Getting by with a little help from my friends

June 11, 2013 |

rosenthalby Mary Rosenthal
Executive Director,
Algae Biomass Organization

What’s the secret to commercializing a new technology? Recently Jonathan Silver, the former head of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program, discussed how that program has an approximately 97% success rate, despite a few well-known failures.

As the algae industry closes in on the launch of several commercial-scale projects, I have to agree that new, innovative companies can always benefit from a little help from their friends when deploying innovative technologies to scale. For algae, support from agencies like the DOE and the USDA has been invaluable, and the interplay between business and government illustrates that technology commercialization will rarely succeed on the efforts of any single scientist, entrepreneur, investor, or government agency.

That might be surprising to hear about an industry that has progressed so much on breakthroughs funded by agencies such as the Departments of Energy and Agriculture, the zeal of ambitious entrepreneurs, hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital, or the commercializing power of institutional customers like the Department of Defense, FedEx, United Airlines and many others.

In each case success has relied on these players working together to push, pull and adapt technologies that have great potential. You could boil it down to one word: cooperation.

Even for algae companies far along in their technology development, cooperation is helping advance the industry. BioProcess Algae, for example, was recently awarded $6.4 million by the Department of Energy to evaluate how renewable biofuels can be used as alternative fuel for cars, trucks and planes that meet military standards for jet fuel and shipboard diesel.

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