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DOE issues RFI to address the “Valley of Death”

Alexandra Kelley writes in this article in Nextgov that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has released a new request for information (RFI) in the Federal Register seeking input that would fortify the agency’s R&D processes and help address the proverbial “Valley of Death” that occurs between scientific research and commercialization.

DOE’s Office of Science issued the RFI for potential vendors to help improve the agency’s efforts to bring ideas to the marketplace. All of the 10 focus areas – artificial intelligence, quantum information sciences, advanced manufacturing and automation, data analytics, biotechnology, and energy efficiency are a few – are intended to be used toward the broader development of clean energy tech, a focus area for the Biden administration.

Here’s an excerpt from the Federal Register posting:

“Research drives innovations in technologies that ensure a vibrant economy and secure the future of the nation. The United States is a global leader in research and development (R&D), with activities generally focused on two areas. Federally-funded scientific research focuses on discovery and use-inspired research, which is commonly conducted at universities and national/federal laboratories. Applied research, development, and technology demonstration activities are funded by both federal sources and industry and are conducted in university, national laboratory, and industry settings, focusing on demonstrating the application of an innovation to yield a product that can be prototyped, scaled up, and deployed in the marketplace. The gap between these two areas of R&D is often referred to as the ‘Valley of Death’ because science-driven research often does not consider the factors required to drive innovations to sustainable production, and applied R&D and industry often find it difficult to transform early stage discoveries to mature, deployable technologies. As a result, transitioning fundamental discoveries to new technologies in the marketplace has traditionally been challenging. Further, the innovation process is not linear, and technical bottlenecks arising on the technology demonstration side often require fundamental science breakthroughs (“technology pull”); conversely, fundamental science breakthroughs can drive new technologies (“science push”). Closely coupling these research, development, demonstration, and deployment (RDD&D) processes in a more circular manner will optimize and expedite the development and deployment.”

Responses are due 45 days after the request was published which makes the deadline shortly before Christmas.

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