Recommendation 3: The Department of Defense should partner with private sector innovators and establish an Operational Energy Innovation Center. In pursuing its most urgent energy vulnerabilities, DOD should take steps to ensure that it receives input from all innovators, including those in the smallest companies. However, information and communication barriers, largely related to the size disparity of the organizations, impede such collaboration. One potential avenue to connect DOD to innovators is through technology incubators, which provide the expertise needed to get small innovators firmly established. By cultivating a partnership, DOD could provide the testing data and initial market necessary to commercialize new clean energy technologies. Furthermore, to address its most urgent energy concerns, DOD could combine the innovators from nascent businesses with researchers from larger private firms, universities, and national laboratories in an Operational Energy Innovation Center, modeled on DOE’s Innovation Hubs. The Center could be funded through a competitive Operational Energy Innovation Fund.
This concept of better bringing together innovators of different stripes reminds me of the big Wired cover story a few months back on “The New Industrial Revolution.” That article discussed how the interconnected world, people wanting to innovate, lower barriers to entry and other factors are driving people to gather together to produce new things in often better ways. It presents a new kind of marketplace in which mass production and lack of specialized skills are not the only options.