DOE launches national lab vouchers pilot for small businesses

The new voucher pilot will enable small businesses in the clean energy sector to access expertise and equipment at DOE national labs in order to bring products to market faster.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Small businesses in the clean energy sector are invited to apply for assistance from the Energy Department's national laboratories through the department's new Small Business Vouchers Pilot (SBV).

David Danielson, DOE Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), announced the launch of the pilot website during EERE's Industry Day event at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. 

As part of EERE's National Laboratory Impact Initiative, the pilot aims to help small businesses bring next-generation clean energy technologies to the market faster by enabling them to access expertise and specialized equipment at five of DOE's national labs.

The $20 million pilot will match clean energy small businesses with experts from DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Sandia National Laboratories.

More than 100 small businesses selected through the pilot's merit review process will receive $50,000 to $300,000 vouchers to exchange for national lab technical assistance or initiate collaborative research projects. The assistance will focus on a specific technical challenge identified by the small business.

NREL is working with the four other national laboratories to coordinate the pilot voucher program across DOE's network of laboratories. NREL is taking a leading role in coordinating vouchers in bioenergy, fuel cells and water power technologies, but is eligible to receive vouchers across the wide range of technology areas in which EERE invests. Visit NREL's SBV website for more information.

"This is a first-of-its-kind partnership between the DOE, its network of national laboratories and small businesses which will result in a win-win situation," says NREL SBV Pilot Program Manager Sarah Truitt. "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."

The pilot focuses on assisting small businesses developing technologies in the following areas: advanced manufacturing, buildings, vehicles, wind, water power, bioenergy, fuel cells, geothermal and solar. To be eligible to apply, businesses must be U.S.-based and owned with no more than 500 full-time employees worldwide. A total of three cycles of competitions will be offered to interested small businesses in 2015 and 2016.