Twelve DOE Lab Teams Explore Commercialization Pathways with Energy I-Corps

This past week, U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Energy I-Corps (formerly known as Lab-Corps) teams gathered in Denver, Colorado to finish up cohort 5, following an intensive eight-week training, where lab researchers define technology value propositions, conduct interviews, and explore viable commercialization pathways to bring their technology to market.

The three-day closing session reinforced the material learned over the past two months and provided fresh insights into IP strategies, barriers to deploying new technology, enhancing customer relationships, capital and funding opportunities, and building a successful team.  These training sessions will help guide the teams as they continue down the road to commercialization.  The following days introduced the cohort to an investor panel and their expectations for technology investments, and allowed the teams to share their Energy I-Corps story through Capstone presentations and short creative videos.

“The program exceeded my expectations!” said Todd Eaton, entrepreneurial lead of NREL team Nitrilica. “I didn’t expect to be pushed so hard by the faculty and it was a really good thing that they did push us because it forced us to refine and focus our business model approach over and over again, ultimately making it much stronger.”

Through the Energy I-corps customized curriculum, the program helps these researchers get to the next level with their technology. The curriculum was initially developed in partnership with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) Innovation Corps (I-Corps). With the support of the national labs and external industry advisors, NREL and DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) adapted NSF’s highly-regarded I-Corps training. Adjustments made to the I-Corps curriculum address the specific challenges scientists working within the national lab environment face getting their innovations ready for market. As more research teams complete the training, NREL and EERE continue improving and enhancing the Energy I-Corps curriculum to best meet participant and industry needs.

The Energy I-Corps team is finding that with each cohort, the teams gain more momentum and ends up setting the bar higher for the next round of teams coming through the program. “Cohort 5 teams exceeded past cohorts with the most customer discovery interviews,” said Kristin Clary, Energy I-Corps Program Manager. “Between 12 teams, they conducted 922 interviews, which are far more than any other cohort.”

Since the program’s inception in 2015, 63 teams from 10 national labs have worked with more than 70 industry mentors to discover the commercial impact of their technologies and conducted more than 4,500 customer discovery interviews with industry, and nearly $10 million in follow-on funding.

National laboratory teams will have the opportunity to apply for cohort 6 soon, which will be taking place in October 2017. If interested, visit Energy I-Corps website.

To see what teams have participated in the program to date, visit the Energy I-Corps team page.


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