About 150 representatives from universities, industry, and federal agencies, along with elected officials, attended Monday’s Southeast Regional Energy Innovation Workshop in Chattanooga, a forum to advance clean energy technology innovation in the region.
Hosted by the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the event provided an opportunity to explore ways universities, industry, the Department of Energy’s national labs, and other federal agencies can drive rapid innovation of technologies for use in the marketplace.
Guests included U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, DOE Undersecretary for Science and Energy Lynn Orr, Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke and leaders from academia and the private sector.
“Our region has a clear advantage on clean energy technology innovation given our focus on materials science for energy storage, advanced manufacturing, solar and nuclear,” said UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek. “Our close partnerships with ORNL and many industries here in the Southeast allow us to help advance the clean energy technology ecosystem.”
The Southeast is uniquely situated with its focus on advanced manufacturing for automotive, aerospace and wind; carbon fiber manufacturing; nuclear energy technology development; grid technology enhancements; microgrids, photovoltaics; materials by design; and energy storage.
“The opportunity to accelerate the transition of innovative technologies to the marketplace is critical to our mission as a DOE national laboratory,” said Thom Mason, ORNL director. “We have dedicated user facilities, scientific staff and strategic partnerships with industry and universities that can contribute to energy innovation here in the Southeast.”
The workshop included panel discussions featuring experts from across the region exploring rapid innovation. Representatives from Boeing, VW Americas, GE, Southern Power, TVA, Local Motors and National Science Foundation engineering research centers were in attendance.
“Innovation has been the lifeblood of the American economy,” said Sherwood-Randall. “Joining this discussion provided a meaningful opportunity for the Department of Energy to learn lessons from this vibrant community’s experience in building a regional clean energy research and development agenda.”
Representatives from two of the eight National Network for Manufacturing Innovation’s National Manufacturing Innovation Institutes—IACMI and Power America, were also in attendance. A panel of graduate students, many from the UT-ORNL Bredesen Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Graduate Education, participated in a discussion with Orr.
“As we look to the future, it is critical to establish the partnerships that accelerate clean energy technology innovation,” said Taylor Eighmy, UT’s vice chancellor for research and engagement. “The nexus of public–private partnerships involving the deep collaboration between federal government, national labs, industry and universities is the best way to accelerate innovation and keep innovation in the region.”