Lean, Mean, and Clean II: Assessing DOD Investments in Clean Energy Innovation

October 16, 2012

WASHINGTON (October 16, 2012) - Today ITIF is releasing a new report titled Lean, Mean, and Clean II: Assessing DOD Investments in Clean Energy Innovation. The report explores the Department of Defense contributions to clean energy innovation.

Long considered an innovation powerhouse, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) has supported some of the most integral technological breakthroughs of the past century. In recent years policymakers and advocates have become interested in DOD's investments in clean energy innovation, recognizing that there is potential for commercial spillover for some advanced technologies with diverse applications. Until this point, however, there has been little effort to communicate the characteristics of DOD's investments to determine their potential impacts on national clean energy policy. This report finds that DOD has invested $5 billion in clean energy innovation since 2009, indicating potential commercial spillover effects when mission-oriented research and procurement investment align.

"While DOE clean energy investments explicitly target commercial applications, DOD's investments aim at fulfilling mission objectives. Nevertheless, DOD's comprehensive innovation ecosystem is capable of accelerating clean energy technologies from basic and applied research to prototype demonstrations, to full-scale production and commercialization when relevant to DOD's mission needs. This is especially applicable to developments in alternative fuel, power electronics, energy storage, and smart grid technologies," said Megan Nicholson, the report's co-author. 

Using ITIF's Energy Innovation Tracker, a publicly accessible and free data source that tracks federal investments in energy innovation, this report provides a detailed investigation of DOD's energy innovation portfolio, finding:


  • DOD invested $1.5 billion in FY2012 in energy innovation - $500 million more than in FY2009.
  • DOD supported early stage and applied research of clean energy technologies consistently between FY2009 and FY2012, while procurement of innovative energy breakthroughs nearly tripled between FY2010 and FY2011.
  • The Navy invested the most in energy innovation - committing nearly $500 million in FY2012 to next-generation technologies in electricity, transportation, and alternative fuels.
  • All military branches and Defense Wide offices are investing significantly in grid and power electronics innovations, as well as demonstration, testing, and evaluation of alternative fuels.


"While DOD is still defining its role in the clean energy innovation space, there is significant potential for key technological advances in alternative fuels, power electronics, energy storage, and smart grids to accelerate to commercial markets because of DOD's investments. Further, its emphasis on research, development, testing, demonstration, and procurement of new technologies provides a useful model for other institutions pursuing cost-competitive breakthroughs in clean energy. Increasing the transparency of DOD's investments in energy innovation can better inform policymakers and advocates of DOD's role and potential," added Matthew Stepp, the report's co-author.


Download the report (PDF).


The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) is a Washington, D.C.-based think tank at the cutting edge of designing innovation strategies and technology policies to create economic opportunities and improve quality of life in the United States and around the world. Founded in 2006, ITIF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, non-partisan organization that documents the beneficial role technology plays in our lives and provides fact-based analysis and pragmatic ideas for improving technology-driven productivity, boosting competitiveness, and meeting today's global challenges through innovation. For additional information, visit ITIF at www.itif.org or contact press secretary Alexis Fearon at (202)524-4390 or [email protected].