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Do you remember the line from the movie, Field of Dreams, “If you build it, he will come?” In this case, for innovation to prosper, it takes building upon existing technologies and methods to transform them into business opportunities.
Developing innovative science and technology concepts is incredibly challenging, especially when the ultimate goal is to create marketable products. According to the U.S. Patent Office, roughly 3,000 out of 1.5 million U.S. patents evaluated have resulted in a product in the market. Technologies developed in a laboratory setting can just as easily fail to successfully transition into mainstream commercial markets when engineers don’t seek customer feedback.
My office, the Energy Department’s Building Technologies Office (BTO), is tackling this dilemma head-on. Our Technology-to-Market (T2M) Initiative in BTO’s Emerging Technologies Program helps technologies get out of the laboratory and into U.S. homes and buildings. Through this initiative, BTO is coordinating R&D, adoption, and market transformation; bridging gaps between researchers, manufacturers, distribution partners, and end-users to streamline and accelerate the pathway to market adoption. BTO’s T2M activities include technology challenges, laboratory or test bed demonstrations, and commercialization planning support to provide the boost needed for technologies to survive at the most critical stages of development. Our T2M Initiative is a component of BTO’s greater three-pronged strategy, which includes:
- R&D to reduce cost and improve performance of high-impact energy saving technologies;
- Market stimulation activities to validate energy-efficient technologies and practices in new and existing buildings.
- Supporting codes and standards to remove market barriers; to help secure lasting energy savings for our nation’s consumers and further advancements in technology innovation.
Our T2M Initiative also feeds into a broader Department effort. In 2014, the Department launched the National Laboratory Impact Initiative to leverage private sector relationships, increase and streamline access to national lab capabilities, and demonstrate the value of lab R&D activities to industry partners and ultimately to U.S. consumers.
This fall, five of the Department’s national laboratories – Argonne National Laboratory (ANL), Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) – collaborated on BTO’s first National Lab Tech-to-Market Challenge. We had the opportunity to describe this challenge in a video that explores how the Energy Department and its national laboratories are working together to bring cutting-edge technology to the market.
The winning idea from our National Lab Tech-to-Market Challenge expands JUMP (Join the discussion, Unveil innovation, Make connections, and Promote technology to market); ORNL’s crowdsourcing initiative. Originally launched by ORNL in September 2015, JUMP connects innovators with industry, develops crowdsourcing campaigns to address industry challenges, and accelerates next-generation energy efficiency technologies for homes and buildings.
To strengthen its reach, JUMP is expanding to ANL, LBNL, NREL, and PNNL to drive strategic outreach throughout the U.S.; ultimately developing innovation hubs for building energy efficiency technologies associated with each lab. The labs will work with BTO and form a five-lab public-private partnership that will bring together more than 10 industry partners working in residential and commercial building energy efficiency. We’ll be expanding on the strengths of our labs, their partners, and their regional networks. We’re looking to leverage the entrepreneurial spirit of these communities. Stay tuned for opportunities to engage with JUMP as partners roll out their national strategy!
BTO currently leads a vast network of research and industry partners to develop innovative, cost-effective, energy-saving solutions for our nation’s homes and buildings. Learn more about BTO and its T2M Initiative, including a full list of T2M projects and T2M resources.