US Department of Energy competition could drive energy research innovation | The American Ceramic Society

US Department of Energy competition could drive energy research innovation

CTT 2-9-2018-solarpanels

[Image above] Credit: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Flickr CC BY 2.0

It takes collaboration to bring new ideas to market. Once someone conceives a new idea or product, he/she works with someone else to figure out how to manufacture it in quantity. And there are other things to consider, such as how do you go about finding a manufacturer? There are a number of steps in the process, but most importantly—where do you begin?

Many manufacturing companies have the luxury of an R&D department, but how do scientists and researchers without those resources move their ideas from concept to reality?

There’s some good news for U.S.-based researchers focused on sustainable energy solutions. The U.S. Department of Energy recently announced a competition worth nearly $1 million for American scientists and engineers who are exploring new energy technologies. American Inventions Made Onshore (AIM Onshore) is a DOE project designed to bring together “American innovators who develop new energy technologies and domestic manufacturers who produce them,” according to a DOE news release.

The DOE will give $150,000 each to four different organizations to train engineers, scientists, and other innovators how to connect with domestic manufacturers to get their technology to market. Winners will be determined based on their experience in the number of contracts and revenue they’ve previously generated between innovators and U.S. manufacturers.

The four winning companies will conduct training through the DOE’s Build4Scale program. The training program, created by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and several organizations, is designed to help energy technology researchers navigate the process of getting their designs ready for manufacturers.

Credit: Build4Scale, Energy.gov

The Build4Scale training hub includes several modules:

  • Introduction and self-assessment;
  • Design and packaging;
  • Designing for manufacturing and assembly;
  • Beta testing;
  • Creating a supply and distribution plan and working with manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors;
  • Dealing with regulation and quality standards; and
  • Maintaining quality and customer service during production.

“Onshore manufacturing of American energy technologies plays an important role in promoting U.S. economic growth and competitiveness,” U.S. Secretary of Energy Rick Perry states in the release. “The AIM Onshore prize competition and Build4Scale training will not only help to advance energy innovation, but will also help ensure that energy technologies invented in the U.S. are manufactured in the U.S.”

After a year, the DOE will award $250,000 and $100,00 first and second prizes, respectively, to the top two highest performing organizations that are able to show a “sustainable revenue stream.”

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that the DOE’s announcement comes several days before U.S. National Inventor’s Day, February 11, a day set aside by former President Ronald Reagan to honor the innovators who continue to improve our standard of living.

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