May 13, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


ENERGY DEPARTMENT REQUESTS PROPOSALS FOR NEW INSTITUTE TO BOOST EFFICIENCY IN MANUFACTURING

On May 4th, the Energy Department requested proposals for a new Clean Energy Manufacturing Innovation Institute as part of the Administration’s broader National Network for Manufacturing Innovation (NNMI), which drives collaboration between small- and medium-sized companies, academic institutions, industry, and national laboratories.

The Modular Chemical Process Intensification Institute will be the fourth Institute led by the Energy Department and represents a critical step in the Administration’s effort to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030. It will focus on developing breakthrough technologies to increase the energy efficiency of manufacturing processes used across an array of U.S. industries, including ethylene for plastics and biofuels used in sustainable transportation. Proposals for this $70 million funding opportunity announcement are due June 15.

While traditional chemical manufacturing relies on large-scale, energy-intensive processing, the new Institute will leverage approaches to modular chemical process intensification — like combining multiple, complex processes such as mixing, reaction, and separation into single steps — with the goal of improving energy productivity and efficiency, cutting operating costs, and reducing waste. Through the development of new process intensification technologies, the Institute could unleash major savings in energy-intensive sectors like chemical manufacturing, oil and gas refining, pulp and paper-making, food manufacturing, biofuels, fuel cells, and other industries.

In addition to the request for proposals, the Department also announced that the topic of the fifth Energy Department-led Institute will be Reducing Embodied Energy and Emissions of Manufactured Materials, focused on lowering energy use through the development of innovative recycling and remanufacturing technologies. More information about the fifth Institute is planned to be announced by the end of May 2016.

DOE currently leads three NNMI institutes, each a public-private partnership serving as a regional hub bridging the gap between applied research and product development in key technology areas that encourage investment and production in the U.S. The two standing Institutes include PowerAmerica at NC State University, which focuses on advanced power electronics technologies, and the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation (IACMI) located in Knoxville, TN, which focuses on advancing fiber reinforced polymer composites. The third institute already underway focuses on Smart Manufacturing and is currently in merit based solicitation review. The selected team will be announced this summer.

To learn more about this funding opportunity announcement and other manufacturing policy-related news, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/manufacturing-innovation-competitiveness/


MAKING TO MANUFACTURING: PRIZE COMPETITION SEEKING INNOVATIVE APPROACHES TO COST-EFFECTIVE, LOW-VOLUME MANUFACTURING

MForesight recently announced the “Making to Manufacturing” competition to identify innovative solutions for cost-effective, low-volume manufacturing in lot sizes of 500-10,000 units in the U.S. The Competition is seeking technologies in hardware, software, collaborative systems, and educational tools that could, with three to five years of additional development, lower barriers to entrepreneurs and small businesses to increase the variety and value of items manufactured.

The competition closes on June 1st, with winners in each category earning up to $10,000. Winners and high scoring applications will be invited to Washington, D.C. to present their ideas to leaders in government and industry.

For complete information about this challenge, please visit: http://bit.ly/Mfg_Challenge or https://ideabuzz.com/a/buzz/challenge/17545/ideas/top

MForesight is a national independent think-tank, tasked with identifying emerging advanced manufacturing technologies that can enhance the U.S. manufacturing innovation ecosystem and bridge the gap between basic research and manufacturing readiness. Additional information about MForesight can be found at: http://mforesight.org


SENATORS MURKOWSKI, CANTWELL CALL ON DOE’S MONIZ TO WORK WITH ISRAEL ON ADVANCING ENERGY INNOVATION

U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), the Committee’s Ranking Member, sent a letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz seeking information on the Department’s lack of movement on the U.S.-Israel Energy Center.

“We wrote to you on May 12, 2015, asking that you work to establish a cutting-edge, United States-Israel Energy Center focused on academic and industry research to advance energy innovation. Unfortunately, almost 11 months has passed without action demonstrating the Department’s intent to establish the center,” wrote the Senators in the letter.

The United States and Israel signed an agreement that was supported by a bill that became law on December 19, 2014. The agreement encourages energy cooperation between the two countries, including innovations in clean energy, water efficiency, and cybersecurity of energy and water infrastructure. It also agreed to establish a cutting-edge, U.S.-Israel Energy Center focused on academic and industry research to advance energy innovation.

Murkowski and Cantwell concluded the letter calling on the Energy Department to commence work on the center for the benefit of the United States and Israel. To review the letter, please visit: http://www.energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/files/serve?File_id=01550074-5EB9-4F3C-B902-863898C8B0D2


DEADLINE FOR CONVERGENCE IDEA CHALLENGE IS JUNE 3RD

To encourage the next generation of scientists and engineers to pursue Convergence research, Nobel Laureate Phillip Sharp, MIT President Emerita Susan Hockfield, and Koch Institute Director Tyler Jacks are sponsoring an idea challenge.

Convergence research integrates the life sciences, physical sciences, information technology, social sciences, and engineering. This approach is used in a variety of fields including: digital health and health data; advanced medical devices; engineering the human immune system; designing new biomaterials; enhanced imaging at all scales; computational biology; and, much more. The grand vision of Convergence is to create the next generation of cures and therapies in a time of constrained healthcare resources. This vision will be accomplished by forming relationships between sciences that are deeper than conventional collaboration and joining disciplines into a unified whole.

To apply for the challenge, emerging researchers — graduate students, postdocs, startup founders, and DIY scientists — should submit a short 450-word essay explaining their Convergence idea and how it will improve human health. Each submission will be posted online to demonstrate the ingenuity and range of Convergence, create a community of scientists, and spark dialogue about the future of research. Entries will be judged on potential impact, creativity and innovation, and presentation. Faculty members are not eligible.

The deadline for submitting an entry is June 3rd. More information can be found at: http://goo.gl/C12QqH

Top entries will receive cash prizes (first prize is $3,000) and recognition of world-renowned scientists. Winners will be announced alongside the release of the report, Convergence: The Future of Health, in Washington D.C. on June 24th.


NASA MAKES DOZENS OF PATENTS AVAILABLE IN PUBLIC DOMAIN TO BENEFIT U.S. INDUSTRY

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has released 56 formerly-patented agency technologies into the public domain, making its government-developed technologies freely available for unrestricted commercial use. In addition to the release of these technologies, a searchable database now is available that catalogs thousands of expired NASA patents already in the public domain.

These technologies were developed to advance NASA missions, but may have non-aerospace applications for commercial space ventures and other companies. Providing these patents free of charge will help mitigate the time, expense, and paperwork often associated with licensing intellectual property. The technologies include advanced manufacturing processes, sensors, propulsion methods, rocket nozzles, thrusters, aircraft wing designs, and improved rocket safety and performance concepts.

This release is the latest in NASA’s long tradition of extending the benefits of its research and development into the public sector, where it may enhance the economy and quality of life for more Americans. The release also may help familiarize commercial space companies with NASA’s capabilities, resulting in new collaborations with private industry.

The innovations included in this transfer were selected by NASA officials using a rigorous review process, during which decision-makers looked for technologies that offer the potential for high unit values but are less likely to be licensed by outside companies because of low demand for resulting products (e.g. spacecraft), or the technology still requires significant development before it is marketable.

A few examples include:

  • Technologies designed to mitigate the dangerous gases created as humans live and work in space;
  • Inventions related to rocket nozzles, injection systems and propellants that might help launch a new generation of commercial spacecraft; and,
  • Methods for controlling airflow around vehicles in hypersonic flight.

For more information about the released patents and the searchable database on NASA-developed technologies, please visit: http://ppec.asme.org/key-issues/research-and-development/


OVER 150 COMPANIES COMMIT TO SET AMBITIOUS SCIENCE-BASED EMISSIONS REDUCTION TARGETS

On the eve of the Climate Action Summit in Washington, D.C, the Science Based Targets initiative announced that 155 companies have committed to set emissions reduction targets in-line with the global effort to keep warming well below 2°C. These commitments form the foundation of a credible corporate climate action strategy as the world transitions to the low-carbon economy.

The companies participating in the initiative are headquartered in 27 countries around the world, including 77 in Europe, 34 in the Asia Pacific region, 25 in the United States and 9 in Canada. They represent a wide variety of industries, from carbon-intensive industrial sectors to consumer-facing industries that include household brands.

Forty-one new companies have joined the initiative since the COP21 negotiations in Paris last December, including Ben & Jerry’s, SunPower Corporation, Owens Corning, Toyota Motor Corporation, and large European retailer Metro AG. 

Of the 155 companies signed on to the initiative, 13 have already had their emissions reductions targets reviewed and approved by the experts at the Science Based Targets initiative. This means the targets are aligned with the decarbonization necessary to limit warming to below 2°C and meet other best-practice criteria defined by the initiative. Combined, these 13 companies will reduce their emissions from operations by 874 million tons CO2 over the lifetime of the targets, the equivalent of closing over 250 coal-fired power plants for a year. These companies have also made ambitious commitments to reduce emissions throughout their value chains.

45 companies have targets currently under review, and the remaining companies are in the process of developing targets.

The Science Based Targets initiative is a partnership between CDP, UN Global Compact, World Resources Institute (WRI), and WWF. The initiative provides technical resources to help companies set science-based emissions targets, and recognizes companies that commit to this important action. More information, including the participating companies, can be found at: www.sciencebasedtargets.org


NIST AWARDS FIRST ENTREPRENEURSHIP GRANT

During his postdoctoral fellowship at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), Chris Brown designed a lens system that has the potential to improve the performance of imaging and display systems. Now co-owner of a company specializing in optical instruments that measure distance, Brown is the first awardee in a grant program designed to help launch high-tech companies based on NIST technologies.

NIST holds the patent on the lens system and has licensed it to Z-senz, the company Brown owns with co-founder Darryl Ngai. Z-senz will receive $112,000 to commercialize the technology for use in a resonant light detection and ranging (R-LIDAR) distance sensor. The NIST-patented lens system will be used to create high-performance R-LIDAR devices that are smaller, lighter and use less power than current state-of-the-art distance sensors, making them well suited for small unmanned aerial systems used for high-accuracy, remote surveying.

The NIST Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Program (N-STEP) is funded by NIST and administered by Maryland TEDCO, an independent organization that provides entrepreneurial business assistance and seed funding for the development of startup companies in Maryland’s innovation economy.

The grant program was launched in November 2015 with the goal of providing opportunities for motivated researchers to build upon the experience they gained at NIST as they explore entrepreneurial careers. For example, before co-founding Z-senz, Brown spent two years working in NIST’s Material Measurement Laboratory through the Postdoctoral Research Associateship Program, which is a collaboration with the National Research Council.

For additional information, visit: http://tedco.md/program/n-step/


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