This bill — the Department of Energy Research and Innovation Act — would combines seven previously-passed science bills to reauthorize the Dept. of Energy (DOE) as a whole and provide policy direction to the department on basic science research, research coordination and review of existing programs, and important reforms to streamline national laboratory management. A breakdown of its major provisions can be found below:
Laboratory Modernization & Technology Transfer
This part of the bill would provide flexibility to modernize the national laboratory system, promote the transfer of federal research to the private sector, and improve public-private partnerships to bring innovative ideas to the marketplace. It’d authorize a pilot program for agreements to facilitate cooperative research between the national labs and third-party entities, and prioritize activities to improve access for private companies and universities to lab resources.
DOE Research Coordination
This part of the bill would implement the DOE research coordination provisions from the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015. It’d instruct the DOE to use existing capabilities to identify strategic opportunities for collaborative research, development, demonstration, and commercial application of innovative science and technologies.
It’d also reauthorize the Strategic Portfolio Review, which would instruct DOE to review all activities to ensure they meet DOE’s core mission of discovery science. This review would also identifies areas of subpar performance or duplicative programs, as well as work that could be better accomplished by the states and private sector. Finally, this part of the bill would provide for the protection for proprietary information collected by the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) and authorize a program to manage and establish accountability for energy innovation hubs.
DOE Office of Science Policy
This part of the bill would provide statutory direction for the basic research programs in the DOE Office of Science, including research in basic energy sciences, biological and environmental research, high performance computing, nuclear physics, high energy physics, and fusion energy. Similar direction for DOE basic research was included in the America COMPETES Reauthorization Act of 2015.
This part of the bill would also specifically authorize the DOE to undertake a basic research initiative in chemistry and material sciences for the purpose of eventually developing solar fuel systems and advancing electricity storage systems. It also would direct the DOE to leverage existing resources in the DOE Office of Science and Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), and provide guidance regarding how to execute the basic research initiative.
This section of the bill would also amend the DOE High-End Computing Revitalization Act of 2004 to require the DOE to develop technologies in an effort to demonstrate an exascale supercomputer system.
This part of the bill would also require the Director of the DOE’s Office of Science to carry out a research program on low-dose radiation, with the purpose of enhancing the scientific understanding of low-dose radiation and reducing uncertainties associated with human exposure to low-dose radiation.