WASHINGTON—The United States’ strong support for energy research and development (R&D) should make it a leader in the global transition to low-carbon energy, yet it has difficulty moving new technologies from early discovery to scale. This gap leaves room for China and others to seize the advantage by capitalizing on new commercial opportunities. A new report released today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), the leading think tank for science and technology policy, urges Congress to tackle this challenge by creating a nonprofitEnergy Technology Commercialization Foundation (ETCF) that would leverage resources from philanthropy and the private sector in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy.
“The current gap in the nation’s energy innovation system could put the climate at further risk by stalling the transition to low-carbon energy. It could also open the way for China and other countries to capitalize on U.S. investments,” says Jetta Wong, senior fellow with ITIF’s Clean Energy Innovation Program, who co-authored the report. “If key technologies are made overseas, then the United States will lose out on many of the commercial opportunities the global energy transition will create, and its national security could be compromised by foreign control of key technologies and resources.”
The report argues that the new foundation would facilitate energy innovators’ access to DOE’s tremendous technical expertise and world-class facilities, helping make faster progress. It would also encourage DOE-funded researchers to more aggressively seek commercial applications for their discoveries, and connect them with partners, funding, and tools.
Funds that the ETCF would raise from private-sector and philanthropic donors would be reinvested in innovative teams and organizations that are developing new energy technologies in a variety of settings, including businesses, incubators, universities, and government laboratories.
“The ETCF should be motivated by national and regional opportunities to develop globally scalable solutions to decarbonization challenges through collaborative partnerships with the private sector,” adds David M. Hart, senior fellow at ITIF, who co-authored the report. “There is urgent need for an Energy Technology Commercialization Foundation. The United States, in spite of its scientific prowess, is not making rapid enough progress toward solving the diverse and difficult decarbonization challenges it faces.”