New Approaches Sought for Energy Innovation

Writers in ‘Issues’ Assess Challenges of Reducing Carbon and Raising Efficiency

Oct. 9, 2009

Developing desperately needed new energy technologies will require not only an increase in funds but also a rethinking of the way government programs are designed and managed, according to one of four articles about energy innovation in the Fall 2009 Issues in Science and Technology.

But the United States need not reinvent the wheel, says the article, “Transforming Energy Innovation,” by Venkatesh Narayanmurti and two colleagues at Harvard University. Lessons for what is needed, they write, can be drawn from successful efforts by some large U.S. private-sector research institutions and by the national laboratories.

According to another article, Stimulating Innovation in Energy Technology, by William Bonvillian of MIT and Charles Weiss of Georgetown University, the most difficult step in developing and deploying new energy technology will be launching these technologies into extremely complex and competitive markets of enormous scale.

Thus, they say, any program of government support for innovations in these technologies should be organized around the most likely bottleneck to their introduction to the market. To succeed, an integrated consideration of the entire innovation process will be needed.

One possible avenue for success in energy innovation is to imitate the highly successfully Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. But those attempting to clone DARPA first better be sure they know how DARPA actually works, according to “Cloning DARPA” by Erica Fuchs of Carnegie Mellon University.

As the United States attempts to move to a low-carbon, energy-efficient economy, it must also seek to avoid collateral damage, according to the final energy article. In particular, Congress must take steps to reduce the potentially negative effects that a climate change bill could have on the economic competitiveness of key energy-intensive manufacturing companies, write Joel Yudken of High Road Strategies and Andrea Bassi of the Millennium Institute in “Climate Change and U.S. Competitiveness.

The fall 2009 Issues in Science and Technology also features these articles:

  • “Mobilizing Science to Revitalize Early Childhood Policy. Effective early childhood programs clearly make a difference, but we can do better, and there is a compelling need for innovation, writes Jack Shonkoff of Harvard.
  • “Nanolessons for Revamping Government Oversight of Technology. Nanotechnology is changing the world, writes J. Clarence Davies of Resources for the Future in Washington, DC. Now the federal government must radically change how it oversees this and other technologies to best protect human health and the environment.
  • “China’s Future: Have Talent, Will Thrive. Denis Fred Simon of Pennsylvania State University and Cong Cao of the State University of New York say that although the Chinese clearly consider the development of their human resources to be a key to economic development, the details of the path they will follow remain uncertain.
  • “A Vision for U.S.-Russian Cooperation on Nuclear Security. Former U.S. nuclear arms negotiator Linton Brooks writes that to make progress toward a more secure future, we should begin with a clear idea of where we want the world’s leading nuclear powers to be in 2015.

Media Contacts: Kevin Finneran, Issues in Science and Technology, (202) 965-5648, kfinnera@nas.edu
or the Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, newscenter@utdallas.edu

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Issues in Science and Technology is the award-winning journal of the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and the University of Texas at Dallas.

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