Energy R&D Network Proposal Has Seattle, Boston Leaders Eyeing Possibilities

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and is thought to appeal to the innovative mind of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, a former director of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Livermore, CA, and a Nobel Laureate in physics. But for now, it is just a policy framework for lawmakers to sink their teeth into as they debate energy priorities, Muro says.

The lobbying push for this plan will pick up on Feb. 9 in a panel at the National Press Club in Washington DC. The panel will feature the study’s lead author, former University of Michigan president Jim Duderstadt, as well as Boeing’s Glover and Konarka’s Berke.

The Northwest has shown pockets of strength recently in various slices of cleantech— through EnerG2, a University of Washington spinoff funded by OVP Venture Partners, some IT talent being applied to energy conservation (like at Seattle-based Verdiem), and Boeing’s effort to develop alternative jet fuels, Malarkey says. But the state still doesn’t have a formal proposal put together or a comprehensive analysis of the region’s competitive strengths and weaknesses, Malarkey says.

Berke said he was unavailable to take questions about any regional plan in time for my deadline. (The guy has been busy, having nailed down a $45 million venture investment last month from Total, the Paris-based oil and gas conglomerate.)

Even though the regional proposals aren’t yet “fully baked,” as Malarkey says, I definitely get the sense that a lot of behind-the-scenes maneuvers are taking place among local government and industry officials to whip them into shape. One of the keys will be making sure regions put their best foot forward with a real business proposal that plays up the specific strength that each region has that can contribute to solving a problem this huge.

“This is the story of the next decade,” Malarkey says. When pressed for more details on the proposal, she said it’s still a work in progress. “The Brookings group has the ear of the Obama Administration, and a network of well-funded centers of excellence in the U.S. makes a lot of sense.”

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