A national collaborative of power electronics professionals is launching a two-year study led by Detroit’s NextEnergy that seeks to identify where the U.S. ranks in terms of industry competitiveness and how it can improve.
“Our industry doesn’t have a way to convene so that large and small players can easily find each other,” says Mark Bellinger, board president of the Grand Ledge-based Power Electronics Industry Collaborative. “A good analogy is Silicon Valley where there’s a geographically contained area of semi-conductor and tech companies who have a lot of natural interaction with each other. We don’t have that in power electronics.”
With a recently awarded $500,000 grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the Collaborative has enlisted NextEnergy to spearhead the research and analysis portion of the project. Located next to TechTown at the north end of Wayne State University’s campus, NextEnergy serves as a catalyst for the commercialization of advanced energy technology.
“There’s probably a reason a project like this hasn’t been done before,” says Dan Radomski, NextEnergy’s vice president of industry and venture development, who will be leading the study. “Power electronics are everywhere. Anytime you convert power in an electronic device — whether it’s a laptop, commercial building, or electric vehicle — it requires power electronics. So it’s a complicated supply chain,” he says.
Radomski says once his team has an understanding of the industry’s landscape and how many domestic companies are involved, they can identify its strengths and weaknesses as well as develop roadmaps and recommendations for growth and improvement.
Whether it’s done through policy support or creating the right marketing opportunities, building a stronger power electronics ecosystem is critical to the United States’ growth, Bellinger says.
“As energy efficiency becomes more important, and as electricity migrates into vehicles and other applications, we really want to have a strong foothold in this industry because of the economic benefit it creates,” Bellinger says. “The jobs it takes to manufacture and design (these products) are good paying jobs and will be around for a long time.”