Often times our SBIR Person of the Year is someone you know, or have heard much about. This year we honor someone probably unknown to you but who is nonetheless important, especially for his work in 2010.
Mr. Charles Russomanno of the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has been a long time SBIR advocate behind the scenes, and has played an important role in the development of this new DOE SBIR Phase III Xlerator project.
The Xlerator project is a competitive grants program that builds off the SBIR and STTR programs to give qualified small businesses around the country the staying power they need to bring their clean energy technology projects to commercialization.
Of course, major credit of any agency's programs also belong to the executives who have the power to bring a program to fruition, and the DOE's Xlerator project is no exception. People such as Samuel Baldwin, Chief Technology Officer, EERE, Kristina Johnson, (former) Under Secretary of Energy, Cathy Zoi, Acting Under Secretary of Energy, Henry Kelly and Steve Chalk, EERE, and of course Steven Chu, Secretary of Energy.
However, a program that is brand new and never tried before, needs a champion, someone who has historical knowledge and vision to initiate the idea and who will work their hardest to sell the concept to their management.
Such is the case with Charles Russomanno, who was the initiator, proponent, coordinator, and a selection official of the Xlerator project. Russomanno and his upstream fought hard to bring this unique program to fruition.
The DOE SBIR Phase III Xlerator project obtained funding in early 2010, released a competitive funding opportunity announcement, targeted to phase II winners with promising technologies. The DOE awarded small SBIR businesses $57 million (of which 11 million was from Recovery Act Funds) in this Phase III Xlerator competition.
It is interesting to note that a year after we saw a major agency (NIH) congressionally "sneak" SBIR out of their "recovery act funding" (2009), the DOE's team that created the Xlerator project, released two special DOE SBIR Phase I and Phase II Solicitations utilizing recovery act dollars! This was indeed extraordinary, and Russomanno was a major champion.
Charles Russomanno started his S&T adventure in the private sector as a product development chemist, developing and patenting two inventions before moving to the government sector at DOE in 1989. He transferred to the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in 1993. and started having involvement in SBIR programs around 1995.
He has a great understanding of the needs of small high tech business as well as those of his agency. When you have a motivated, knowledgeable and passionate person in the proverbial trenches of a federal agency, championing unique ideas can be a risky venture.
Mr. Russomanno's courage, commitment, and success in assisting the DOE in their outstanding 2010 SBIR projects, makes him very special to our SBIR community. Those of us who have observed the DOE's SBIR program for decades, know that this success wouldn't have happened without him.
Congratulations to Charles Russomanno, our 2010 SBIR Person of the Year!
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