A core responsibility of the Office of Technology Transitions, and the Technology Transfer Coordinator, is to oversee the expenditure of DOE technology transfer funds. The office is responsible for implementing the Technology Commercialization Fund (TCF) authorized in section 1001 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005. It states, as amended:
“The Secretary shall establish an Energy Technology Commercialization Fund, using 0.9% of the amount made available to the Department for applied energy research, development, demonstration, and commercial application for each fiscal year based on future planned activities and the amount of the appropriations for the fiscal year, to be used to provide matching funds with private partners to promote promising energy technologies for commercial purposes.”
The TCF is a nearly $20 million funding opportunity that leverages the R&D funding in the applied energy programs to mature promising energy technologies with the potential for high impact. It uses 0.9 percent of the funding for the Department’s applied energy research, development, demonstration, and commercial application budget for each fiscal year from the Office of Electricity, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Office of Fossil Energy, and Office of Nuclear Energy. These funds are matched with funds from private partners to promote promising energy technologies for commercial purposes.
The goal of the TCF is two-fold. First, it is designed to increase the number of energy technologies developed at DOE’s national labs that graduate to commercial development and achieve commercial impact. Second, the TCF will enhance the Department’s technology transitions system with a forward-looking and competitive approach to lab-industry partnerships.
Stakeholders identified three key areas where the TCF will enhance DOE’s technology transitions efforts:
1. National Lab Technology Maturation: DOE’s national laboratories have consistently identified a lack of sufficient resources available to develop technologies to a stage that will attract private sector interest. In many cases, DOE or other public funding may support R&D activities up to an early technology readiness level, but it expires before the technology is matured to a point where a business will enter into a cooperative R&D agreement or license the technology.
2. Strategic CRADA Approach to Increase Commercial Impact: The TCF provides an opportunity to take a more proactive approach to applied program office support for lab-industry collaboration. Through the TCF, the applied program offices and national Laboratories can pursue a strategic, forward-looking, competitive approach to commercializing technologies. Potential benefits of this approach include: (1) Creating a stronger incentive for national laboratories to identify their most promising technologies and industry partners for commercialization, (2) Empowering a broader set of potential industry partners to engage with the national laboratories, and (3) Enabling the program offices to identify technologies and industry partners with higher potential for commercial impact in support of their technology roadmaps.
3. Focused Industry Engagement to Identify High-Quality Partners: The TCF can be utilized to more fully enable national laboratories to pursue active industry engagement and customer scouting for select, promising energy technologies. This process can better enable the national laboratories to prepare these technologies for commercial adoption, identify the highest-quality prospective partners, and assist those industry partners in evaluating the technologies for their business models.