Innovation cultures at six US Department of Energy (DOE) Labs surveyed differ significantly according to a study conducted by InnovationOne, LLC, in concert with the Idaho National Laboratory (INL). The Department of Energy put a bullseye on innovation and discovered why some Labs are more efficient and innovative than others–up to three times as much.

The results were highlighted in March 2023 by a panel discussion by InnovationOne, LLC, and Idaho National Labs at the Federal Technology Transfer (FLC) National Meeting. The panel discussion was titled, “Leveraging Culture to Improve Technology Transfer Performance.”

Powerful Results

The panel discussion revealed that the three research Labs in the US DOE’s Ethos Project that scored 10 percent higher than the other three Labs (from 60 to 70 points on the 100-point scale InnovationOne Culture Index©), had a 20-30% increase in Lab performance across core Lab metrics, including inventions, publications, commercial outcomes, and partnerships.

According to Jason Stolworthy, Director of Technology Development at Idaho National Labs (INL) “There are common opportunities with respect to innovation culture in the labs, that if addressed, could provide DOE and the public a significantly greater return on investment into the labs.”


Jason Stolworthy, and James P. Keating, Commercialization and Entrepreneurship Programs Manager for Technology Development at INL, believe that Lab leadership should consider the following recommendations from the Ethos Project as stated in the INL Press Release on the Ethos Project:

  • PROMOTE: Get out the message that a culture of innovation profoundly improves lab performance. “Highly innovative organizations learn to achieve their goals while funding and supporting innovation activity, which in turn improves outcomes and financial performance. It is not one or the other,” according to Stolworthy and Keating.
  • INVEST: Compared to private industry, the labs have the greatest opportunity for improvement here. “Invest in employee skills and creativity, technology and financial support, and employee and team empowerment,” according to Stolworthy and Keating.
  • INNOVATE: Leaders at every lab need to improve engagement with employees. This will accelerate experimentation and improve collaboration, with rewards for collaboration, risk-taking, and empowerment.
  • COMMUNICATE: At higher-scoring and lower-scoring labs, leadership is advised to establish and incorporate innovation strategies into strategic planning. “Leaders need to communicate their vision and strategies frequently and ask employees and external partners to jump in and recommend solutions,” according to Stolworthy and Keating.

According to Stolworthy, “This was a huge study on innovation across six DOE national labs – the first of its kind.” Benchmarking the labs against each other and against industry offers a baseline DOE has lacked. “As a result of this study, we now know ‘which knobs to turn’ in the labs to get more of what we want,” he said.

Other Labs Are Encouraged to Benchmark Their Cultures

At the FLC “Leveraging Culture…” panel discussion, Jason Stolworthy encouraged all remaining DOE labs and labs from other government agencies (such as the Department of Defense, NASA, Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and the US Geological Service) to join the effort to benchmark the impact of culture on innovation, outcomes, and financial performance by assessing their Labs cultures using the InnovationOne Culture Index.

Ethos Project Results Closely Match’s InnovationOne’s Results with the Private Sector

The Ethos Project Lab results measured by InnovationOne, LLC, closely match InnovationOne’s breakthrough research with the private sector. Companies that score in the upper quartile of the InnovationOne Culture Index have an average of 22 percent higher financial outcomes than those in the lower quartile.

Whether in the public or private sector, cultures of innovation lead to higher performance and financial results.

Culture Survey Conducted at FLC presentation

Attendees at the INL and InnovationOne panel discussion at FLC were invited to answer six questions from the InnovationOne Culture Index© that provide a reliable quick peek into the innovation and productivity of their cultures, using Slido technology.

The attendee response at our joint FLC presentation was with 93 of the estimated 100 attendees participating. (Note, this is not a statistically significant survey.) The results show the following:

  • Attendees felt that they were empowered at the labs to use their creativity for the benefit of their Labs, with a score of 5.1 on a 7-point scale.
  • Of the remaining five questions, attendees scored their Labs between 3.9 to 3.5 on a 7-point scale. Here are the results for the remaining five questions:
    • The performance management system needed to clearly encourage or incentivize innovation with a score of 3.9.
    • The Labs did not have effective environments for communications within and across their divisions in the Labs, with a score of 3.8.
    • Lab employees felt that they needed more resources, time, and space to pursue innovation, with a score of 3.8.
    • Lab employees generally needed an idea management process that works to propose and trial ideas quickly and efficiently, with a score of 3.5.
    • Lab leadership needs to develop tangible innovation goals to communicate across the organization to the point where employees understand how they can contribute to innovation.

The FLC panel was facilitated by Laszlo Gyorffy, author and Founder of LBG Consulting, with Jason Stolworthy and James P. Keating, at Idaho National Laboratory, and InnovationOne’s Brooke Dobni, Ph.D.  author and Founder of InnovationOne, LLC, and Victor Assad, author and Managing Partner of InnovationOne, LLC.

To learn more about the Ethos Project findings, click this link to read  this short article and watch the video released by Idaho National Labs.

The Department of Energy put a bullseye on innovation. Do you want to put a bulls eye on innovation in your organization? Are you interested in having your Lab be assessed using the InnovationOne Culture Index©? Contact InnovationOne here.

About InnovationOne®, LLC.

InnovationOne®, LLC helps organizations worldwide build a culture of innovation and make it sustainable. InnovationOne® uses a scientifically developed assessment to measure, benchmark, and improve your company’s culture and capability to innovate and enjoy better outcomes and financial results. Companies scoring in the top quartile of our InnovationOne Culture Index© reported higher financial performance than bottom quartile performers by 22 percent. Our latest research shows that R&D Labs can improve their performance by 20 to 30 percent with higher innovation culture scores. Measure and ignite your culture of innovation.