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to get more innovation into the portfolio so we have the opportunity to pick winners.” He said that the United States could even lose a generation of innovators “if we don’t do something on the edges.” He noted that the panelists worked at big businesses now, but these had once been very small, and they had grown through innovation. “They survived because they were the winners. But we’re going to lose a lot of high-quality jobs unless we come up with a plan to stimulate this innovation immediately. These innovators will go someplace else where they’ll find someone welcoming them with money to commercialize their technologies.”

Mr. Pinto said he did not disagree, but he did offer another point of view on VC activity. “Take thin film,” he said. “Every VC has a thin-film PV company in their portfolio. We’ve thrown money at way too many of them. We’re probably spending four times as much as we need to so that we’ll have companies that work. That’s where the gap comes in.”

Mr. Bendis agreed that “everybody has to have one of something.” He recalled the three new solar research departments at three universities in Arizona. “What would happen if those three got together and developed one world-class solar institute?” he asked. “Why not leverage resources, eliminate the 45 percent of overhead, and get more of the money into the research that can go toward commercialization?”

Mr. Hurd said that as he traveled, he heard many discussions about how people can participate in developing low-carbon fuels and the like. “What I sense is that ultimately the supply decisions in terms of which technology wins will be made by the market. What will help spur demand is to take the smart grid one step further and build around it a relationship with users so they can actually understand how they can participate.”

Congresswoman Giffords closed the discussion by thanking the National Academies and the Department of Energy, and offered a “couple of parting words. One is, be bold. Now is not the time to sit back and avoid risks. And the second is, when you talk about working with consumers, we have to make these technologies approachable, easy to understand, and as exciting as they really are. And there’s nothing more exciting than seeing your meter go the other way!”

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