Sunday, 20 March 2016 19:52

DOE invests $6.7M in 33 small businesses

DOE invests $6.7M in 33 small businesses to speed clean energy development

Dive Brief:
The U.S. Department of Energy has selected 33 small businesses to work directly with DOE national labs, support that includes $6.7 million in funding under round 1 of the new Small Business Vouchers (SBV) pilot, the Associated Press reports.
The investments aim to "accelerate the transformation toward a clean energy economy," DOE said, with selected businesses granted access to laboratory resources to help move new technologies closer to the marketplace.
The businesses, in more than 20 states, will work with scientists at nine department laboratories including the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.
Dive Insight:
DOE's funding announcement cuts across a wide range of energy sources, and the agency said it believes backing smaller businesses will lead to faster innovation, a theme echoed during ARPA-E's annual Energy Innovation Summit this year.

"Small businesses develop innovative technology and produce more than 15 times as many patents per employee as larger patenting firms, according to the Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy," DOE noted in its release.

In the wind sector, DOE is backing work that will focus on eliminating market barriers for the adoption of commercial wind turbines, by improving prediction models; work in the solar area will focus on developing more efficient solar "collectors," as well as integrating new solar technologies into the grid.

For example, SkySun LLC in Ohio has been selected to "perform detailed systems modeling on a novel working prototype of a ganged heliostat with the potential to drastically reduce both component and installation costs," according to the SBV pilot.

"The U.S. Department of Energy is firmly committed to maximizing the impact of the national lab system on the clean energy economy," David Danielson, assistant secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, said in a statement. "The Small Business Vouchers pilot allows innovative entrepreneurs greater access to the world-class resources and brilliant minds in our labs. These partnerships can help small businesses solve their most pressing technical challenges - and help bring clean energy technologies to commercialization much faster."

Some work will also focus on improving the efficiency and cost effectiveness of building energy systems, including HVAC systems; vehicle work will include lowering greenhouse gas emissions; in the bioenergy sector, DOE said research will focus on improving methods and processes for converting cellulosic biomass into usable bio-based chemicals.

DOE said the companies were competitively chosen from a pool of hundreds of applications, and almost 40% of the businesses represent new DOE-industry partnerships and relationships with the national labs. The agency has also begun accepting applications for Round 2 of the SBV pilot. A total of $13 million worth of funding remains, and over the course of the year up to 100 vouchers will be awarded.

Recommended Reading
Associated Press: Feds invest nearly $7M in small business to boost clean tech