Innovation Hubs in the United States

by Stephanie Susman

Innovation Hubs in the United StatesWell it’s about time!

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) announced in May that it’s launching three Energy Innovation Hubs, designed to “help advance highly promising areas of energy science and engineering from the early stage of research to the point where the technology can be handed off to the private sector.”

These hubs not only demonstrate the nation’s commitment to tackling our energy and climate challenges, but they also represent an innovation endeavor not often associated with the U.S. government.

Each of the three hubs will tackle a different energy challenge in a highly collaborative way that welcomes diversity of thought. They will “bring together top researchers from academia, industry and the government laboratories with expertise that spans multiple scientific and engineering disciplines under the leadership of a dynamic scientist-manager.”

They differ from other DOE R&D projects that have smaller teams, more clearly defined leaders and few disciplines represented.

The first hub, the Nuclear Energy Innovation Hub, will “allow engineers to create a simulation of a current operating reactor that will act as a ‘virtual model’ of that reactor,” which they can study to address questions about operations and safety. It will be located at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory site in Tennessee.

The second, just announced yesterday, will focus on developing “a solar energy fuel conversion system through artificial photosynthesis and (bringing) it to commercialization,” according to FastCompany.com. The Fuels from Sunlight Energy Innovation Hub, will be led by the California Institute of Technology in partnership with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The third hub hasn’t been launched yet, but it will focus on designing, constructing and retrofitting commercial and residential buildings to make them more energy efficient than today’s buildings.

The topics these hubs address are top-of-mind across the globe as countries seek to reduce their emissions. These hubs will help the United States compete in the battle to go green.

Each hub will receive $122 million over five years. And, according to the press release, the hub managers will have “enough resources and authority to move quickly in response to new developments.”

That means they have a great potential to “achieve energy breakthroughs as quickly as possible.” I wish them well and look forward to following their progress!

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Stephanie SusmanStephanie Susman is a senior account executive and certified innovation facilitator in the Innovation practice group at Fleishman-Hillard. Stephanie leads the practice group’s marketing efforts through various media including their blog, What Are We Thinking?, and two Twitter feeds: @FHInnovation and @ssusman.

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