National Lab to Collaborate with Small Clean Energy Businesses as Part of DOE Pilot Program

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) will help the first group of small clean energy businesses advance their products under the Small Business Vouchers (SBV) pilot launched last July by DOE.

NREL is one of nine national laboratories participating in the pilot, which will fund up to $20 million in vouchers to eligible small businesses. To overcome the technical challenges inherent in bringing innovations to market, individual SBVs ranging from $50,000 to $300,000 per small business will be used to initiate collaborative research projects or to receive technical assistance from the labs. The selected businesses will access world-class laboratory resources to help move these innovative ideas and technologies closer to the marketplace.

“This is a first-of-its-kind partnership between DOE, its network of national laboratories, and small businesses, which will result in a win-win situation,” NREL SBV Pilot Program Manager Sarah Truitt said. “Small businesses will get to access NREL’s expertise and facilities to overcome research and commercialization challenges while NREL staff gain better insight into industry needs.”

Small businesses selected in Round 1 to partner with NREL and other national laboratories include:

  • Visolis of California will partner with NREL to scale-up its process to produce an intermediate product. Processed fermentation broth containing the intermediate product will be sent to the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory for catalyst lifetime testing and conversion to isoprene.  
  • Lygos of California will use large scale fermentation vessels in NREL’s Integrated Biorefinery Research Facility for scale-up of its biological-based process, which produces malonic acid. In addition, Lygos will test its process at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s Advanced Biofuels Processing Demonstration Unit using NREL-produced biomass derived sugars.
  • Columbia Power Technologies, of Virginia, is seeking to overcome challenges in wave energy conversion and will leverage NREL’s strengths in device testing, along with Sandia National Laboratories’ capabilities in modeling and controls, to contribute to the reduction of the cost of wave energy technologies
  • Midwest Energy Group (MEG) of Illinois will use NREL’s fuel cell test facilities to assess the long-term performance of membrane electrode assemblies comprised of MEG’s prototype membranes; the tests seek to accelerate the transition of MEG’s technologies from the laboratory environments to commercial adoption. 
  • Element One of Colorado has developed low-cost hydrogen leak-detection technology, and NREL will help develop new materials and fabrication protocols for various versions of sensor prototypes that result in a low-cost, durable product.
  • KWJ Engineering of California, in partnership with Los Alamos National Laboratories, will have NREL characterize the performance of KWJ’s new hydrogen sensor prototypes. 

To see a full list of small businesses competitively-selected by DOE in the first round of the SBV pilot, please visit

“The U.S. Department of Energy is firmly committed to maximizing the impact of the national lab system on the clean energy economy,” said Dr. David Danielson, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. “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.”

Building on the tremendous response of Round 1, DOE also announced that it will start accepting applications for Round 2 of the SBV pilot. A total of $13 million worth of funding remains; over the course of the year, up to 100 vouchers will be awarded.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

This article was originally published by PennEnergy and was republished with permission.

Lead image: Small business sign. Credit: Shutterstock.

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