The OSTP has provided updated information noting two efforts by the Obama administration related to materials. This includes the older Materials Genome Initiative and the newer Critical Materials Initiative (a Department of Energy program). Other efforts from the Obama administration in connecting technology and economic policy include the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership. The Materials Genome Initiative is now about a year and a half old (dating back to the first Obama term), so 2013 will be an important year to see where it is going. The Critical Materials Initiative is announced as a new, post-election effort and appears to focus on the shortage of rare earth metals and lithium and clean energy industry. Hopefully, fiscal cliff and budget haggles will not slow progress in these arenas.
2012 is well underway with class 977 nanotech patent publications continuing to issue at high rates. We have noted the explosive growth of 977 nanotech patenting many times previously. To date in 2012, 219 patent publications have published in the 977 patent class, which projects early on to about 2,850 patent publications for the year. While it is too early to project meaningfully for all of 2012, if this pace continues, 2012 will be another year of high rate of nanotech filings and may eclipse last year’s record number (3,439).
The role of government in innovation is a hot topic these days. Of these class 977 patent publications, 33 (15%) appear to have the federal funding contract clause. A total of 40 grants are referred to in the clauses. Defense leads the way with funding of 13 of these grants (33%). In number two slot was the NSF (12); in number three slot was NIH (9); and pulling up the rear was, surprisingly, Energy with only 6.
The defense funding was broken up among Air Force (5), DARPA (3), Navy (3), and Army (2). With cuts in defense spending in the news, time will tell if these numbers can be maintained.
The DOE is staying active this summer (despite Washington budget quagmires) and now provides us with an upgraded web page. Several highlights today include:
2) Updates on the SunShot solar program: $50 M is provided.
3) Updates on the "America’s Next Top Energy Innovator" challenge: Ames Laboratory and Iowa Powder Atomization Technologies (IPAT) are the subject of the new reduced fee, streamlined licensing program.
The above is just a sample.
How should we interpret various media reports, providing mixtures of good and bad cleantech news? For example:
- The DOE recently announced six examples of cleantech companies which received both significant ARPA-E funding and private sector funding. Five of the six companies are Massachusetts companies. According to Secretary Chu, these companies received approximately $24 million in seed funding and over $100 million in private sector investment (i.e., good “leverage”). Good leverage – good news?
- The Massachusetts company Evergreen Solar recently announced its planned closing of a Massachusetts manufacturing site, despite a $43 million investment from the state government. In their press release, Evergreen cited China’s advantages of government support and low costs. Bad leverage? Bad News?
The Department of Energy has announced updated information about its new, expanded Web portal devoted to commercializing technology related to energy. Formally, the portal is entitled Energy Innovation Portal, Linking Energy Technologies with Market Opportunities.
One major emphasis is patent licensing (or more generally, technology transfer, and one can search a database of patent literature and technology marketing summaries for licensing opportunities. Success stories are noted in the portal, along with upcoming events such as the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit, to be held February 28 – March 2 in Washington DC. In briefly looking through the portal, I easily found several interesting video presentations (e.g., OLED lighting and thin film solar). Apparently, there are 312 “Technology Marketing Summaries,” 11,677 patents, and 3,523 patent applications to search. With practice, this searching will become easier. When I searched “nanotechnology,” I found only154 patent documents and only three marketing summaries. When I shortened to “nano,” the results expanded considerably to 860 patent documents and 13 marketing summaries.
Emphasis is also on DOE “partners” and laboratories as opposed to DOE funding of research at universities and companies.
Hopefully, the site will be useful to the public and business and expanded in response to user experience. Success stories related to “exits”- e.g., IPOs and mega dollar acquisitions – are of particular interest.