Biz: Does Research Pay?

March 2013

Not long ago, we took a peak inside the labs at Golden's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), a principal research facility for the U.S. Department of Energy, and made an interesting discovery: NREL scientists are researching the possibility of using algae as a petroleum substitute to fuel vehicles such as jets. More recently, the Leed School of Business at the University of Colorado, Boulder, examined the lab in an altogether different context and found that NREL provided about $815 million in economic benefit to Colorado in 2012.

In particular, for the past four years, construction of a new flagship building at the NREL facility has buoyed the state's ailing construction industry. NREL has spent about $363 million on construction projects in four years, according to the report, much of which stayed in Colorado. U.S. Representative Ed Perlmutter—whose district contains the NREL facility—commented on the news: "The important research and development taking place at NREL will change the way we fuel our future and economy," Perlmutter said in a statement. "NREL's presence continues to have a significant impact on Colorado and Jefferson County's job and economic growth.  Through their work and partnerships with private sector businesses and our research universities, Colorado will continue leading the world in developing alternative energy sources and reduce our dependence on foreign oil."

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