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  • Print publication year: 2014
  • Online publication date: August 2014

3 - Reforming U.S. Energy Innovation Institutions: Maximizing the Return on Investment


Introduction and Motivations

The large new investments in energy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) recommended in the last chapter will not be justified or sustainable unless they are managed in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of the investment. Hence, the U.S. government must ensure that its energy innovation institutions are as efficient and effective as they can be.

The Bush and Obama administrations have seen substantial innovation and reform in U.S. energy innovation institutions, with the creation of the Advanced Research Project Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), the Energy Innovation Hubs, the energy frontier research centers, and strengthened connections between Basic Energy Sciences and the applied R&D offices at the Department of Energy (DOE). But as we will outline in this chapter, there is a great deal more to be done to ensure that DOE's energy innovation institutions are as effective as they can be.

DOE's national laboratories, in particular, are a core element of DOE's science and innovation system. In addition to goals of nuclear security and scientific exploration, DOE also aims to contribute to new discoveries and inventions in energy technologies. DOE itself is part of a larger innovation regime in the United States and globally that includes different actors and institutional models for conducting research. For energy innovation, a successful national laboratory outcome is often the commercialization of a technology product. Whether a laboratory's research is fundamental inquiry or it sits on the applied end of the research spectrum, it must contribute to knowledge or technologies that can eventually find use and enhance the energy system's impact on national security, the environment, and the market.

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Transforming US Energy Innovation
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