DOE lashes out at 1366 Technologies

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If the world would like a lesson on how to frustrate the layperson’s perspective on the potentials of the United State’s advanced manufacturing base – We the People have an example for you.

First, you fund cutting edge research with taxpayer money, then you offer the successful researchers a loan for $150 million so they can scale that taxpayer funded research into a revenue factory that employs some of those same taxpayers. Next – somehow muck up the loan and supply chain-building process so much it drives the taxpayer-funded researchers into the arms of a global powerhouse in South Korea, and lastly, when said researchers ask for access to the U.S. market without tariffs on the products of their shiny new factory, tell them they might have broken the law by seeking investment support elsewhere (PDF).

As the general public doesn’t have full transparency into how the process progressed over the years, it is hard to assign blame in this breakdown. As recently as 2016, 1366 CEO Frank van Mierlo had told pv magazine to expect “more good news soon” regarding an upstate New York manufacturing facility.

On April 16, 2018 the honeymoon was officially declared over.

In response to a request by 1366 Technologies for their products to be excluded from the Section 201 import tariffs, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has provided a comment suggesting that constructing a factory in Southeast Asia with 1366 Technology might violate compliance with the DOE’s funding agreements.

The loan program that this $150 million commitment came from was able to fund other projects, and Tesla and many developers successful repaid the program. As such, one cannot completely blame government paperwork.

According to 1366, the company had reached the deadline for its initial loan guarantee and decided to bow out of what CEO Frank Van Mierlo describes as “a lengthy and expensive renegotiation without any indication of the outcome” for an extension.

In the end, the public might start to think our economic and industrial system in the United States is inherently unable to support such technologies. Much research and hand-wringing has gone into this challenge. Some groups have suggested the U.S. make use of its research capabilities and partner globally – figuring out how to get patent revenue back into the country driving further upmarket focus. One could argue that 1366 Technologies is doing such a thing.

The atmosphere doesn’t care where the technology is built. But for American taxpayers, workers and the communities they support, it would be nice if it was happening in New York.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.