Universities in the United States have led the world in scientific research for a century. Sometimes however, innovators, including universities, struggle to translate research ideas into technologies that satisfy real world needs. Universities across the country have embraced the need to address climate and energy challenges, and now we need to effectively harness the resources and intellectual capital of our world’s leading research institutions. The wealth of ideas originating from our university laboratories will help build innovative cleantech companies that drive future economic development and create jobs for Americans.
Yesterday, the Department of Energy announced new steps toward strengthening the commercialization successes of our nation’s research universities through a variety of partnerships. We call these projects ‘Innovation Ecosystems’ – collaborative environments that unite key players to identify and develop new clean energy technologies. Through the Department’s Innovation Ecosystem Development Initiative, five selections were made from regions throughout the U.S., which include Southern California, Utah, Florida, the Chicago metropolitan area, and New England. Each project will bring together the strengths of multiple partners, including universities, businesses, financial institutions, government, research institutes, economic development organizations, business accelerators and national laboratories – all with a common goal of moving high impact innovations from the lab to the marketplace.
The key to deploying successful ideas is having a network of individuals that move great, innovative ideas to the prototype stage and on to commercial scale. With over eighty partners in five ecosystems, a combination of resources will be used to review hundreds of nascent technologies, provide entrepreneurship education and business services to faculty and students, and in some cases create challenging competitions among university teams to turn innovative business plans into cleantech realities. Through these partnerships, the brightest scientists and engineers will team with experienced entrepreneurs and investors, who will do what they do best – find and nurture market relevant technologies.
These Innovation Ecosystems will be the blueprint for encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship by students, faculty, staff and alumni at universities across the country. By increasing the number of players in this space, we will put new technologies in the hands of more Americans and help move our country toward a competitive clean energy economy – grown here at home.
Article by Henry Kelly, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for EERE.