Reflections on 2015 Clean Energy Initiatives

2015 was a busy year for our team! We launched 4 new initiatives, grew existing programs, and strived to strengthen our impact on the clean energy ecosystem. Join us as we reflect on our 2015 programs, and look forward to the year ahead.

The IGF convened 350 investors and entrepreneurs in Denver, CO November 3-4 as 30 emerging clean energy startup companies pitched their business case and competed to win the NREL Best Venture Award. The event also featured one-on-one networking opportunities and a keynote presentation by NREL’s Laboratory Director Dan Arvizu.

The Best Venture Award went to Lightning Hybrids, and an Outstanding Venture Award went to both Sun Number and Stone Mountain Technologies.

2016 will be a transition year as the Industry Growth Forum moves from the fall to the spring. Join us in April 2017 in Denver, CO.

Innovation Incubator 

Round 1 projects among the first four IN2 companies launched, including testing and validation of technologies taking place on and off campus. These projects will conclude after ~18 months. IN2 provides the opportunity to provide additional  project work, including beta testing at Wells Fargo . The next six companies were invited into the program in November.

80 building efficiency technology companies applied to Round 2 of the program, sourced by 29 Channel Partners from across the country.

Round 2 projects will begin work in early 2016. Applications for Round 3 will open in late Spring/early Summer.

A partnership between EPRI and NREL, the Network launched in 2015 to provide nationwide coordination among clean energy business incubators. The group has grown to include 17 incubator members, and they published their first best practices report and a national asset map.

In 2016 the network will continue to thoughtfully grow, in addition to launching the official website and publishing a second best practices report highlighting new incubator programs.

NREL was selected to lead participating labs in the launch of a new commercialization and entrepreneurship training program, Lab-Corps.  The pilot year saw the development of a new DOE Lab-specific curriculum, the hiring of key faculty, and the successful completion of the first cohort of teams.

14 teams from 7 laboratories participated in the first cohort, including 2 teams from NREL.

In 2016 we plan to release Version 2 of the curriculum, hire additional faculty, and execute at least two additional cohorts.  We will also be working on institutionalizing the program by focusing on branding and communications efforts, building a website, and standardizing best practices for team selections across the laboratory system.

NREL helped 28 companies through its Commercialization Assistance Program by providing 661 hours of in-kind staff time, worth more than $65,000 in value.

The Energy Innovation Portal continues to highlight innovations from NREL and the other DOE National Laboratories. Currently, the Portal features more than 950 business-friendly explanations of clean energy technologies, available for licensing.

Startup Green 

The IEC team partnered with the American Renewable Energy Institute to launch Startup Green, a two-day bootcamp for early stage entrepreneurs to define and validate business models for diverse clean technologies.

10 early stage entrepreneurs participated, and were mentored by industry experts to assist in refining their business strategy and pitch.

NREL, along with four other national laboratories were chosen to launch the Small Business Voucher (SBV) Pilot in the fall of 2015. SBV is a pilot program to give small businesses greater access to laboratory expertise across the network of 17 DOE national laboratories. National laboratories received hundreds of requests for vouchers in the first round of SBV. Vouchers can be used at DOE national laboratories to help small businesses commerce energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

Round 1 selections are expected be announced in January or February 2016.  The second round for voucher requests will open in February 2016.

NREL’s Small Business Program was successful in executing two Mentor Protégé Agreements in 2015.Protégé’s receive business mentoring and sole source contracts through the Mentor Protégé Program. One MPA was with a small veteran owned business, Tricomm Systems, who provides design, installation, support and service for cabling to meet the operational requirements for voice and data systems; and the other with a small women owned business BrainJuice Mobile an IT company with emerging mobile technologies.

In addition to placing two MPAs, the SB Program exceeded its small business and socio-economic goals.

SMALL BUSINESS GOALS & ACTUALS FY15 Goal FY15 Actual
Small Business 53% 54.74%
Women Owned Small Business 5% 11.94%
Small Disadvantaged Business 5% 9.43%
HUBZone Small Business 3% 4.30%
Veteran Owned Small Business 3% 5.17%
Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business 3% 3.81%

A Look Ahead

In addition to expanding and improving our current programs, next year the IEC will be launching the Innovation Showcase, taking place in October in the mountains of Colorado. The new program will showcase entrepreneurs collaborating with NREL through various programs, and provide them connection to the clean energy ecosystem. We look forward to another opportunity to convene our network and to continue to spur the growth of cutting-edge entrepreneurship.

We look forward to connecting with you all in the new year, and happy holiday’s from our team to yours!

~ Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center

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