DOE to Invest $366M in Energy Innovation Hubs

U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu outlined the Department of Energy’s plans to invest up to $366 million to establish and operate three new Energy Innovation Hubs focused on accelerating research and development in three key energy areas. Each hub, to be funded at up to $122 million over five years, will bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers in an effort to speed research and shorten the path from scientific discovery to technological development and commercial deployment of highly promising energy-related technologies.

“Given the urgency of our challenges in both energy and climate, we need to do everything we can to mobilize our nation’s scientific and technological talent to accelerate the pace of innovation,” Chu said. “Energy Innovation Hubs represent a new, more proactive approach to managing and conducting research. We are taking a page from America’s great industrial laboratories in their heyday. Their achievements—from the transistor to the information theory that makes modern telecommunications possible—are evidence that we can build creative, highly integrated research teams that can accomplish more, faster, than researchers working separately.”

This strategy includes three new initiatives, which are designed to complement each other. The first approach is the Energy Frontier Research Centers, launched by the DOE’s Office of Science to support multiyear, multi-investigator scientific collaborations focused on overcoming hurdles in basic science that block transformational discoveries.

The second approach is spearheaded by the DOE’s recently formed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E). It uses a highly entrepreneurial funding model to support America’s energy innovators to explore high-risk, high-reward potentially transformative technologies that are too risky for industry to fund.

The third novel funding model, Energy Innovation Hubs, will establish larger, highly integrated teams ideally working under one roof. These teams would conduct high-risk, high-reward research and work to solve priority technology challenges that range from basic research to engineering development to commercialization readiness.

The three DOE Energy Innovation Hubs will focus on production of fuels directly from sunlight, improving energy-efficient building systems design and computer modeling, and simulation for the development of advanced nuclear reactors.

The DOE will provide $22 million in the first year for the establishment of each hub and up to $25 million per year for the following four years to support the operations of each hub—for a total award of up to $122 million per hub.

The hubs are expected to begin work in 2010 and will be fully operational by 2011.

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