US DoE reveals US$9 million fund for energy sector innovation

The DoE initiative aims to help small businesses bring forward ideas to improve manufacturing processes, boost the efficiency of buildings, reduce reliance on oil, and generate renewable electricity, in an effort to bring new clean energy solutions to market faster.

Small businesses that win awards in these programs keep the rights to any technologies they develop and are encouraged to commercialise them.

“This effort is part of the Obama Administration's strategy to drive innovative clean energy technologies into the market and help spur economic growth, diversify the nation's energy portfolio, and create skilled jobs for American workers,” the DoE said in a statement.

Essentially the fund aims to drive research in a broad range of areas. The fund includes ambitious cost and performance targets to elicit “outside-the-box approaches”.

Meanwhile, a broad research topic guide aims to give small business broadly framed problems to work on and goals to achieve while giving them the freedom to innovate, instead of providing narrow or prescriptive technological solutions to be improved. It also aims to encourage small businesses with “ground-breaking concepts” to become part of the programmes’ research teams.

The scheme includes 8 broad topics and 30 subtopics in areas including advanced manufacturing, energy-efficient buildings, biomass, hydrogen and fuel cells, solar energy, and wind and water power technologies. The DoE will fund selected small businesses with one-year awards of up to US$150,000 to explore the feasibility of innovative clean energy concepts. Awardees with successful projects will then be able to compete for more than US$1 million in follow on funding.