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Energy Department Announces Eleven Projects to Boost Private-Sector Support of Energy Innovation

August 2, 2017
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Today, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced $7.8 million in support of eleven projects to unlock private-sector resources for energy innovation. The projects, part of DOE's Innovative Pathways program, are designed to address the systemic barriers currently preventing the private sector from more fully supporting energy innovation and bringing new energy technologies to market. The projects will develop and test new ways to integrate emerging technologies into the energy industry and new models to unlock private capital in support of energy innovation.

Through Innovative Pathways, DOE will bolster U.S. economic growth and competitiveness by creating a more efficient pathway to market for American energy technologies. The eleven new projects will enable an increased reliance on the private sector for applied research, development, and commercialization, as outlined in the Administration's budget request.

Activation Energy (Berkeley, CA) will develop a simple standardized partnership agreement that reduces the time and complexity of forming partnerships between large industry corporations and early-stage technology developers. The agreement is envisioned to be adopted industry-wide, increasing the rate of early-stage strategic partnerships. They will also build a fund that provides early investors with technology testing data rather than company equity. By using shared lab resources to reduce technical risk efficiently, the new fund seeks to provide valuable insight to early funders without overly constraining the commercialization pathway of nascent companies.

ADL Ventures (San Francisco, CA) will access the untapped potential of mid-cap corporations, who can be nimble commercialization partners for disruptive energy technologies, and will develop a repeatable and scalable method to overcome the unique challenges currently preventing such partnerships. The method has the potential to more rapidly integrate disruptive technologies into the established energy sector.

Alpha Impact Investment Management Partners (AiiM) (Menlo Park, CA) will develop and test a method that forecasts optimal capital blends for individual early-stage companies based on their risk, potential impact, and development milestones. The method has the potential to increase capital efficiency of investments overall, thus encouraging philanthropic and institutional capital to invest in energy innovation.

Case Western Reserve University (Cleveland, OH) will design a new tranched investment structure and test whether it can satisfy the requirements of several distinct investor types in terms of their individual risk, return, and payout needs. The new structure would relax the constraints of the one-size-fits-all venture capital model, enabling other investor types to provide the long-term capital needed to finance energy hardware companies.

Clean Energy Trust (Chicago, IL) will create a new fund structure that uses philanthropic support for operational expenses so that investment dollars can have greater impact. The new structure intends to make early-stage energy investing more attractive for funders who would not otherwise invest.

The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) (Los Angeles, CA) will develop a scalable method to make low-cost microloans to early-stage hardware companies. The new method, to be developed in partnership with private lenders, would open up critical working capital to companies that are positioned for growth but do not have access to traditional loans.

Pecan Street (Austin, TX) will develop a program that links third-party validation of emerging technologies with subsequent investment decisions. This model will streamline the process of obtaining investment based on technology validation, and provide potential funders with concrete data on which to base investment decisions.

Powerhouse Accelerator (Oakland, CA) will develop a more effective workshop model to establish partnerships between early-stage innovators and end users, minimizing the burden of identifying product-market fit for all parties.

PRIME Coalition (Cambridge, MA) will create a first-of-its-kind fund designed for charitable investors, which will mobilize grant, recoverable grant, and program-related investment capital to de-risk early-stage, high-impact companies. By addressing the unique needs of charitable investors, the fund will enable philanthropists to help fill the critical capital gap at the earliest stages of company formation.

Rho AI (Highlands Ranch, CO) will build and test a matching engine using artificial intelligence to mimic recommendations from a highly networked expert. This PartnerAI matching engine stands to greatly reduce the time and effort needed for technology developers to identify partners, investors, and other resources.

The Technology-to-Market Program within DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) is funding seven projects: Activation Energy's partnership agreement, ADL Ventures, Alpha Impact Investment Management Partners (AiiM), Case Western Reserve University, the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI), PRIME Coalition, and Rho AI. The Clean Energy Trust, Activation Energy fund, Pecan Street, and Powerhouse Accelerator projects are funded by EERE's SunShot Initiative.


Source: U.S. Department of Energy


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