Will we get any juice out of any of the energy research & development efforts going on right now? I can't help but be pessimistic about any potential breakthrough(s) forthcoming. Most people don't realize that the microelectronics revolution has consisted of hundreds of thousands of accumulated advancements concerning fabrication process and computer aided-design improvements. The R&D labs involved in our goal to "faster,cheaper,better" have included corporate, university, government, and your odd garage shop, with or without venture capital backing. Interestingly, apart from their importance in funding and sponsorship, I would rate government labs last in innovation. I wouldn't expect it any other way, insofar as electronics in general has never required "moon mission" type of coordination. Both university and corporate environments could innovate successfully without breaking anyone's bank.
However, I have concern over how effectively R&D will get handled for renewable energy projects. Certainly, we have to depend on government labs to lead on any coordinated mission. They have in the past (i.e. nuclear, solar) and they will in the future. Why? Because, unlike microelectronics and nanotech, the startup-costs and overhead remain too high and returns too risky for any investor to bank on a successful renewable energy program. And also, unlike microelectronics, iterative advancements in energy technology have not reduced our demand in the past and likely will not suppress our demand in the future. I imagine Jevon's paradox has something to do with that.
So BushCo has their own paradox to consider. They must fund government labs as the profiteering oil companies will have no idea how to invest in renewable energy research. (Don't ever consider these petro companies to follow the lead of Toshiba, Sony, Hitachi, IBM, H-P, AT&T, or even Microsoft in developing a useful incremental R&D strategy1). But BushCo will lose even more support from their base -- when they start doling out the funds. Thus the paradox.
Sad to say, but for once university research will have a hard time getting it in gear, obviously not helped by the now chronic funding problems they will relentlessly face. It certainly doesn't help that at one university, press releases state that the economics department doesn't see a problem while some of the scientists feel biofuels contain the answer.
1Apart from better geo-spatial visualization techniques and the related pure extractionist engineering technology.
Update: Albeit a bit weak on energy research, on the medical front the UofM epidemiology center has followed the avian flu spread quite closely.