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The pressing energy innovation challenge of the US National Laboratories

An Erratum to this article was published on 24 October 2016


Accelerating the development and deployment of energy technologies is a pressing challenge. Doing so will require policy reform that improves the efficacy of public research organizations and strengthens the links between public and private innovators. With their US$14 billion annual budget and unique mandates, the US National Laboratories have the potential to critically advance energy innovation, yet reviews of their performance find several areas of weak organizational design. Here, we discuss the challenges the National Laboratories face in engaging the private sector, increasing their contributions to transformative research, and developing culture and management practices to better support innovation. We also offer recommendations for how policymakers can address these challenges.

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Figure 1: Technology transfer outcomes over time.
Figure 2: DOE- and Lab-directed technology-transfer outcomes.
Figure 3: Percentage of DOE technology funding for programme direction and administration.


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We acknowledge funding from the Harvard Kennedy School Science, Technology and Public Policy (STPP) programme and the Harvard Dissertation Completion Fellowship. We are most grateful to J. Deutch, S. Koonin, A. Majumdar and S. Maxted for their comments on an early version of this work.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Laura Diaz Anadon.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Data 1

Data and calculations underlying Figs 1–3 (XLSX 74 kb)

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Anadon, L., Chan, G., Bin-Nun, A. et al. The pressing energy innovation challenge of the US National Laboratories. Nat Energy 1, 16117 (2016).

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