U.S. Senator Chris Coons of Delaware

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Photo from the Berkley Lab, its Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis

America INNOVATES Act

Implementing new national opportunities to vigorously accelerate technology, energy and science

Home to 113 Nobel Laureates over their history and currently employing 20,000 scientists, America’s national laboratories are a national treasure. These 17 laboratories, spread around the country, conduct research on a broad range of topics from cosmology to safeguarding our nuclear weapons to unlocking advanced energy technologies. The scope of their work extends from scientists working individually to large collaborations with industry leaders to bring innovative technologies to market. The current national laboratory system evolved from the facilities built as part of the Manhattan Project during World War II.  Most of these labs are owned by the federal government, managed by the Department of Energy, and operated on a day-to-day basis by contractors. 

Photo of researchers at Brookhaven National Laboratory

The United States’ national lab system is a model that is globally renowned, and the America INNOVATES Act is designed to preserve their world-class status.  While the labs have grown to encompass broader ranges of work, they are not yet fully optimized to participate in today’s innovation economy. Organizations as diverse as the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the Center for American Progress, among other advocates, agree that as the needs of the economy evolve into the 21st century, the roles of the National Labs must evolve as well. Moreover, Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz recently acknowledged that while the labs must continue to prioritize their primary missions, they “commercialize much below their weight.” 

As economic growth is increasingly driven by innovation, this engine of prosperity must be maintained and kept well oiled. This legislation gives the labs more tools to partner with the private sector and streamlines DOE’s management of the labs. 

The America INNOVATES Act would:

  • Integrate the management of the Department of Energy’s science and energy programs to create a vertically integrated research enterprise
  • Direct the Department of Energy to implement best practices to improve operations and management across the National Lab complex
  • Allow national labs to partner more effectively with the private sector to create new technologies and enhance technology commercialization
  • Allow the Department of Energy more flexibility to support applied research and development activities conducted by universities and nonprofits
  • Give startups more access to cutting edge facilities at the national laboratories.

Our National Labs

Map of National Laps

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