EERE’s project officers work with the constant challenge of balancing financial risks with opportunities to develop useful new technologies. One financial assistance recipient under the Biomass Program expressed interest in using Recovery Act funds to develop a process to produce aviation fuel using biobutanol, or similar material. During the detailed independent reviews of the proposed fuel production technology, it became clear to EERE project officers that additional investigation was needed.
The project officer convened a formal review with technical experts from the National Labs, who concluded that the technology, while promising, contained some uncertainties. The project officer, in order to keep close tabs on the progress of the project, implemented a “stage-gate process.” A stage-gate process is a technique in which a development process is divided into stages to arrive at go/no go decisions. At each gate, a reviewer or monitor makes the decision to either continue the process, or halt it, based on financial and technical analyses.
So far the recipient has made progress in focusing on possible fuel production technology to be considered and has passed the necessary stage gate-review. This incremental approach to monitoring and managing research projects offers recipients the freedom to use their expertise and vision to create new technologies, while ensuring that federal funds are used for the most promising projects.