DOE Launches Critical Materials Collaborative to Harness and Unify Critical Materials Research Across America’s Innovation Ecosystem

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September 22, 2023

DOE Launches Critical Materials Collaborative to Harness and Unify Critical Materials Research Across America’s Innovation Ecosystem 

New Coalition Builds on Momentum from 2023 Critical Materials Assessment and Corresponding List, Announces Intent to Invest Up to $10M for Critical Materials Accelerator Program 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched a first-of-its-kind Critical Materials Collaborative (CMC) and announced its intent to fund up to $10 million to establish a Critical Materials Accelerator Program. The vision of the CMC is to integrate critical materials applied research, development and demonstration (RD&D) across DOE and the federal government, to accelerate the development of domestic critical material supply chains for the nation. The CMC will operationalize coordination and collaboration, while creating a value-add for RD&D performers by expanding their access to world-class expertise, capabilities, and facilities.  

“The Critical Materials Collaborative is an innovative new mode of connection that will align our nation’s efforts to shore up critical materials by accelerating the commercialization of crosscutting, applied RD&D to grow the innovation ecosystem,” said Jeff Marootian, principal deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy (EERE). “By working across DOE, government, industry, and academia, we will be able to maximize the impact of these investments to move the needle on the clean energy transition.” 

The CMC convenes DOE investments across the entire innovation pipeline, from the Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office's (AMMTO) Critical Materials Innovation (CMI) Hub, to AMMTO’s Critical Materials Accelerator Program, to the Fossil Energy and Carbon Management’s (FECM) Critical Materials FOA announced earlier this month. These investments represent the first of many DOE programs to be coordinated through the CMC.  

AMMTO recently renewed the Critical Materials Institute for a third five-year phase under the new Critical Materials Innovation (CMI) Hub name, with a refreshed mission to accelerate the development of critical material technologies and enhance the innovation pipeline for U.S. supply chains by accelerating research, educating a diverse workforce, and creating de-risked, commercial-ready technologies in partnership with American industry. The CMI Hub will establish a new project portfolio around four research focus areas: Enhancing and Diversifying Supply; Developing Substitutes; Building a Circular Economy; and Crosscutting Research. The CMI Hub will also play a key role in the CMC by serving as an innovation engine and convener for shared ideas and best practices. 

Coinciding with the CMC launch, AMMTO today announced a notice of intent to fund up to $10 million to establish a Critical Materials Accelerator Program. Projects funded through the Accelerator Program will prototype and mature technologies or processes to address critical material challenges in high impact areas, including rare earth magnets for electric vehicles (EVs) and wind turbine generators. The Accelerator will advance early-stage science and technology solutions’ research coming out of the CMI Hub. The full notice of intent with all four topic areas is available on EERE’s Funding Opportunity Exchange

Accelerated projects then could be demonstrated at the pilot scale through opportunities such as FECM’s announcement of up to $150 million to advance cost effective and environmentally responsible processes to produce and refine critical minerals and materials here in the United States. This funding, provided by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will help to meet the growing demand for critical minerals and materials while reducing America’s dependence on offshore supplies, in alignment with the CMC’s mission.  

“U.S. commercial minerals processing capabilities have been on the decline for decades, while the need for critical minerals continues to grow,” said Brad Crabtree, Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. “The Critical Materials Collaborative and related work being done across DOE, coupled with investments made through the Inflation Reduction Act, are creating the innovation ecosystem needed to get the U.S. minerals sector back on track.” 

Critical minerals and materials are key to the manufacturing of clean energy technologies—such as solar panels, wind turbines, EVs, and hydrogen fuel cells—that will further America’s mission to achieve the Biden-Harris Administration’s ambitious climate goals. The CMC will leverage the 2023 DOE Critical Materials Assessment, the latest in a series of strategy reports DOE has been releasing since 2010, to prioritize investigating substitutes, alternatives, and recycling technologies that secure a sustainable supply of critical minerals and materials. This year marked the first time DOE designated a list of critical materials necessary to secure our clean energy economy.  

The CMC is co-chaired by experts from AMMTO and FECM. Other partners include ARPA-E, EERE’s Geothermal Technologies Office (GTO), Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technologies Office (HFTO), Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO), Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO), and Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO), as well as the Office of Electricity (OE), Office of International Affairs (IA), Office of Manufacturing and Energy Supply Chains (MESC), Office of Nuclear Energy (NE), Office of Science (OS), Office of Technology Transitions (OTT), Office of Policy (OP), and Loan Programs Office (LPO). 

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