dept of energy

US House appropriations bills would make major cuts to innovation

The House Appropriations Committee began releasing FY 2018 “markup” budget bills this week, and the proposals would cut billions in non-defense spending. EDA would lose $100 million* in funding, SBA’s entrepreneurial development programs would lose $34 million, NIST’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership would lose $30 million, and Energy’s ARPA-E would be eliminated, among other cuts.

ARPA-E successful in short term, needs longer life

Although it has been slated for elimination under the president’s proposed budget, the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program is making progress toward achieving its statutory mission and goals, and it “cannot reasonably be expected to have completely fulfilled those goals given so few years of operation and the size of its budget.” That is among the findings released this week by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) in its assessment of ARPA-E. The project was overseen by the Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy (STEP) and was tasked with assessing ARPA-E’s progress toward achieving its statutory mission and goals, and determining whether it is on a trajectory to achieve them. In short, the answer is that it is.

Highlights from the President's FY 2018 Budget Request: Dept. of Energy

The president’s FY 2018 budget request would provide $28.0 billion in total funding for the Department of Energy, a $2.7 billion (8.9 percent) decrease from the FY 2017 omnibus. Notably, the proposed budget would eliminate the ARPA-E program, which received $306 million as part of the FY 2017 omnibus. The proposed budget “refocuses the Department’s energy and science programs on early-stage research and development (R&D) at the national laboratories to advance American primacy in scientific and energy research in an efficient and cost effective manner,” according to the DOE.

Budget deal supports innovation, research

Congress has passed a budget for FY 2017 that largely continues support for federal innovation programs and R&D investments. Among the highlights are $17 million for Regional Innovation Strategies (a $2 million increase over FY 2016), level funding of $130 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership and $5 million for SBA’s clusters program. In reviewing dozens of line items, offices that had received significant cuts in the White House’s skinny budget appear to receive some of the largest funding increases (such as the Appalachian Regional Commission, Community Development Block Grant and ARPA-E). However, with the exception of multi-billion dollar increases for Department of Defense R&D, many increases are rather small in terms of overall dollars. This is, at least in part, a reflection of non-defense spending caps rising by only $40 million for FY 2017, limiting the availability of new funds. In this context, science and innovation gains are particularly impressive, with a five percent overall increase for federal R&D that particularly benefits NASA and NIH.

Federal support needed for energy innovation

Innovation in the energy sector requires strong leadership from the federal government to help mitigate potential risks, according to a recent report by the American Energy Innovation Council (AEIC), a project of the Bipartisan Policy Center. The AEIC is a group of ten private sector leaders that includes Bill Gates, the heads of industry giants like Dominion Energy and Southern Company, and retired leaders of corporations such as Lockheed Martin and DuPont.

DOE releases guide to the National Labs

The U.S. Department of Energy recently released the State of the Department of Energy National Laboratories Report, which reads like a user manual for the National Labs. For readers with questions about what the labs are, what they are trying to achieve, and how they work with other institutions, the report is an excellent resource. As depicted in the visual accompanying this article, DOE’s labs cover a variety of purposes, enabling the report to provide more generalizable information on the labs than might be possible from another agency. Sections detail DOE’s strategic plan for the labs, scientific objectives, partnership structures and tech transfer initiatives, among others. Each section includes case studies or anecdotes of lab activities and numerous appendices provide additional background.

Energy Department Initiatives Create Opportunities for Efficiency, Innovation

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced the Zero Energy Districts Accelerator, an initiative to develop best practices for establishing commercial districts that have net-neutral energy consumption. The accelerator is now one of 12 listed under the Better Buildings Initiative, which also includes dedicated programming for community and manufacturing initiatives.

DOE Announces Third Round Small Business Voucher Pilot Program

The Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has launched the third round of the Small Business Vouchers (SBVs) pilot program. In this round of funding, DOE will commit up to $5 million in technical assistance from DOE national labs to help bring the next generation of clean technologies to market in nine technical areas of interest.

DOE Selects 43 Businesses to Collaborate in Second SBV Pilot Program

The Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced that 43 small businesses had been selected to participate in the second round of its Small Business Voucher (SBV) pilot project, and was collectively awarded more than $8 million for a wide range of R&D clean energy, public-private sector innovation activities.

Winner of New Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute, New MII Competitions Announced

President Obama announced  the creation of the new Smart Manufacturing Innovation Institute (Smart MII) – a $140 million public-private partnership to develop smart sensors for use in advanced manufacturing. Headquartered in Los Angeles, CA, the Smart Manufacturing Leadership Coalition (SMLC) – a consortium of nearly 200 partners from academia and industry as well as nonprofit organizations – will lead the Smart MII.

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