temperature industrial environments is important for efficient operations.
Sensors and controls can provide integrated measurement systems for operator-independent control of plant processes. Extending sensor reach and accuracy in harsh environments and improving the integration of processing of sensor data can enable online, automated assessments and adjustment of system parameters.
Manufacturing firms within the same industry face common technological hurdles to improving efficiency. Many of these hurdles involve basic, energy-intensive processes integral to the industry. Due to the complex technologies involved, meaningful advances in these processes require costly research and development (R&D) efforts that are beyond the reach of many individual firms.
Since 1994, U.S. industries have used DOE’s Industries of the Future strategy to set their own R&D goals and priorities. The bulk of the federal budget goes to providing cost-shared support to selected R&D partnerships—partnerships that pool the resources of industry, academia, and government to accelerate the pace of R&D in meeting industry’s top needs and achieving national goals for energy and the environment.
The ITP brings firms together in a neutral environment, facilitates consensus building, and supports collaborative R&D to address priority needs. By concentrating on high-risk, high-payoff research in pre-competitive areas, U.S. firms find that they can collaborate effectively to accelerate the pace of technology development.
Formal industry partnerships include developing a broad vision of the industry’s future as well as one or more roadmaps reflecting industry consensus on R&D priorities and other activities needed to achieve that vision. The strategy has also generated
Alignment of public-private investment with industry’s R&D priorities;
Dozens of commercially successful technologies;
Better industry access to federal laboratory facilities;
Streamlined contracting processes for industry partners; and
New industry associations to facilitate and administer collaborative R&D.
The project portfolio includes over 1,000 projects in which the Office of Industrial Technology (OIT) has been involved, including more than 140 projects that have reached the commercial market. Products also include publications, software tools, and databases.
Despite the fact that U.S. industrial facilities run streamlined, technologically sophisticated operations, they still face tough economic, technological, and environmental challenges. Manufacturing typically operates with low profit margins and is dependent on capital-intensive equipment. This limits the availability of R&D funds. Direct price competition with foreign firms that employ cheap labor or receive heavy government support or dispensations also affects R&D expenditures. However, with the increased complexity and sophistication of products and processes, R&D is critical. Finally, there is growing pressure to restrict emissions and effluents, and this also requires technology advances.