Energy Department Promotes Increased Work With Small Businesses

Date: September 11, 2015

DOE Labs Encouraged To Partner With Local Companies

The Energy Department has unveiled several pilot programs at its labs recently in an effort to study clean energy. EnergyWire reports that with the push towards new technology, labs have also been encouraged to work with local and regional tech companies to get their clean-technology developments to market. This represents “a cultural and programmatic shift” for the Energy Department, according to Argonne National Laboratory director Peter Littlewood, with critics of the labs in the past saying they “tend to ignore the local entrepreneurs who would love to collaborate.” Additionally, even if local small businesses were engaged, in the past developing a contract between a business and lab required up to four months along with “a squad of lawyers,” representing significant time and cost obstacles to businesses. Littlewood said “commercializing the labs’ intellectual property, known as technology transfer, is moving up the priority list.” While the labs engage currently earn “tens of millions” in licensing fees from “significant collaborations” with private companies, these have in the past been “enormous companies”, and the process has involved “rigid” DOE oversight. According to insiders, since Ernest Moniz took over as Energy Secretary in 2013, there has been “a change in tone” following “nearly a decade” of ignoring a DOE order “to improve the labs’ ability to transfer technology.” Brookings Institution fellow Mark Muro noted, “The increasing recognition of clean tech and of innovation in general has led them to realize the importance of regions and of local clusters.”

What This Means For Small Businesses

News of a culture shift within the Energy Department is encouraging, but the DOE has ground to regain if it wants to attract the best small businesses for tech development opportunities.

Additional Reading

NFIB has previously noted efforts to grow the tech sector in Chicago, a big city located near Argonne National Lab.

Note: this article is intended to keep small business owners up on the latest news. It does not necessarily represent the policy stances of NFIB.

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