The Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) at the U.S. Department of Energy has a special responsibility. Every year, the Department spends nearly $20 billion dollars on research and development across its sprawling science and defense enterprise. Much of that work takes place at our National Laboratories, sites, and facilities, where some of the world’s most talented people conduct research into everything from stronger, lighter carbon fiber to detecting neutrinos 5,000 feet underground. At OTT, our team works with Lab staff to track, compile, and promote that incredible body of knowledge—with the ultimate goal of helping this research become reality in the form of a commercial product or service.
As part of this mission, we set out to take a look at America’s regional innovation ecosystems and start a conversation about how our private and institutional partners could better use DOE resources to strengthen and grow their networks and relationships. Below you will find a small sampling of our outreach activities in 2020.
DOE collaborated with Houston organizations and businesses to strengthen the connections between the world’s Energy and Space capital and the Nation’s premier innovation agency. Working with the Greater Houston Partnership, NASA’s Johnson Space Center, SpaceCom, and local organizations, DOE laid the groundwork for a lasting partnership that will enhance our involvement with the space sector and critical enabling infrastructure like LNG.
In February, DOE traveled (virtually) to New York City to host the Quantum Blueprint Workshop, bringing together experts from government and industry to inform the development of this key publication that would describe the Department’s priorities moving forward in this growing field.
DOE joined Argonne National Laboratory and Fermilab in July for the launch of its a new Lab facility in Chicago, where its improved access to the local innovation ecosystem will allow greater collaboration with the Midwestern business community. Shortly After, DOE announced the Quantum Blueprint as part of several quantum information sciences roundtables, convening quantum leaders from public and private spheres to begin discussions on the United States’ first quantum internet.
OTT hosted two events this fall in Michigan examining the state’s strong innovation ecosystem and exploring new ways to connect industry with the innovators in its incubators, accelerators, and research centers. The meetings resulted in a report co-published by OTT and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, which you can view on the OTT website.
In September, Under Secretary Dabbar and Chief Commercialization Officer Conner Prochaska traveled to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a high-level discussion with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, where they investigated new ways to work together on the future space economy and effective transition of DOE-powered innovations in support of the U.S. space mission. After, the group visited Tulsa Innovation Labs, where they were treated to a tour of this pioneering economic development hub.
In September OTT traveled to Laramie, Wyoming to join the WYO Hackathon event and break down challenges surrounding emergent technologies like quantum, AI, cryptography, and more. Chief Commercialization Officer Conner Prochaska offered keynote remarks and participated in a workshop to further unpack the opportunities surrounding these important technologies.
In October, OTT traveled to Atlanta, where delegates met with the Georgia Tech energy team to discuss the importance of partnerships between with both the University Community and private partners. Researchers met with Chief Commercialization Officer Conner Prochaska and showcased a variety of emerging technologies, including advanced solar power, DNA-style data storage, and new battery materials and techniques.
Later in October, Under Secretary Dabbar, Director the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity James Campos, and Chief Commercialization Officer Conner Prochaska participated in a roundtable moderated by Dr. Vickie Shields, Provost and Executive Vice President of Nevada State College. Those assembled held an in-depth conversation on pressing topics including equity in energy, STEM, and University Engagement with the National Labs.
Later, the group met with the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, where the DOE delegation sat down with members of the innovation community to examine new ways to enhance the transition of DOE-powered innovations for the good of all Americans.
Advancing American Technology Leadership
DOE understands that moving America forward means giving the nation’s innovators the tools they need to stay ahead of the rapidly changing technological landscape. For OTT, tools like the Lab Partnering Service provide quick and simple access to National Lab experts, technologies, intellectual property, and tech support. OTT’s Solutions Exchange provides a helpdesk solution for innovators who seek to partner with the Labs, but may not know how. For commercialization experts interested in shepherding new technologies across the lab-to-market divide, OTT manages the Technology Commercialization Fund, a $30-million annual solicitation through which Labs partner with private entities to commercialize a promising energy technology.
OTT’s Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) is a $5-million initiative to encourage the robust growth of regional energy innovation ecosystems across the United States. With EPIC, OTT underscores the importance of clusters, which increase productivity of area companies, drive the direction and pace of innovation, and stimulate the formation of new businesses, further reinforcing the cluster itself.
In December 2020, Congress gave a ringing bipartisan endorsement of OTT’s work by formally establishing the Office of Technology Transitions and Chief Commercialization Officer in the Energy Act of 2020. This recognition of DOE’s efforts in technology transitions will allow OTT and the Department to deepen its engagement with America’s innovation community, strengthening the foundation of U.S. technological leadership in energy, AI, health, quantum, manufacturing, and beyond.
Visit the OTT website to learn more about these activities and opportunities!