The Power of Innovation

nnovation has been the predominant driver of U.S. economic growth over the last century. Scientific and technological innovation has given birth to new industries and the jobs that accompany them, helped maintain the competitiveness of a growing number of companies that rely on technology to succeed, and ultimately made American lives better. Throughout this history, the federal government has played a vital role in catalyzing innovation across a number of key strategic sectors such as defense, health, agriculture, energy, and information technology. In every instance, these sectors provide invaluable contributions to our nation while facing their own distinct set of challenges. This is especially true in the energy sector.

Access to reliable, affordable energy has such a profoundly positive impact on people’s lives as to nearly defy calculation. Yet unlike many other technology sectors, the energy sector in particular has suffered from underinvestment in research and development (R&D) for a number of reasons. As a generally low-cost commodity, it is often difficult for an energy supplier to differentiate itself and charge a premium, the way products in other markets like communications hardware or biomedical technologies might. Energy infrastructure and technologies are also generally high cost and long lived, leading to large amounts of inertia and, in some cases, risk avoidance. Further complicating these challenges is the fact that energy markets are highly fragmented and often face a significant amount of regulatory fracturing and uncertainty.