I successfully defended my MBA thesis during the Spring 2022 semester in the Fowler College of Business at San Diego State University. This was a fascinating project for me, as I examined the U.S. Department of Energy’s User Facility program within the Office of Science. The resulting title of this thesis is,
Assessment of Industry Participation in U.S. Department of Energy User Facilities and Proposed Marketing Efforts to Increase Engagement with the Fusion Energy Industry
- Industry participation across the entire US DOE Office of Science User Facility program is low.
- The User Facility program provides many potential benefits to for-profit industry firms. The capabilities of these Facilities are unique (legally not allowed to compete with existing private sector capabilities), and therefore provide opportunities for industry participants to reduce or avoid capital expenditures in the technology space.
- The fusion energy research community tends to overestimate their contributions to the commercialization of associated technologies. This occurs because previous reports on spin-off technologies have collected data from researchers, but not from industry. After completing this work, one of my interview subjects confirmed that they were previously unable to positively identify a series of commercial successes that have been previously touted by the fusion research community.
- The fusion energy industry exists at a low level of maturity. This is not a negative assessment; the industry acknowledges its rapid growth over the past five years. The organizations in this industry are mostly focused on solving technical problems and adding to their workforce. Commercialization efforts and revenue generation are low priority.
- Public-private partnerships, in the traditional sense that has been implemented for infrastructure projects around the world, are not suitable given the present low maturity of the fusion energy industry. Novel approaches to public-private partnerships, as being developed within the Department of Energy, can be appropriate.
- A brand oriented approach for the US DOE Fusion Energy Sciences (FES) User Facilities would position them to better serve the fusion energy industry. Updated branding for the DIII-D National Fusion Facility should emphasize the Facility’s role in providing guidance to industry.
- Social marketing efforts are required in order to adjust resource allocations as necessary to support new industry engagement with the FES User Facilities. This must result in dedicated resources for industry feedback and communications. Without this change, the insular fusion energy research community will fail to incorporate commercialization concerns into its work.
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