Since the start of the Obama Administration, being a responsible steward of our planet is a role that President Obama has embraced through action and example. Accelerated development and deployment of green technology is a critical part of supporting sustainable growth, and the Administration has gone to great lengths to bring cutting-edge green technology from development stages to real-world application. Whether by cutting pollution, unleashing troves of climate data to empower American communities to prepare for the future, or leading international efforts to combat global climate change, agencies across the Administration are taking bold actions to grow the economy while leaving a green legacy for future generations.
As President Obama said in his State of the Union address earlier this year, “We know that the nation that goes all-in on innovation today will own the global economy tomorrow. This is an edge America cannot surrender. Federally-funded research helped lead to the ideas and inventions behind Google and smartphones.” Some of the most exciting breakthroughs in green technology are likewise getting their start in our federal labs on a daily basis, including:
- A game-changing technology under development by the U.S. Navy that creates fuel from seawater by recovering carbon dioxide and hydrogen and converting them into a liquid hydrocarbon fuel. Earlier this month, an internal combustion powered model aircraft took the first ever flight fueled by seawater as carbon feedstock;
- An ultrafast DC charging system that can charge an electric vehicle in 15 minutes, developed by Argonne National Laboratory. The government-developed charging system can add 60 to 80 miles of range to an electric vehicle on a single, 15-minute charge, and has the potential to be accessed through smartgrid and wireless charging communication;
- A breakthrough geothermal heat pump developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in partnership with the company ClimateMaster, which can help save money and energy by increasing efficiency;
- A new technology to remove hazardous heavy metals from water streams, developed through a partnership with the Environmental Protection Agency;
- A prize-winning process from the National Energy Technology Laboratory that improves the capture of carbon dioxide from power plants while reducing the cost.
Breakthroughs like these hold incredible potential for improving quality of life for Americans across the country, and President Obama has prioritized ensuring the transformation from scientific innovation to societal benefit. In 2011, the President directed all federal agencies to substantially increase the commercialization of laboratory research. More recently, President Obama emphasized the importance of laboratory-to-market activities as part of the President’s Management Agenda and the 2015 budget request.
Responding to this call, the Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) has developed a search tool for finding technologies available for licensing across the federal government. From advances in sustainable farming and livestock practices made by the Department of Agriculture to alternative fuels developed by the Department of Energy, green technologies available for transfer are being developed across the federal government. The FLC enables convenient access to more than 20,000 technologies, generated by 13 agencies and across approximately 225 national labs, making green technology available to the American public. Technology and pollution know no borders, and the FLC is also working with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to make America’s green technologies available internationally on a recently launched WIPO Green site.
The Administration is also promoting more widespread usage of sustainable practices by creating business incentives for using green technology. To reward inventors of technologies that have an outsized humanitarian impact, the Administration recently announced the renewal of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Patents for Humanity Program, which recognizes and supports patent owners and licensees for using their technologies to address global humanitarian needs. Winners in the 2012-2013 program include Nokero, a company that delivers solar light bulbs and phone chargers to off-grid villages through local entrepreneurs. Applicants in the 2014 program will compete in categories including household energy, living standards, and sanitation, all of which have environmental aspects. Applications will be accepted from April 15 to Sept 15, 2014.
Colleen V. Chien is Senior Advisor to the CTO, Intellectual Property and Innovation at OSTP
Paul Zielinski is Chair, Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer