DOE recently announced a new kind of R&D effort, called Energy Innovation Hubs. See http://www.energy.gov/hubs/. These are large scale, highly focused R&D efforts modeled on the Manhattan Project. The idea is to bring a lot of great minds together under one roof, to tackle a very specific sci-tech problem.
But in the broader sense a hub is not just a place where people are, but a place where they pass through. It is important to see that OSTI is DOE’s primary hub for R&D networking, which means putting people in different places in contact with one another. Even though OSTI does relatively little original research, compared to the big research programs, OSTI runs the R&D communication hub system that moves program results around. Moving good ideas around can be just as important, if not more important, than getting them in the first place. There is a saying that innovation is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. A lot of that sweat is getting the ideas to the right place, where they can actually be used. This is what OSTI does for DOE.
A hub is where stuff flows in, then back out, in order to travel. Hub are used to move airplane passengers, truck freight, and they do this for good ideas as well. That is OSTI’s job. We handle millions of scientist to scientist communications per year. It is common to see technical reports that are downloaded 80 times or more. That is a lot of communication of somebody's work. The flow of ideas through OSTI is simply massive.
DOE now has numerous new energy related centers and is adding the 3 new Energy Innovation Hubs. There are also 3 new Bioenergy Research Centers, 46 new Energy Frontier Research Centers, 5 new Nanotechnology Centers, 37 new ARPA-E projects, and others. Plus there are the 1000+ ongoing energy R&D projects at the national labs and universities. How are all these good ideas supposed to travel? In many millions of cases the answer is OSTI. We are DOE’s central repository for enabling all DOE researchers, at all these centers and projects, to know what their counterparts are working on, to network and share ideas.
It is important to realize that R&D business models like the Manhattan Project and Bell Labs are pre-Internet. Energy transformation is not going to be carried out by a single group of people working under one roof. Nor will it be done by a number of isolated groups. Energy is a highly distributed system, so big changes will depend on a massive movement of good ideas. That is OSTI’s job. We are even doing research on science networking. For more information see the following:
OSTI senior consultant for innovation