Lipinski Promotes Policies to Give a Boost to Entrepreneurs and Spur Job-Creating Energy Innovations

This week, Congressman Dan Lipinski (IL-3) spoke about the ways that the government can be helpful to entrepreneurs as they develop and perfect the job-creating innovations of tomorrow. He made his comments during the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Innovation Summit.

“Entrepreneurship is key to innovation and is critical to America’s future economic success, especially when it comes to new energy technologies,” said Lipinski. 

The most recent Global Entrepreneurship Monitor report found that a greater percentage of Americans were involved in a startup or new business in 2012 than at any time since the study began in 1999.  

“There is definitely more the federal government can do,” stated Lipinski.  “We need to give scientists and engineers who are budding entrepreneurs some of the tools they'll need to be able to commercialize their ideas.  The federal government can help with what is called proof-of-concept funding at universities and national labs to allow researchers to test their ideas out before making the leap to entrepreneurship.  In this Congress, I helped introduce a bill called the TRANSFER Act that would set aside funds for proof-of-concept programs at universities.  I am very hopeful we will be able to get this enacted this Congress, and the Science Committee may very possibly move on it soon.”

Another area to focus on is teaching researchers how to be entrepreneurial.  “Many brilliant researchers don't have the first idea about how to start a company,” stated Lipinski. “Given that three-fourths of all startups fail, we need to teach how to fail, how to adapt, and how to eventually succeed.  I've long been a supporter of the National Science Foundation's Innovation Corps program, which does exactly that.  One of the most critical components of the program is getting the research teams out of the lab to talk to potential customers, thus getting feedback on their product ideas before a prototype is made.” 

But Rep. Lipinski says all of the education and training in the world won't do enough if there isn't the money available to develop new ideas.  In the Energy Policy Act of 2005, Congress set up a Technology Commercialization Fund that took a small percentage of the applied energy budget and dedicated it to accelerating the commercialization of research at national labs. 

“At the time, this fund provided technology maturation funds for the national labs, which most people I’ve spoken with have found extremely helpful,” said Lipinski.  “I think we need to provide that kind of support to our national labs again, and I’ll be looking for ways to work with Congress and the Department of Energy to make that happen.”

One other way the federal government can incentivize the creation of new technologies is by instituting innovation prizes for breakthroughs in solving vexing problems.  In 2007, Congressman Lipinski authored legislation setting up the H-Prize for making advances in the use of hydrogen for transportation and in the last NSF authorization bill he included language to promote the use of prizes by the NSF.

ARPA-E was created in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. It advances high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment. Their funded projects include batteries and energy storage, biofuels, building energy efficiency, solar cells, and smart grid technologies.

Lipinski – a former educator with a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering – is a leading member of the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee.

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