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innovation ecosystem

Will the next Silicon Valley be located in the United States?

In 1956, an American engineer, William Shockley, had an idea that silicon could be used to make transistors, and founded a company in Mountain View, California. The rest is history. The area experienced explosive growth after the invention of the silicon semiconductor sparked waves of innovation. Other firms developed around the Shockley’s first company, also developing and improving on the invention. Continual support from nearby Stanford University, along with collaboration between local firms, created an innovative environment ideal for fostering growth. By the 1960s, 31 semiconductor firms had been established in the country, of which only five were located outside the region. Smaller firms providing research, specialized services, and other inputs located nearby the larger companies. Innovation thrived, the local economy boomed, the center of high-tech innovation shifted from the east coast to the west, and the Silicon Valley was born.

The Silicon Valley is a prime example of how advanced R&D tends to focus in clusters- geographically concentrated industries that maximize spillovers from firm to firm and between public and private researchers. Once research concentrates in an area, it is hard to displace, which is why DOE and other

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A Train Ride Tour of Energy Innovation Across America

In August, I took part in the Millennial Trains Project, a cross-country train tour of seven cities in ten days. The brain child of Georgetown grad Patrick Dowd, the trip brought together 24 millennial age (18-34) thinkers to facilitate their own unique, entrepreneurial projects via 1950’s era trains. My project, Energy Innovation Across America, aimed to bring the stories and perspectives of energy innovators from across the country back to Washington. With energy policy gridlock at an all-time high, I wanted to break out of the D.C. bubble and interact with those that are actually developing next-generation energy technologies.

If there is one immediate takeaway from trip: America is hard at work on clean energy innovations, big, small, and across a full range of low-carbon technologies. The level of creativity and idealism in the scientists and engineers working on new technologies was astounding to witness. Even so, it was clear how important public policy is to these innovators and their projects potential progress. Research budgets, commercialization financing gaps, regulations, and policy reform were common areas of discussion in every city I visited. I could take the energy innovation analyst

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Making Sense of Government Energy Innovation Policy through Lawn Care

I recently asked a few colleagues over lunch the kind of wonky question that would only be allowed within the borders of the District of Columbia: Aside from more government investment – which is desperately needed – what are the big issues with America’s energy innovation ecosystem?

There’s no simple answer to that question, so we talked about a range of important ideas such as supporting advanced manufacturing, creating technology incubators, and reforming the DOE National Labs system. But what struck me was my colleagues’ insistence that what’s also needed is educating policymakers and advocates on how the energy innovation ecosystem fits together.

During the last five years, the U.S. federal government has added new institutions to spur innovation at different points along the technology development cycle, such as ARPA-E, the Energy Innovation Hubs, and Energy Frontier Research Centers. Analysts like myself argue more is needed. In response, policymakers fear duplication, extra bureaucracy, and inefficiencies often because these requests lack a clear case for how the policy pieces complement rather than repeat or compete with each other. This misunderstanding fuels – along with many other factors – a lack of

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