DOE’s Dr. Johanna Wolfson: Re-Imagining the Pathway to Market

CleanTech Innovation Showcase 2017 Keynote Recap

By Jody Rudd Wilson, Principal @ Mighti Co, CleanTech Alliance Contributor

Dr. Johanna Wolfson impressed all during the closing keynote address at the 2017 CleanTech Innovation Showcase hosted by CleanTech Alliance. Director of the Technology-to-Market team at the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Dr. Wolfson exposed the broken unsuccessful approach to commercializing energy innovations during her presentation RE-IMAGINING THE PATHWAY TO MARKET. Sharing her team’s intentions to address systemic flaws, DOE aims to create a more robust and attractive commercial avenue for all energy stakeholders.

To begin, Dr. Wolfson invited the audience to view the role of DOE differently. When considering the commercialization strategy for an energy innovator, Dr. Wolfson highlighted “a more fundamental problem at play.”

Traditionally a business/person with a great idea (innovator) receives funding (capital providers) to build a prototype (physical resources) to offer to customers (market/industry). The cleantech space is astonishingly aware of the pitfalls inherent to the conventional road to commercialization.

Among the challenges:

  • Legacy infrastructure run by risk-averse operators are not interested in unproven technologies, are apathetic of new products and/or are threatened by clean potentially disruptive offerings.
  • To build and prove a clean technology requires an intense amount of research and development, lab and manufacturing assets/access, ridiculously smart human capital and patient beta customers.
  • Nothing is greener than money; the financial capital required to execute an innovators vision is staggering and comes with the added demise of a multi-year if not decades rate of return.
  • The clean technology industry has rarely seen this conventional go-to-market model bear fruit. As Dr. Wolfson stated, “an innovator looks down the pathway and sees a string of red lights.”

DOE intends to offer the energy sector a fundamental solution by “building a more efficient pathway.”

Challenges that are “identifiable and solvable” can and are being addressed by Dr. Wolfson’s team. The solution is modeled after other industries that had been challenged with the same systemic flaws in the ‘how’ to bring new ideas to market.

Transferable pathway innovations include:

  • An established industry landing pad welcoming disruptive innovations.
  • Clear, transparent checkpoints that act as milestones and next steps for greater transparency and continued engagement.
  • A support system and shared infrastructure to tap into key resources and leverage utilization of those assets.
  • All of which create an attractive feedback loop that encourages the greatest of needs, capital flow.

As DOE’s narrative has changed from “provide additional support for energy technologies” to “build a better, more efficient pathway,” Dr. Wolfson’s team is empowered to impact the innovator’s road to commercialization.

Dr. Wolfson’s passion for her work was clear to the audience, concluding her presentation with a call-to-action; “Change the game.” She encourages energy industry trailblazers to offer solid ideas to fundamentally change the ‘how’ on the road to commercializing clean technologies.

Together we can create an “efficient, high-functioning, interconnected” group of stakeholders that foster the success of energy innovators throughout America. Thank you, Dr. Wolfson; on behalf of CleanTech Alliance members and participants of the 2017 CleanTech Innovation Showcase, we are inspired!

Jody Rudd Wilson develops, engages and connects the global community of energy stakeholders. Hailing from the upstream energy sector in Canada, Jody is a keen advocate for the next energy economy. Now calling the U.S. Pacific Northwest home, Jody holds an MBA in Global Energy and has toured countries such as Saudi, India, Australia, Switzerland and the UK in pursuit of her industry knowledge. Jody’s experience, expertise and education in and for our energy sector continues to give rise to successful people, healthy profits and a happy planet. Jody is married with three kids and a shelter mutt.

Jody Rudd Wilson, Principal @ Mighti Co

Global Business Development, CalCharge | energy storage consortium

MB: 206.503.6187 EM: AD: Greater Seattle Area