Innovation Hubs Off the Starting Block

By Kevin Bullis in Technology Review, December 23 2009

A key part of Energy Secretary Steven Chu's plan to revamp the U.S. Department of Energy and push forward new clean energy technologies is the "Energy Innovation Hub," a research center modeled on the legendary Bell Labs, which generated many key advances for computers and the Internet. But his plans ran into trouble earlier this year, as Congress proved reluctant to fund the eight hubs he had in mind. At one point it looked as if none would be funded, but in the end, three were, at $22 million each. On Tuesday the DOE announced details about the three hubs.

The first three hubs will focus on these problems: making fuels from sunlight, designing energy efficient buildings, and using computer modeling and simulation to develop better materials for nuclear reactors. More details are available for the sunlight to fuels program than the others--the department has issued a formal funding opportunity announcement to get proposals. The nuclear hub seems to be the next in line--DOE already had a workshop on the subject in early December.

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