What are the general characteristics of the EFRCs, and how do they relate to BES core programs?
By bringing together the skills and talents of multiple investigators to enable research of a scope and complexity that would not be possible with a standard individual investigator or small group award, the EFRCs strengthen and complement the portfolio of such smaller efforts currently supported within BES core research areas. EFRCs have the following distinguishing attributes:
- The research program is at the forefront of one or more of the challenges described in the BESAC report Directing Matter and Energy: Five Challenges for Science and the Imagination.
- The research program addresses one or more of the energy challenges described in the ten BES workshop reports in the Basic Research Needs series.
- The program is balanced and comprehensive and, as needed, supports experimental, theoretical, and computational efforts and develops new approaches in these areas.
- The program provides opportunities to inspire, train, and support leading scientists of the future who have an appreciation for the global energy challenges of the 21st century.
- The center leadership communicates effectively with scientists of all disciplines and promotes awareness of the importance of energy science and technology.
- There is a comprehensive management plan for a world-leading program that encourages high-risk, high-reward research. The Centers management plan demonstrates that the whole is substantially greater than the sum of the individual parts.
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Can you explain what distinguishes the Departments other energy R&D programs, and particularly the recently launched Energy Frontier Research Centers and ARPA-E, from the proposed Energy Innovation Hubs?
How R&D is managed can impact the pace of innovation. The rapid pace of development of radar, the transistor, and the atomic bomb occurred in part because of the management model employed. These achievements were organized around a particular challenge, with a highly integrated management model in which outstanding scientist-leaders actively managed a team of scientists, engineers, and technicians.
The Hubs are inspired by the lessons of these past successes. They will differ from the Departments other core energy R&D programs in their larger scale, their higher degree of integration of scientific research with engineering development, and their singular focus on driving energy technology solutions to their fundamental limits.
Taken together, DOEs ongoing programs in energy R&D and technology demonstration and deployment, the recently launched Energy Frontier Research Centers, ARPA-E, and the proposed Energy Innovation Hubs comprise a robust portfolio of unique energy R&D modalities that complement each other and that maximize the Nations ability to achieve energy breakthroughs as quickly as possible.
The following are synopses of the unique characteristics and roles of each of the three new energy R&D modalities:
Energy Innovation Hubs will each comprise a large set of investigators spanning science, engineering, and policy disciplines focused on a single critical national need identified by the Department. Top talent drawn from the full spectrum of R&D performers - universities, private industry, non-profits, and government laboratories - will drive each Hub to become a world-leading R&D center in its topical area. Each Hubs management structure must allow empowered scientist-managers to execute quick decisions to shape the course of research. With robust links to industry, the highly integrated Hubs will bridge the gap between basic scientific breakthroughs and industrial commercialization. Initial awards will be openly competed among R&D performers and are for $22 million in the first year and $25 million in years two through five, for a maximum of $122 million over the five year term, subject to Congressional appropriations.
Energy Frontier Research Centers advance fundamental science relevant to real-world energy systems. Each focuses on the long term basic research needed to overcome roadblocks to revolutionary energy technologies in a particular area. They are mostly multi-institutional centers composed of a self-assembled group of investigators, often spanning several science and engineering disciplines. This research is both "grand challenge" and "use inspired" fundamental science motivated by the need to solve a specific problem, such as energy storage, photoconversion, CO2 sequestration, etc. The choice of topics was at the discretion of the applicants in response to an FOA that solicited broadly across grand challenge and use inspired science. The funding range is $2 to 5 million per year per project.
ARPA-E supports research that is of potentially very high commercial impact but is deemed too risky for industrial investments. ARPA-E follows DARPA's highly entrepreneurial approach to mission-oriented R&D by funding scientists and technologists (sometimes by forging and nurturing partnerships of its own design) to accelerate an immature energy technology with exceptional potential beyond the risk barriers that prevent its translation from the bench to the marketplace. ARPA-E will not fund discovery science nor will it support incremental improvements to current technologies. Its federal program managers take a hands on approach to managing the activities of R&D performers. The funding range per project may be as low as $500,000 or as high as $10 million. Projects will be selected on their potential to make rapid progress towards commercialization and will not be extended without demonstrable progress in a 2-3 year timeframe.
The following table compares some of the characteristics and roles of each new energy R&D modality.
||Energy Innovation Hubs
||Energy Frontier Research Centers
|Investigators and their institutions
||Large set of investigators spanning multiple science and engineering disciplines and possibly including other non-science areas such as energy policy, economics, and market analysis. May be led by Labs or universities, nonprofit organizations or private firms. The model is the three existing Office of Science Bio-energy Research Centers.
||~12-20 senior investigators. May be led by DOE laboratories or universities. About two thirds of 46 EFRCs are led by universities.
||Single investigator, small group, or small teams.|
||Lead institution must provide a central location and strong scientific leadership. There must be a culture of empowered central research management.
||Mostly multi-institutional centers, but with a clearly defined lead institution responsible for management.
||Variable depending on project|
|Diversity of disciplines per award
|Period of award and management
||5 years. Managed by Offices across DOE. A Board of Advisors consisting of senior leadership will coordinate across DOE.
||5 years. Managed by the Basic Energy Sciences program in the DOE Office of Science.
||1 to 3 years. Managed by ARPA-E, which reports to the Secretary of Energy|
||~$22 million in the first year with up to $10 million for infrastructure start-up; ~$25 million per year in subsequent years.
||$ 2 to 5 million per year
||$ 0.5 to 10 million per year|
||Integrate from fundamental research through potential commercialization. The breadth and emphasis of activities will be influenced by the nature of the Hub. Some Hubs may place a greater emphasis on basic and applied research, while others may focus more on technology development. DOE determines the topical areas of the Hubs and FOAs are topic-specific.
||Fundamental research with a link to new energy technologies or technology roadblocks. The investigators proposed the subject matter from among a large set of scientific grand challenges and energy-relevant topics identified in and the FOA.
||High risk translational research driven by the potential for significant commercial impact in the near-term. In general, DOE determines the topics of interest, except for the initial FOA, which was broad-based.|
How is the Office of Basic Energy Sciences at DOE assessing the progress and impact of the EFRCs?
We expect all of the EFRCs to be world-leading programs that encourage high-risk, high-reward research. Their focus is on fundamental science. This includes consideration of fundamental roadblocks to progress, and of the opportunities for truly transformational new understanding. Evaluation of the EFRCs involves formal reviews in which independent expert peer reviewers will assess scientific productivity, impact, and the extent to which synergies and interactions across the participants in each EFRC have led to outcomes above and beyond the individual, independent contributions of the researchers involved. As was stressed in the development of the program, each EFRC is expected to address one or more energy research challenges described in the Basic Research Needs series of workshop reports as well as one or more of the science grand challenges described in the report, Directing Matter and Energy: Five Challenges for Science and the Imagination. Their progress in this respect will also be considered in reviews. In addition, annual progress reports will provide a synopsis of accomplishments and data on publications, collaborations, inventions and new technologies, databases produced, software created, and instrumentation developed.
A timeline of events and associated expectations for the EFRC portfolio has been developed and implemented. Two sets of formal reviews are planned: one in the first year following the award to assess management and initial operations, and another once the work is well along (several years after initial award) with a greater emphasis on scientific progress and overall impact. Periodic meetings are held of all EFRC Directors with the cognizant DOE program managers. The Directors also participate in monthly teleconferences (in smaller groups) with DOE staff in which they provide updates on their activities and discuss upcoming events and any current issues. The EFRCs participate in topical contractors meetings organized by BES as appropriate, and several EFRC-focused science symposia or workshops are under consideration as well. Beyond the formal reviews and regular meetings and discussions, DOE program staff have individual conversations with EFRCs as needed and make occasional informal site visits when feasible.
Where can I find the original Funding Opportuntiy Announcement and EFRC Fact Sheet?