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Innovation Ignition: Three U.S. Agencies Take Steps to Promote Research Partnerships

Feb. 13, 2023 – For as long as memory serves, the U.S. government shunned “industrial policy,” but it seems the tide is turning. Agencies are keen to shine by directly supporting public-private partnerships.

Three separate U.S. agencies—the  Department of Commerce (DOC), Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Science Foundation (NSF)—announced their intentions in recent days.

In addition to putting up money, they want input—from corporations, nonprofits, and academia—to maximize impact.

Commerce bolstered by CHIPS

During a recent speech at the Information Technology Industry Council, Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves said U.S. leadership in technological research relies on the ability to collaborate across public and private sectors. He invited the corporate crowd to “engage with our department.”

Graves sees the CHIPS and Science Act (CHIPS) as a pathway to “push the research and tech commercialization frontier.” CHIPS is a BIG investment, and Commerce is managing a lot of the money. CHIPS seeks to spur semiconductor research, development, and manufacturing within U.S. borders. On the “science” side of CHIPS, Congress has appropriated $500 million to develop Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs as a means to boost innovation and economic development in a consortia model designed to advance and sustain growth.

Energy adds its first foundation

Congress gave the Department of Energy (DOE) permission to create an external nonprofit foundation. To create something that works, DOE wants input on the launch of the Foundation for Energy Security and Innovation (FESI). Authorized by CHIPS, FESI will engage the private sector.

Why is DOE doing this? Because it is independent of the federal government, FESI is flexible and can act more like a business by investing in commercialization of critical energy technologies and receiving investment dollars from likeminded parties to extend its impact.

CHIPS authorized over $30 million to jump-start FESI, but real-world experience and insight will help propel FESI farther and faster. Speak up! Respond to the RFI and lend your voice.

More from NSF TIP

NSF’s Directorate for Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) announced another program,  Accelerating Research Translation (ART), to help academic institutions scale basic research by building capacity and infrastructure for technology translation. Specifically, the $60 million program will support capacity building, education and training for graduate students and postdocs, and activities with significant potential for short-term tech-transfer results.

ART is not intended to fund institutions with high levels of translational research.

Just nine months ago, UIDP pointed to the launch of the TIP Directorate as the signal for member organizations to “hit the accelerator” on partnership and take government agencies up on expected offers to collaborate on research and technology commercialization. These announcements are a substantive wave. With strong results, they could be the precursors to more opportunities to spur innovation, economic growth, and badly needed STEM workforce development. This is the time for university-industry-government-nonprofit partnerships to shine.

The 3-Minute read is a UIDP member information piece and does not represent the opinions of our members or representatives. We welcome your comments on our LinkedIn profile.

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