The first two weeks of Breakthrough Generation consist of an intensive intellectual crash course called Breakthrough Bootcamp. Over the course of Bootcamp, fellows acquire a strong foundation in the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of Breakthrough's outlook and work, plus the skills required to successfully undertake an independent research project. In 2012, the syllabus was overhauled greatly, reflecting Breakthrough Generation's transition from a program focusing mainly on training energy analysts to a multidisciplinary program also covering conservation and development, as well as economic growth and innovation. Bootcamp not only involves lengthy readings and vigorous discussions, but also guest lectures from Senior Fellows and other experts, field trips to cutting-edge institutions, and ample socializing and networking opportunities with other young public policy professionals. At the end of Bootcamp, fellows get to participate in the annual Breakthrough Dialogue.
Readings and Discussions
Every day of Bootcamp, fellows have a set of readings covering themes such as pragmatism, risk and the precautionary principle, modernization and development, energy systems and transitions, conservation in the Anthropocene, natural resources, and futurism. Highlights from the syllabus include excerpts from Why Nations Fail by Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen, "The Entrepreneurial State," by Mariana Mazzucato, and Rambunctious Garden by Emma Marris. These readings form the basis for a variety of group discussions, presentations, and workshops designed to facilitate learning and hone participants' skills in analysis, presentation, and debating.
The full 2013 syllabus is available here.
Bootcamp features a set of regular presentations and Q&As with people from Breakthrough's network of Senior Fellows and associated experts. Examples from 2012 include:
Roger Pielke, Jr., Breakthrough Senior Fellow, gave a presentation on the role of science in politics and policy.
Bill Bonvillian, Director of MIT's Washington Office and Professor at Georgetown University, presented a history of the federal government's involvement in technological innovation.
After reading his book, Getting Better, Breakthrough Fellows had the opportunity to discuss global development with Charles Kenny, Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development.
Rasmus Karlsson, Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in South Korea, answered questions about his work on futurism, space colonization, and technological solutions to climate change.
Fred Block, Research Professor at UC Davis, presented on the historical role of government investment in energy technology innovation and the outsized influence of the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.
Fieldtrips and Socials
Bootcamp offers unique opportunities to visit local Bay Area think tanks, research labs, and companies. Some of the popular sites visited in past summers include:
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory - Breakthrough’s 2013 Fellows were invited to Lawrence Livermore National Lab in Livermore, CA to visit the National Ignition Facility, the world’s foremost research facility for nuclear fusion. Fellows met with the lab’s staff to discuss the potential of nuclear fusion energy.
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab - Fellows learned about different research projects developing clean energy technologies and briefed the Lab Director on their summer research projects. We also visited the Advance Light Source to see how new materials are designed and tested.
Greenstart is a cleantech start-up incubator. Fellows learned about the process of launching a cleantech start-up.
Advanced Energy Economy is a clean energy industry association. Fellows of Breakthrough Generation and AEE briefed each other on their respective projects and shared other experiences from the sector.
The Energy Institute at UC Berkeley is a multi-disciplinary research group focusing on energy economics. We met with the director, affiliated professors, and graduate students at EI and shared the projects we were working on and heard about their current research.
Brightsource - Fellows visited Brightsource's US headquarters to learn about their Ivanpah solar project, the largest concentrated solar power project in the world. We also discussed their experience as a recipient of the DOE's loan guarantees.
Young Professionals in Energy - We went to several happy hours and panel discussions with the San Francisco chapter of Young Professionals in Energy. Fellows got to meet their peers working for public utilities, renewable energy developers, and other clean tech entrepeneurs.