October 21, 2016
Capitol Update

In this issue:


The White House recently released a report entitled, “Preparing for the Future of Artificial Intelligence,” on the future direction of artificial intelligence (AI) as this technology becomes integrated into everyday life. It surveys the current state of AI, current and future applications, and explores the questions AI raises in public policy.

There were 23 recommendations provided in the report, including:

  • Private and public institutions are encouraged to examine whether and how they can responsibly leverage AI and machine learning in ways that will benefit society.
  • Federal Government should explore ways to improve the capacity of key agencies to apply AI to their missions.
  • The National Science and Technology Council Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence subcommittee should develop a community of practice of AI practitioners across government.
  • Agencies should draw on appropriate technical expertise at the senior level when setting regulatory policy for AI-enabled products.
  • The National Science and Technology Council Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence subcommittee should monitor developments in AI, and report regularly to senior Administration leadership about the status of AI, especially with regard to milestones.
  • The Government should monitor the state of AI in other countries, especially with respect to milestones.
  • The Federal government should prioritize basic and long-term AI research.
  • The Executive Office of the President should publish a follow-on report by the end of this year, to further investigate the effects of AI and automation on the U.S. job market, and outline recommended policy responses.
  • AI professionals, safety professionals, and their professional societies should work together to continue progress toward a mature field of AI safety engineering.
  • Schools and universities should include ethics, and related topics in security, privacy, and safety, as an integral part of curricula on AI, machine learning, computer science, and data science.


To review the full report, please visit: http://bit.ly/2dWfQZD


The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), on behalf of its Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO), announced this week that it is seeking feedback from public and private sector stakeholders on technical focus areas for graduate-level traineeship programs.

The Department of Energy (DOE) funds university-led traineeship programs that strategically address workforce training needs in key technical focus areas. The following objectives guide DOE’s advanced manufacturing traineeship efforts:

  • Advance the DOE mission relative to advanced manufacturing – DOE funded Traineeship Programs are designed and implemented to advance specific Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) workforce competencies required for the DOE’s unique mission to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its science, energy, and environmental challenges.
  • Address priority STEM workforce needs and identified gaps – DOE funded Traineeship Programs focus on advancing those critical STEM disciplines and competencies specifically relevant to the EERE and AMO missions where other U.S. Government or academic workforce development programs either do not exist or where DOE-relevant applications are not being leveraged to support specific DOE mission responsibilities.


The purpose of this request for information is to solicit feedback from industry, academia, research laboratories, government agencies, and other stakeholders on issues related to future EERE-funded and AMO-funded graduate-level traineeships. EERE is specifically interested in information on potential technical focus areas for Traineeships (e.g. similar to the previously funded focus area of Power Electronics Engineering) where there are identified needs and/or gaps in the expected knowledge workforce relative to advanced manufacturing technical topics. 

This request is not a Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA); therefore, EERE is not accepting applications at this time. EERE may issue a FOA in the future based on or related to the content and responses to this RFI, but the agency has not guaranteed future funding will be issued as a result of this RFI. 

More information about the official request and submission instructions can be found at: https://eere-exchange.energy.gov/default.aspx#FoaId701f4169-15f7-46ae-85af-99acb2ab9c0c Responses to this RFI must be submitted electronically to AMOTraineeship@ee.doe.gov no later than 5:00pm (ET) on November 10, 2016.


The Department of Energy (DOE) is awarding up to $80 million for a six-year project to design, build, and operate a 10-MWe (megawatts electrical) supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) pilot plant test facility in San Antonio, TX. The project will be managed by a team led by the Gas Technology Institute (GTI), Southwest Research Institute, and General Electric Global Research (GE-GR).

The new facility will support the future commercialization of sCO2 Brayton cycle energy conversion systems by testing and demonstrating the potential energy efficiency and cost benefits of this technology.  Today the average efficiency of the U.S. fleet of steam Rankine cycle power plants is in the lower 30 percent range. This new facility has the potential to demonstrate greater than 50 percent cycle efficiency. If successfully developed, the supercritical CO2 power cycles could provide significant efficiency gains in geothermal, coal, nuclear, and solar thermal power production.

Currently, no commercially-feasible sCO2 facility exists for high temperature and high-efficiency system testing. The 10-MWe test facility developed under the selected project will serve as an opportunity for industry and government to work together to develop and mature the sCO2 power cycles at the pilot-scale, bringing it one step closer to commercialization.

Supercritical CO2 is carbon dioxide that is above its critical temperature and pressure so that it is in a fluid state, enabling a power plant to generate the same amount of electricity from less fuel when compared to traditional steam and water (Rankine cycle) systems commonly used today. This, in turn, decreases CO2 emissions and operating costs. Furthermore, because sCO2 has a high-fluid density relative to steam, sCO2 power plants may be fitted with compact turbomachinery, which would help to reduce capital costs. 

The information generated through this project has the potential to inform scale-ups for larger scale demonstrations in the future. While sCO2 technology has been proven in a lab setting, this pilot project will provide important data on potential challenges of operating it on a larger scale. It will also provide an opportunity to test the performance of the system's components when operated on a continuous and fully integrated basis.

The project is part of DOE’s sCO2 crosscutting initiative that includes the Offices of Fossil Energy, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and Nuclear Energy. This collaborative effort seeks to reduce the technical barriers and risks to commercializing the sCO2 power cycle, with a common goal of establishing a 10 MWe scale Supercritical Transformational Electric Power facility for evaluating the power cycle and component performance over a range of operating conditions.

To learn more about the Office of Fossil Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory, visit https://netl.doe.gov/


Researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) launched the Smart Manufacturing Systems (SMS) Test Bed designed as a model factory to provide an all-in-one toolbox for exploring digital manufacturing known as the “digital thread.” This technology will help manufacturers cut costs, shorten production time, reduce errors, and provide higher quality goods. These improvements come from moving away from two-dimensional paper design, which over 90 percent of small manufacturers rely on, to three-dimensional (3-D) models. Using 3-D models for electronically exchanging and processing product and manufacturing information all the way from design through inspection can cut production time by as much as 75 percent.

Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Willie E. May says that “digital manufacturing represents an exciting advance that is expected to yield significant operational and bottom-line benefits for manufacturers of all sizes.”

To learn more, please visit: http://bit.ly/2dIDmb1


Researchers at Bay Area campuses are aiming to transform the cells of plants and animals into biological factories that could produce new drugs, new fuels and new biological computers. With $25 million in federal funds, a consortium of Bay schools led by UCSF Stanford researchers in partnership with UC Berkeley, San Francisco State and the artificial intelligence lab at the IBM-Almaden research center in San Jose are creating a bioengineering center.

Using new science called synthetic biology, specialists will focus on a variety of efforts to engineer living cells into new biological systems and create a cellular machine shop to produce ultrafast new machines for gene sequencing to create new cells with valuable new structures and properties. There will also be attempts to develop a new engineering software for computer aided design to design entirely new types of cells and another goal will be aimed at altering the internal structures of cells and combining them with the structures of other very different cell types that could bring major new drugs and carbon-neutral fuels.

For more information, please visit: http://bit.ly/2dxMjqJ


The Congressional Research Service (CRS) recently released a report to Congress providing an historical overview of key legislation and issues regarding biologics and biosimilars.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates both biologics and chemical drugs. Biologics are derived from living organisms and are used in drugs and vaccines. Biosimilars (follow-on biologics) are structurally identical specialty drugs to brand-name chemically prepared pharmaceutical drugs.

The European equivalent to the FDA known as the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has authorized a total of 21 biosimilars for the European market and the introduction of biosimilars in Europe has reduced prices for biologics overall. However, in the United States, legislation was needed to create the regulatory authority FDA needed to do the same thing. In March 2010, the Congress established a new regulatory authority for FDA by creating an abbreviated licensure pathway for biological products demonstrated to be highly similar to or interchangeable with FDA-licensed biological products in the Biologics Price Competition and Innovation Act of 2009.

To read the full Congressional Research Service Report 44620, please visit: http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R44620.pdf

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