells).
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