Cantwell Holds Roundtable with Deputy Secretary of Energy, PNNL Scientists, Entrepreneurs on the Importance of the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA)

RICHLAND, WA – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) visited the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) to meet with Deputy Secretary of Energy David Turk (virtually), local business and community leaders, and PNNL scientists to discuss the work the lab is doing on energy, manufacturing, and data science to boost American competitiveness and ensure the U.S. retains its economic and military leadership in the 21st century.

At the roundtable, Senator Cantwell spoke about her work on the United States Innovation and Competition Act (USICA) that recently passed the Senate, how this bill would impact PNNL, and asked for input from the scientists and community leaders present:

“The key focus driver of the [United States Innovation and Competition Act] was really on translational science… I think the key thing we try to keep focused on is that we need to continue the investment in basic R&D. And that our national labs were also a very key component on many of the issues that we’re talking about, whether we’re talking about cybersecurity, or AI, or energy transformation. All of these things are things that our national labs were already steeped in.

“The fact is that the United States has so many different inputs to our innovation. We have our national labs and our universities. We have our federal programs. We have the private sector. We have all of these things, and they created the R&D ecosystem – that ecosystem produces really competitive, and successful research and development for our nation. So I wanted to just touch base with all of you as we all go into the final stretch to get this legislation passed and what you think we need to have in it.

“What we want is to empower more innovation. And I think the lab is well positioned on this, I think there’s a lot of opportunity for PNNL to continue to play a leadership role – I think it’s necessary that you play a leadership role.”

Cantwell has repeatedly called for increased funding for DOE National Laboratories and User Facilities. In June, Senator Cantwell led efforts to increase Department of Energy (DOE) lab funding authorizations by $17 billion over five years as part of the landmark United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021 (USICA), which passed the Senate by a vote of 68 to 32 on June 8th.

The DOE’s 17 National Laboratories, including PNNL in Washington state, employ thousands of scientists and maintain one-of-a-kind, world-class research capabilities that are utilized by over 36,000 university and industrial researchers every year. 

Deputy Secretary of Energy, David Turk, who joined the roundtable remotely, said of Cantwell’s leadership on the USICA, “All of you who have the privilege and honor of living in Washington State and benefiting from Senator Cantwell’s leadership for literally decades, have known this and known this for much time, but we’re all incredibly lucky – PNNL is incredibly lucky – to have a senator like Senator Cantwell… The bill that entered Chairman Cantwell’s committee was a much, much different, and frankly, I would say a much weaker bill than emerged from the committee. And for those who’ve worked in DC, and I’ve had the chance to work on Capitol Hill, it doesn’t just happen by magic. Nothing really happens by accident. It happens by purposeful, dedicated, incredibly talented leadership… We were lucky enough to have Chair Cantwell, who is the chairman of that important committee, the Commerce and Science Committee, and what emerged was a much, much better bill that ultimately passed the Senate floor and then will go on to pass through the House.”

Other roundtable participants included Tony Peurrung, PNNL Deputy Director for Science and Technology; Paula Linnen, PNNL Executive Director for External Affairs; Jud Virden, Associate Lab Director for Energy & Environment; Court Corley, Chief Data Scientist, PNNL; Samantha Johnson, Computational Scientist, PNNL; Lori Matsen, President & CEO, Tri City Regional Chamber of Commerce; Karl Dye, President/CEO, TRIDEC; Robert Wegeng, President & CEO, STARS Technology Corporation; Todd Brix, CEO, OCO; and Junus Khan, Founder & Chairman, Carbitex, Inc.

B-roll with Senator Cantwell and Cassidy Anderson, PNNL Materials Scientist, are available HEREHERE, and HERE.

B-roll of lab machinery are available HERE and HERE.