Chicago hopes for jobs
As for the program's future, Wright said she is cautious but optimistic. "We're kind of in the honeymoon phase," she said. "This is really going to help us in terms of the pipeline development and getting people into our institutions and help with jobs."
However, JCESR's main measure for success may not be technology produced, but whether DOE's hub model outperforms conventional research paradigms. Venkat Srinivasan, head of the energy storage and distributed resources department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, explained that basic research in labs and commercial research in factories were usually in separate silos.
With JCESR, industry partners and entrepreneurs will be involved at the earliest research stages and remain committed as a battery design comes to fruition, according to Chu. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley, as partners in JCESR, will have to coordinate closely with their counterparts at Argonne, despite more than 1,800 miles between them.
"This is not the Bell Labs of old where you need the water cooler effect," Srinivasan said. He added that the researchers Skype with their collaborators almost daily and share results through online databases.
For some public officials, A123's demise has not dampened their enthusiasm for battery research and clean-tech investment. "In Chicago, we are going to be the center of this promising field," said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel last week. "If you invest in the quality of your workforce and infrastructure, you will actually lead the country in job creation." Emanuel said he wants to create a Silicon Valley-style environment for battery development and commercialization around Chicago.
Gov. Pat Quinn (D-Ill.) said he wants to make sure the state has a piece of the $42 billion international battery industry. "Our state early on recognized how important this is to our future," Quinn said at the announcement news conference. "We want to really be intimately part of it, the center of it."
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500