Involving Industry Experts in the Selection of High-Impact Energy Research Projects
32 Pages Posted: 17 Dec 2019
Date Written: September 5, 2019
How can an impact-driven research program best select projects that will contribute to future technology cost reductions, given the inherent uncertainty of early-stage research efforts? Programs typically rely on peer review by academic experts, who are at the frontier of knowledge in their field, but may not be able to assess the potential impact of research on commercial technology. In order to achieve “step-out” ideas in energy research, i.e. novel ideas that could lead to technology breakthroughs, the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford University supplemented their proposal review process with an industry point of view. Program administrators solicited both the opinions of a panel of sponsor company representatives and an independent panel with broad energy expertise, and incorporated both of these opinions into their funding decisions. Incorporating sponsor opinions into the selection process did not result in the selection of proposals with measurably different characteristics beforehand, on the basis of mail- in reviews from subject matter experts. We find that the program may have produced fewer publications as a result of sponsor involvement in review, but we find no evidence that either panel was able to predict outputs closer to commercialization.
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