Each hub, to be funded at up to $122m over five years, will bring together a multidisciplinary team of researchers in an effort to speed research and shorten the path from scientific discovery to technological development and commercial deployment of energy-related technologies.

Steven Chu, the US secretary of energy, said: “Given the urgency of our challenges in both energy and climate, we need to do everything we can to mobilize our Nation’s scientific and technological talent to accelerate the pace of innovation.

“The DOE Energy Innovation Hubs represent a new, more proactive approach to managing and conducting research. We are taking a page from America’s great industrial laboratories in their heyday. Their achievements – from the transistor to the information theory that makes modern telecommunications possible – are evidence that we can build creative, highly-integrated research teams that can accomplish more, faster, than researchers working separately.”

The hubs are part of a clean energy research strategy by the Obama administration. The strategy includes three new initiatives, which are designed to complement each other. The first approach is the Energy Frontier Research Centers launched by the department’s Office of Science to support multi-year, multi-investigator scientific collaborations focused on overcoming hurdles in basic science that block transformational discoveries.

The second approach is spearheaded by the department’s recently-formed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, which uses an entrepreneurial funding model that supports America’s energy innovators to explore transformative technologies. The third funding model, Energy Innovation Hubs, will establish integrated teams ideally working under one roof, conducting high-risk research and working to solve priority technology challenges that span work from basic research to engineering development to commercialization readiness, DOE said.

The three DOE energy innovation hubs will focus on production of fuels directly from sunlight;

improving energy-efficient building systems design; and computer modeling and simulation for the development of advanced nuclear reactors.

The DOE will provide $22m in the first year for the establishment of each hub and up to $25m per year for the following four years to support the operations of each hub – for a total award of up to $122m per hub.