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The Role of the U.S. National Innovation System in the Development of the PEM Stationary Fuel Cell



J M. Nail, F A. Moris, G P. Ceasar, C Hansen


This report originated from the authors participation in a multi-country study of National Innovation Systems and their impact on new technology development sponsored by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). Our task was to look at the U.S. national innovation system s impact on the commercial development of Proton Exchange Membrane (PEM) fuel cells for residential power applications. Throughout the 1990s the US Department of Energy funded a significant portion of civilian fuel cell research while the Department of Defense and NASA funded more esoteric military and space applications. Starting in 1998, the Department of Commerce s Advanced Technology Program awarded the first of 25 fuel cell projects, as prospects for adoption and commercialization of fuel cell technologies improved. Based upon findings from this study and from discussions with the multi-country working group, we find that private industry conducts significant amounts of basic research in fuel cells. This is partially driven by the significance of the automotive, energy and electronics industries in the participating countries. Energy security is another prime driver. Industry receives a majority of the new fuel cell patents issued. However, national laboratories and universities continue to publish a majority of papers devoted to fuel cells. These findings support the value of public-private partnerships like the Advanced Technology Program especially projects that link universities or national labs with private industry either though a formal joint venture or as a sub-contractor. In addition, the working group advocated the important role that governments play in developing fuel cell standards through collaborations between standards development organizations and the national labs, as well as deal with a wide variety of public safety issues. These findings support NIST initiatives in facilitating standard s development for fuel cells. Despite all the excitement generated by discussion of the hydrogen economy, most fuel cell applications are still at the pre-commercialization stage. Commercial products for small portable uses may be available in the market place within the next year or two.
NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR) - 7161
Report Number


Advanced Technology Program, commercialization of R&D, distributed power, fuel cells, hydrogen, national innovation system


Nail, J. , Moris, F. , Ceasar, G. and Hansen, C. (2008), The Role of the U.S. National Innovation System in the Development of the PEM Stationary Fuel Cell, NIST Interagency/Internal Report (NISTIR), National Institute of Standards and Technology, Gaithersburg, MD (Accessed May 28, 2024)


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Created October 16, 2008