Jon A. Fredrickson – Vice President, Chief Innovation Officer
With threats of climate change dominating the news cycles, rapid volatility in energy prices affecting the economy, and stymied innovation preventing breakthroughs in renewable energy, it seems like the U.S. energy industry (and the world’s, for that matter) yearning for alternatives to how energy innovation has always been done. Over the past decade, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) requested hundreds of billions of dollars (the 2019 budget request stands at $30.6 billion), much of which has been spent on research and development, maintaining their national laboratories, and other innovation efforts.
10 Years & Hundreds of Billions of Dollars Later
So far, the DOE has not found overwhelming success in their innovation efforts, and the department has been rocked with scandals over the past decade that have further added to their innovation woes. In 2011, the department was hit with what media outlets described as a “sobering report” from the Office of Inspector General and the Office of Audits and Inspections. The report revealed that more than a third of the budget allocated to managing the DOE’s network of 16 R&D laboratories was spent on overhead costs, rather than research. The Inspector General, Gregory Friedman called the current situation “unsustainable in the current budget environment.”
Flash forward to present day, the DOE is still pouring billions into their laboratories, and rather than consolidating their lab operations, as the Inspector General advised, they have added an additional laboratory and more overhead costs to their operations.
This occurred on top of the allegations of corruption and waste levied at the DOE for their 535 million-dollar loan guarantee to the failed solar panel startup, Solyndra after the company filed for bankruptcy.
While these stories have run their course through the news cycle and have eventually faded, the DOE is still spending billions each year on R&D efforts that could be heavily consolidated through crowdsourced solutions.
How the Crowd Has Helped Other Industries and Entities
Whether you look to the public or private energy sectors for guidance on energy innovation, the opensource marketplace of ideas has provided solutions that have virtually changed the game for R&D departments. Both NASA and the U.S. Military have found new ideas that allowed them to break free from the innovation bubbles and echo chambers that have stymied their research for decades. Using open innovation, NASA had successful breakthroughs on 10 of 14 issues that had stumped their internal innovation teams for years. The Department of Defense found similar success with a dramatic breakthrough in pathogen detection, which yielded 17 solutions in less than a year.
In the public sector, open innovation has delivered results for companies like General Fusion, Enel, and the Prince William Sound Oil Spill Recovery Institute, each with their own unique Challenges that were greatly advanced by InnoCentive’s global network of more than 400,000 registered prepared-minds and extended social and media reach for our challenges to potentially tens of millions of people around the world.
The Solutions Are Out There. Go and Find Them
InnoCentive offers both private and public sector entities in the energy industry the opportunity to broadcast (anonymously, if desired) their most pressing innovation issues to the crowd as meticulously worded Challenge that elicit high rates of submitted solutions. These crowd-based solutions are the key to transforming the energy industry and pushing it towards innovative solutions that will benefit everyone, everywhere.