Mary Good University of Arkansas at Little Rock
Dr. Good said she was pleased Senator Carl Levin could attend the symposium. “He has certainly been a big help and big supporter of this sort of activity for a very long time,” she said. “When we were seeing some of these things off the ground a long time ago, he was a supporter. It is pleasant to see some of these things begin to come to fruition.”
The strong attendance at the symposium in Livonia reflects a “high degree of interest in what has been a remarkable effort to build a U.S. battery industry,” said Dr. Good, a member of the National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy. The Department of Energy did an excellent job with the battery program by “selecting the winners and moving the funds in a very short time frame,” she said.
The leadership of Patrick Davis and his colleagues at the DOE’s Vehicle Technologies Program “is to be applauded,” Dr. Good said. “I don’t think many people really understand the chore that was given to the Department of Energy people to take this stimulus money and effectively get it out into the community to use in a very short period of time.” Accomplishing that isn’t easy in the private sector, which can move without constraints, she noted. “But doing it in a federal agency is nearly miraculous, in my opinion, and they have done a superior job.”
The U.S. is facing “intense and growing competition from other nations,” Dr. Good noted. “As many in this room know, we are competing not only against other companies but also other nations and regions around the world for the well-paid jobs and improved living standards that come from the leadership and development derived from manufacturing new technologies and new products.”
The White House report on manufacturing is very encouraging, Dr. Good said. “We really have to get the leadership of the country to understand we cannot abandon manufacturing in the United States.” Without manufacturing, the U.S. would be lucky to even hold on to an acceptable standard of living, she said. “This continued leadership is essential if we would like our children and grandchildren to at least have something close to the same standard of living we have.”
Michigan “understands the intensity and global nature of this challenge,” Dr. Good said. The state has “shown great leadership and taken concrete steps to
face this competitive challenge and is to be congratulated,” she said. Given Michigan’s economic and employment problems, the state’s leadership “is close to miraculous.”
The White House also is committed to securing leadership in energy and transportation technologies, Dr. Good said. “We are really fortunate and happy to have people like Dr. Kota, who on is taking time off from his Michigan assignments to be part of this discussion in the White House.” Some “really good people” have been appointed to address such issues in the White House, she noted, “and he is a really good example of the kinds of folks that are now available in the Administration to make these kinds of things work.”
The symposium’s goal is to highlight the challenges and opportunities for Congress, the DoE, Michigan, and other states as they work to develop an advanced battery industry in the United States, Dr. Good explained. “And it is indeed a challenge,” she said. “To start a new industry like this and be competitive is not a simple thing to do.”
Above all, the purpose of the conference is to seek expert opinion “on what is working and what is not working,” she said. The conference will not produce conclusions on what the federal government should do, she said. “What we want to do is provide information and assessments that help people working on these problems to make good judgments. To do that, they really need all the good input they can get.”
The symposium is part of a broader effort by the National Academies to study selective state and regional programs, Dr. Good explained. “This particular committee’s aim is to try to identify the best practices with regards to their goals, structures, instruments, and modes of operation,” she said. It also is studying best practices regarding fund levels and mechanisms, as well as “the challenges, accomplishments, and evaluation efforts of these programs.”
The STEP board also is studying how regions are capitalizing on state and federal investments in “developing a knowledge-based, innovation-led economy,” Dr. Good said. Many economic development efforts around the nation are being led by state governments, she noted.
Dr. Good expressed the STEP board’s gratitude for the support and insights of the MEDC and DOE for “bringing together the battery community in this room and their support of this event.” She especially thanked Gary Krause of the MEDC, who has been instrumental in making the conference happen. McAlister Clabaugh of the National Academies and David Howell and Jim Miller of the DOE also were instrumental. Dr. Good also thanked A123 Systems and the Michigan University Research Corridor for supporting the conference.
The National Academies will follow with another conference on advanced batteries in Washington, D. C., Dr. Good noted. At that event, “we will expand on the issues raised” at this symposium. The board decided to come to Michigan for the initial conference “because this is where the industry is and where the federal and state governments are making big commitments in
resources,” she said. “So we wanted to hear first-hand how the industry is doing.”
There are many policy issues relating to this new industry, Dr. Good explained. Experts at the conference will describe the state of the industry and highlight areas of further attention for R&D, manufacturing, the network of suppliers, and the type of workforce needed to keep the industry competitive, she said. Speakers also will discuss how to expand the market for electric vehicles and “hasten the widespread use of advanced batteries,” she said. Representatives from state and federal agencies will explain programs providing R&D and manufacturing support to the battery industry.
Dr. Good said Dr. Charles Wessner, director of the National Academy of Science’s Program in Technology, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, “has really been a major spark plug.” She congratulated him and his staff for organizing the program. “To get these kinds of programs off and running and in good shape in the time frame of this one is rare for the Academy,” she said.