The U.S. DOE believes that small businesses are very important in the development of clean energy technologies but they often lack the resources necessary to move their innovative ideas from their laboratories to the marketplace. In order to bridge this gap, the Small Business Vouchers Pilot was announced in July to connect clean energy innovators across the U.S. with the top-notch scientists, engineers, and world-class facilities at the Department of Energy’s national laboratories. As a result, small businesses will have the opportunity to bring next-generation clean energy technologies to the market faster by unleashing the vast science and engineering capabilities of the Energy Department’s national laboratories to solve small businesses’ most pressing challenges.
Starting today, small businesses can now apply to access these world-class facilities and an enterprise of more than 10,000 leading scientists and engineers at five of our national laboratories – Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratories and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory – through the pilot program.
According to the DOE, critical technology challenges presented by clean energy small businesses will be evaluated in a uniform and fair process. The technology challenges from highly ranked small businesses will be properly matched with proposed solutions and capabilities from the national labs. The Energy Department will then provide vouchers valued between $50,000 and $300,000 to complete the proposed scope of work at the national laboratory.
The vouchers are limited to specific research and development areas. These areas include: advanced manufacturing, bioenergy, buildings, fuel cells, geothermal, solar, water, wind and vehicles technologies. Both joint research and development that can generate new intellectual property, as well as technology assistance projects, are possible collaborative pursuits under the pilot. The solutions and knowledge gained through these public-private partnerships will be transferrable to other small businesses looking to advance clean energy technologies.
Here is how to apply:
- National Laboratory Impact Initiative, along with requirements to submit a Request for Assistance (RFA), by visiting the Small Business Vouchers Pilot website. The first round of RFAs are due October 23 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. The participating labs have set up concierges to assist small businesses with questions on how to work with the labs, and to arrange introductions to the laboratories’ technical experts in clean energy areas. Two additional rounds are anticipated to be announced in February and May/June next year.
This is a great program that could serve as a template for other countries.
ST Staff Writers
This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.