WASHINGTON, D.C. - Today, U.S. Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), and Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) introduced legislation to authorize an Energy Technology Maturation Program at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to facilitate successful commercialization of laboratory-developed energy technologies and boost regional, technology-driven economic impact.
Senator Heinrich, a member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, announced the legislation during a Subcommittee on Energy hearing today on the contributions of the DOE’s national laboratories. In the hearing, Senator Heinrich expressed the need to make it easier for the private sector to engage with national laboratories to commercialize innovative technology.
“New Mexico’s national labs play a critical role in both national security and development of advanced energy technologies. By improving the process to transfer innovative technologies from the labs to the private sector, we can spur innovation, boost our private tech industry, and create jobs,” said Heinrich. “Providing a steady stream of technologies yields dividends in commercial markets and creates an environment that strengthens our economy while encouraging future innovators to discover the next breakthrough idea.”
“The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) headquartered in Golden, Colorado, along with other Department of Energy labs around the country, develop cutting-edge technologies that the public and private sector benefit from,” said Gardner. “Every $1 of taxpayer funds invested through NREL results in $5 of private investment and the lab’s $870 million annual nationwide economic impact can be even greater with the continued success of the Energy Technology Maturation Program. This bipartisan bill will create jobs and grow the economy and continue to ensure the United States remains a global leader in technological innovation.”
“Federal labs in Colorado are powering a transformation across the country in how we use energy,” said Bennet who has worked with Heinrich since 2015 to launch this program, which was first introduced in the National Laboratory Technology Maturation Act of 2015. “NREL in particular is leading the way to strengthen our innovation economy by bringing small businesses into the fold through its technology transfer program. By expanding the program, we would make it easier for low-cost energy technologies to reach consumers. We should continue to improve the transfer of technology between our public and private sectors to spur innovation, create jobs, and boost our competitiveness in the 21st century economy.”
“For more than 70 years, the Energy Department’s national laboratories system has been an integral part of American innovation and success. The world-class facilities serve as a meeting place for researchers from around the globe as they work to address our biggest challenges in energy, scientific discovery, and national security,” said Durbin. “I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing this legislation, which will better connect local businesses to national labs in their regions, supporting innovation and economic growth.”
“In West Virginia, the National Energy Technology Lab (NETL) and West Virginia University’s Energy Institute are constantly working to ensure our nation’s energy infrastructure is safe and to advance critical research and development of fossil fuels and energy technologies,” said Manchin. “This legislation will help connect engineers and scientists from these labs with small businesses in West Virginia to drive economic growth, innovation and job creation. This partnership will benefit our small businesses and help these labs reach their full potential.”
“California national laboratories’ innovative research and technologies developed have powerful market potential and the ability to create jobs with the full support of the federal government behind them,” said Harris. “It’s critical that we work to spur the next generation of ideas to confront our energy, cybersecurity, and economic needs by connecting the best of California with the rest of the country.”
The effective transfer of technologies from DOE facilities to businesses that can turn them into commercial successes is an essential element of the country’s innovation ecosystem and critical to U.S. competitiveness in an increasingly demanding, technology-driven global market. Technology maturation funding accelerates the successful transfer of technologies licensed from national laboratories and can often provide the necessary link between an innovative process for technology and a real-world application with powerful market potential.
Under the Energy Technology Maturation Program, funding would be provided to help increase the maturity of technologies developed at DOE facilities with the goal of attracting a private partner that is willing to support the technology’s next steps to commercialization. The program would also provide funding to support cooperative development of a technology where a specific commercial partner has already been identified. Priority would be given to private-sector partnerships with small businesses.
U.S. Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.) and Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives.
A copy of the Energy Technology Maturation Program Act of 2017 is available here.