Can America still pick winners in the energy innovation race?

An opportunity to watch Steve Chu, US Energy Secretary, running us through a list of the technologies which he hopes will help America reassert itself in the rapidly intensifying struggle for competitiveness and maybe even its very survival

The US released their Strategic Energy Plan a few days ago. This revealing talk with the Nobel prizewinning physicist in the hotseat, as well as the probing interview which follows it, offers a unique and revealing insight into the mindset of the man tasked with signing it off and seeing it through.

The talk was given at an event held at the Thayer School of Engineering,  Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, USA on April 28, 2011. It was called: ‘The 3rd Annual Great Issues in Energy Symposium: Energy Innovation and America’s Competitiveness’.

Here’s an extract (with my emphasis in bold) from the Strategic Plan. It was issued on th 10th of May, 2011.

“Although the United States still leads the world in computers, communications, biotechnology, aerospace, and other technology industries, we are being challenged in all of these areas. The competition is closing in rapidly—the United States has become a net importer of high technology products, and our leadership in future technology revolutions is not guaranteed.

It is imperative that we reverse the loss of U.S. manufacturing jobs, particularly in high technology manufacturing, and maintain a wide set of opportunities for our citizens by rebuilding manufacturing capabilities. A cornerstone of technology leadership and its accompanying jobs is a vibrant science and technology enterprise.

Although the United States still has the world’s greatest research institutions—in no small part due to the Department’s efforts—this leadership is at risk. We must remain focused on effectively nurturing our research enterprise.

In addition to this core activity, the Department needs to cultivate the entire technology innovation chain, from enabling discoveries to research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D). While our most beneficial role is the support of the earlier stages of this chain, there are several stages in which the best innovative “seedlings” can wither and die before the private sector embraces a new technology.

This is especially true in certain energy sectors that currently do not have a strong innovation culture or where markets have not yet adjusted to changing conditions. To ensure our nation’s future prosperity, the Department must identify and nurture promising technologies, even though some may falter for a variety of reasons unrelated to technical capability. In later stages of innovation, we must leverage our resources with those of the private sector to move promising technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace.”

The extract is from a section of the plan entitled ‘Message from the secretary of energy’. These paragraphs were in a subsection headed ‘Science and technology for economic competitiveness’.