Defining Opportunities for Materials and Manufacturing Innovation

Client: The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society

Nexight Group collaborated with The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society (TMS) on the final phase of a two-year, three-phase study to identify materials science and engineering research that can achieve radical reductions in the energy- and carbon-intensity of the U.S. economy.


Materials are fundamental to the generation, storage, delivery, and use of energy. As concerns regarding slow economic growth and global climate change require today’s energy systems to become more efficient and productive, materials frequently determine the limits of system performance. Likewise, materials breakthroughs are often the key advances that improve the efficiency or reduce the cost of clean energy systems. To accelerate advances in materials science and engineering, in 2010 TMS launched the study Linking Transformational Materials and Processing for an Energy Efficient and Low-Carbon Economy: Creating the Vision and Accelerating Realization, which was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Advanced Manufacturing Office.

Our Solution

As part of this effort, we helped TMS bring together more than 100 materials science and engineering experts representing societies of more than 75,000 scientists and engineers from industry, government, and academia. These experts were organized into five teams that focused on different innovation areas for materials science and engineering: Functional Surface Technologies, Materials Integration in Clean Energy Systems, Higher-Performance Materials, New Paradigm Materials Manufacturing Processes, and Materials and Process Development Acceleration Tools.

Each team identified a subset of specific materials and processing breakthrough opportunities and quantified the magnitude of the potential impacts of each breakthrough opportunity in key energy sectors. They also analyzed historical rates of progress, projected future advances in material properties and systems performance, and defined the R&D priorities necessary to move these innovations toward commercial-scale implementation.

Synthesizing the findings from the workshops and additional collaboration with the materials science and engineering experts, we led the writing, editing, and design of the study’s culminating 130-page Innovation Impact Report, which was published in December 2011.This report identifies 54 breakthrough opportunities for materials and manufacturing innovation that can deliver significant energy, environmental, and economic impacts to the United States in 2 to 10 years.


The set of opportunities identified by the study is intended to help guide R&D efforts to advance high-tech research and manufacturing in the United States, which has been designated as a priority by the Obama administration through the Materials Genome Initiative and DOE’s Advanced Manufacturing Office.