TAEBC Op-Ed: Advanced energy means jobs for Tennesseans

(Originally appeared on The Knoxville News Sentinel

By Cortney Piper, Executive Director, Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council

By almost any metric, Tennessee had a strong 2020 in advanced energy, a robust sector with 18,000 businesses contributing nearly $40 billion to the state’s gross domestic product. And the year’s growth in the state’s electric vehicle landscape received national and international headlines. As that happened, more elected officials realized that advanced energy means job creation, which stretches beyond political lines and helps Tennesseans directly in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has tightened other areas of employment.

Among the 2020 victories are General Motors’ $2 billion plan for its electric vehicle plant in Spring Hill that will build Cadillac’s SUV. Volkswagen announced its own EV SUV at its Chattanooga plant. Last January, VW, the University of Tennessee, the UT Research Foundation and Oak Ridge National Laboratory partnered on VW’s first innovation hub in North America at the UT Research Park at Cherokee Farm. And in the fall, VW broke ground on a $22 million Chattanooga lab to test EV batteries.

With leadership from Gov. Bill Lee, Tennesseans can anticipate more growth in advanced energy and job creation. Electric vehicles are a primary focus for state resources, which included incentives for the GM plant. Nissan and VW have also worked closely with state and local government over the years.

Bob Rolfe, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, said that Lee’s goal is to make Tennessee the country’s most business-friendly state and praised the EV progress in a December Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council (TAEBC) webinar. Electric vehicle jobs are advanced energy jobs. And transportation electrification can pull us through this pandemic-induced economic downturn just like energy has done countless times before, starting in 1933 with the Tennessee Valley Authority.

To continue reading this article, follow this link. For more information about how the advanced energy sector creates high-quality jobs and fuels growth for existing businesses, read Piper’s earlier guest column, “Transportation electrification can recharge Tennessee’s economy.”

Some ‘Secret City’ secrets shouldn’t stay hidden

(Originally published on The Oak Ridger)

By D. Ray Smith/Historically Speaking

Oak Ridge might be known as the “Secret City,” but sometimes, secrets are too important to stay hidden. One of these “secrets” the Oak Ridge community should be proud of is Centrus Energy’s effort to bring advanced nuclear manufacturing and innovation to East Tennessee. Right now, the company is working on advanced nuclear fuel production to ensure the country has a reliable fuel supply for the next generation of nuclear reactors — a notable mission worth recognizing.

Centrus Energy’s work emphasizes that Oak Ridge is and always has been on the forefront of scientific discoveries. From fighting a global pandemic to space travel to nuclear medicine, Oak Ridge experts are making incredible discoveries and producing outstanding solutions every single day.

After all, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory is leading in the fight against COVID-19 through its expertise in computational science, advanced manufacturing, data science, and neutron science. Early ORNL discoveries using the IBM AC922 Summit supercomputer led to the foundation of The COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium, while other researchers recently completed a three-dimensional atomic map of COVID-19’s viral replication mechanism. In advanced manufacturing, Cummins and the Carbon Fiber Technology Facility (CFTF) recently partnered to produce enough filter media to supply over a million face masks and respirators a day. This effort was possible because of the work of the inventor of N95 filter media and local hero, Peter Tsai.

Oak Ridge might not be the first city that comes to mind when discussing space, but key institutions have formed valuable partnerships with NASA to advance the future of space travel. On NASA’s Mars 2020 mission that began last summer, NASA announced ORNL-produced plutonium-238 will power the agency’s Perseverance rover across the planet’s surface. In 2017, experts at Y-12 National Security Complex manufactured and delivered a uranium reactor core for NASA’s Kilopower Reactor Using Stirling Technology, or KRUSTY, to support deep space travel.

Innovation Crossroads Cohort 5 Applications Close

Innovation Crossroads, supported by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, and Tennessee Valley Authority, is seeking technology innovators for its fifth cohort. The program will accept online applications September 15 – October 31. Selected innovators will be imbedded at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for up to two years through entrepreneurial mentorship and cooperative research and development.  This unique fellowship opportunity allows selected innovators to leverage the Labs unique scientific facilities, equipment, capabilities, and experts to advance their early stage scientific discoveries into potentially commercialize-able opportunities within an accelerated time period.

Apply here.

Innovation Crossroads Cohort Five: Informational Webinar

Interested in learning more about Innovation Crossroads qualifications, benefits, and the application process? Register for an informational webinar here.

Innovation Crossroads: Cohort Five

Innovation Crossroads, supported by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Manufacturing Office, and Tennessee Valley Authority, is seeking technology innovators for its fifth cohort. The program will accept online applications September 15 – October 31. Selected innovators will be imbedded at Oak Ridge National Laboratory for up to two years through entrepreneurial mentorship and cooperative research and development.  This unique fellowship opportunity allows selected innovators to leverage the Labs unique scientific facilities, equipment, capabilities, and experts to advance their early stage scientific discoveries into potentially commercialize-able opportunities within an accelerated time period.

DOE’s Office of Science and ORNL team up for a conversation on “science and the community”

By Cynthia Merse, Senior Writer, Piper Communications

On October 20, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science and Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) hosted a virtual conversation about the role of the lab as an economic driver in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge community. The event’s featured speakers were Dr. Chris Fall, Director of the Office of Science, and Dr. Thomas Zacharia, Director of ORNL. Several prominent local leaders were also in attendance to ask questions and contribute to the discussion.

For this conversation, Dr. Fall wanted to learn what it means to have a national lab in the Knoxville-Oak Ridge community, what it means to be a good neighbor and a good employer, and how ORNL can play a role in driving economic development in East Tennessee.

The first topic of discussion was workforce development, specifically how to attract and retain scientific and technical talent. Dr. Fall and University of Tennessee (UT) President Randy Boyd noted the advantages of living in East Tennessee, such as low taxes and a great quality of life. Efforts around creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem were also discussed, including the connectivity that exists among resources like ORNL, UT, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

“We have a spirit of cooperation that will allow us to take that connectivity to a new level in our efforts to create and invest in businesses,” said Boyd.

The conversation then shifted to public-private partnerships. Boyd spoke about the RevV! program, which gives Tennessee manufacturers access to ORNL’s researchers and facilities to solve manufacturing challenges. Dr. Fall mentioned the new INFUSE program, which will enable companies to work with ORNL to develop cost-effective, innovative fusion energy technologies.

Dr. Zacharia noted several significant partnerships ORNL has with the private sector including Volkswagen and Microsoft. He recognized the need to capitalize on these partnerships to encourage “leading-edge technology companies to come and invest in the cutting-edge technology being developed here.”

The next major topic was the role of higher education in supporting and furthering ORNL’s mission. At the center of discussion was the recently established Oak Ridge Institute at the University of Tennessee and its potential as a force multiplier for UT and ORNL. As a talent pipeline, Dr. Zacharia said the Institute “has the potential to be a difference maker. It’s my hope that the Institute’s students will choose to stay in East Tennessee and create the next $3 billion industry.”

As the conversation drew to a close, attention turned to raising Oak Ridge’s profile as a destination to live and work. Dr. Zacharia noted that UT, ORNL, and TVA launched a survey to learn about East Tennessee’s entrepreneurial climate and identify several steps that can be taken to attract more entrepreneurs to the area.

“We’re not starting from scratch here,” Dr. Fall said. “We have all the raw materials: a diverse research university, a diverse research laboratory. What’s the one thing that’s going to drive folks to come here? Once we figure that out, we need to go all in at the state level, regional level, and university level and talk about Oak Ridge as that place to be.”