DOE to Invest up to $366 Million in Energy Innovation Hubs

December 22, 2009

DOE on December 22 outlined plans to invest up to $366 million to establish and operate three new Energy Innovation Hubs focused on accelerating research and development in key energy areas. Each Hub, to be funded at up to $122 million over five years, will bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers in an effort to speed research and shorten the path from scientific discovery to technological development and commercial deployment of highly promising energy-related technologies. The Hubs, scheduled to begin in 2010 and become fully operational by 2011, are part of a broad-based clean energy research strategy by the Obama Administration designed to harness America’s skills to achieve needed breakthroughs.

This strategy includes three new initiatives which complement each other: the first initiative is the Energy Frontier Research Centers launched by DOE’s Office of Science to support multi-year, multi-investigator scientific collaborations focused on overcoming hurdles in basic science that block transformational discoveries; the second is spearheaded by DOE's recently formed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy ("ARPA-E"), which uses a highly entrepreneurial funding model that supports U.S. energy innovators as they explore high-risk, high-reward, potentially transformative technologies that are too risky for industry to fund; the third initiative, Energy Innovation Hubs, will establish larger, highly integrated teams ideally working under one roof, conducting high-risk, high-reward research. This group will work to solve priority technology challenges that span work from basic research to engineering development to commercialization readiness.

The Hubs will focus on three areas: production of fuels directly from sunlight; improving energy-efficient building systems design; and computer modeling and simulation for the development of advanced nuclear reactors. Universities, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and private firms are eligible to compete for an award to establish and operate a Hub and are encouraged to form partnerships. Awards, based on evaluation by scientific peer review, will be announced next summer. See the DOE press release, and the Hubs Web site.