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Success! The Clean Energy Investment Center (CEIC) held its inaugural Laboratory-Investor Knowledge Seminar (LINKS) on Thursday, April 28, co-hosted with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory at Innovate Pleasanton in Pleasanton, CA. The more than 30 attendees were joined by representatives from 11 of the Department of Energy's (DOE's) National Laboratories, leadership from DOE's Office of Technology Transitions and a diverse set of investors including strategic investors, family offices, endowment funds, venture capital funds and angel investors.
Early discussion at LINKS centered on the historical moment for clean energy, both as a global imperative and as an investment opportunity. Under the banner of Mission Innovation, 20 nations – led by the United States – have committed to doubling their investment in early stage clean energy R&D over the next five years. But this public investment is most impactful when paired with private capital. The investors at the LINKS event share a commitment to clean energy innovation but couple it with a pursuit of investment returns. Meanwhile, DOE's National Laboratories perform extensive work in developing innovative energy technologies, and serve as home to both leading R&D facilities as well as some of the brightest scientific and technical minds in the world.
Several key themes emerged during a wide-ranging conversation that reflected the diverse set of participants. First, the intrinsic value of the National Labs’ fundamental research mission was recognized and appreciated by all, further underscoring the importance of a strong foundation of public investment upon which to build the nation’s clean energy innovation enterprise. However, there was general consensus that the technology emerging from the Labs is underutilized, where an opportunity exists to connect innovations to their commercial applications. Investors repeatedly made the point that private capital is available; the issue is not a shortfall of money or of ideas but rather of how to create a clear economic value proposition and commercialization pathway for bringing a technology to market.
Investors and Lab representatives expressed interest in finding ways to partner more effectively. Of note, engagement between DOE's National Labs and investors already occurs and to very positive effect, but happens largely through existing relationship networks. A challenge for the National Labs and, indeed, for DOE, is to enable efficient and targeted access to Lab expertise. The CEIC is working to develop a platform that will facilitate such connections.
Stay tuned for news on follow-on LINKS sessions and other CEIC activities, including an upcoming investor event planned for New York City.
The Clean Energy Investment Center is part of the Office of Technology Transitions, whose mission is to expand the commercial impact of DOE’s portfolio of Research, Development, Demonstration and Deployment activities over the short, medium and long term.