As the world continues to demand cleaner and more efficient energy solutions in the face of climate change, the United States strives to be a leader in developing the new energy technologies that will define the future.
The entrepreneurs that are discovering breakthrough energy solutions can play a pivotal role in our transition to a clean energy economy. But turning a laboratory invention into a scalable product has many challenges. Building physical products for the energy industry requires navigating manufacturing processes and supply chains. For example, designing and building a new kind of wind turbine blade requires securing material suppliers, optimizing the blade design for strength as well as cost and manufacturability, while at the same time selecting the right process and factory for production.
Many clean energy entrepreneurs do not have the experience and knowledge they need to overcome these challenges of building a manufacturable product. Questions such as which materials to use, what processes to employ during production, and how to select early manufacturing partners can be pivotal in a young company’s success. Making the wrong choice can set a cleantech venture back months or even years.
In order to ensure that we remain at the forefront of driving clean energy innovation and manufacturing, the Energy Department’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) yesterday announced the Build4Scale Manufacturing Training for Cleantech Entrepreneurs. The new training program is a joint effort between DOE’s Clean Energy Manufacturing Initiative and EERE’s Technology-to-Market Program.
Build4Scale will help entrepreneurs cost effectively build their clean energy products by providing training on manufacturing fundamentals like material selection, design for assembly, and working with production partners. Ultimately, training cleantech entrepreneurs on the fundamentals of manufacturing will help bring promising energy solutions to market.
Leading the development of the Build4Scale training is Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL). LLNL will collaborate with more than a dozen partners to develop the training, leveraging their strengths in key areas, including technical knowledge, training module development, and resource networks. The partners include the Centers for Applied Competitive Technologies, the California Network for Manufacturing Innovation, Texas A&M University, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and Manufacturing Extension Partnerships and startup incubators in California and Massachusetts. DOE will work with the development team to pilot the deployment of the training when it is completed in 2017.
Many startups fail after building a viable prototype due to the complexity of manufacturing or the cost of production. Yet few startup support programs incorporate manufacturing design principles at the early stage that can significantly impact a company’s trajectory. Through the Build4Scale training, core manufacturing knowledge will be packaged and delivered to entrepreneurs across the country, ultimately delivering greater return on our research and development investment, and helping to build more manufacturing capacity in the United States.