Dewey & LeBoeuf LLP
On behalf of the STEP Committee on Best Practice in State & Regional Innovation Initiatives and its chair, Prof. Mary Good, Clark McFadden introduced the symposium as one in a series to address the theme of creating and sustaining clusters of technology development and manufacturing. Such clusters, he said, had proven to be successful at generating jobs, economic growth, and productivity, and were an important objective of state, regional, and national innovation programs.
He recalled that the National Academy of Engineering had recently characterized more economical solar energy production as one of its “grand challenges” for the nation.2 At the center of this challenge was photovoltaic technologies, or PV, the use of solar cells to convert solar energy directly into electricity. Various strategies had been tried in various countries to advance the photovoltaic technologies industry, he said, including financial engineering, project loan guarantees, subsidies, and trade-in tariffs. The symposium had been organized to focus on an additional strategy, government-industry-academia partnerships for PV manufacturing. Such partnerships, suggested Mr. McFadden, would permit a new level of “technology engineering” that would help structure, facilitate, and leverage the multiple abilities and perspectives needed to increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Successful technology partnering has many elements, he said, including the sharing of experience and information, the joint assumption of risk, and ultimately successful insertion into commercial markets. Such partnerships, he said, were likely to increase the industry’s ability to assess technology obstacles, gaps,
2National Academy of Engineering, Grand Challenges for Engineering, Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press, 2008.
and opportunities, perhaps through the use of roadmaps and agreement on technical standards. Partnerships would also provide the ability to support research more effectively through the provision of financial support, technical guidance, and performance evaluation. They could also support research directly through partners in government agencies and laboratories, universities, nonprofits, and industry.
Finally, he said, the use of partnerships could broaden the ability to transfer technology to the stage of commercialization, which is “critical to any manufacturing effort and has always characterized the most successful technology partnering ventures.” One way to promote this is to provide demonstration facilities or foundries that can validate improvements in manufacturing materials, equipment, and processes. “All of these dimensions can contribute to successful technology partnering,” he said, “and all are relevant to our agenda today.”
He noted that the men and women attending the symposium represented many constituencies that have a significant stake in PV manufacturing:
• Many of the senior leadership of the Department of Energy, who were part of “a national mission to promote PV energy.”
• Congressional members and staff, who were crafting legislation designed to advance the nation’s global standing in PV manufacturing.
• Leaders of the PV industry, including both device manufacturers and suppliers of equipment and materials.
• Representatives of other collaborative ventures in technology development and manufacturing, notably the semiconductor industry.
• Representatives of state and regional governments, who were eager to attract and promote clusters of technology development and manufacturing in PV.
Mr. McFadden closed by noting that the Senate report for the 2010 appropriations act had urged the DoE to use input from this and related National Academies symposia in establishing PV manufacturing initiatives.