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Report identifies novel approaches to supporting energy hardware innovation

May 30, 2019

Emerging over the past five years, novel approaches to supporting early-stage cleantech development have the potential to ease the transition from invention to marketplace, according to new research from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center for the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis. The report provides a comparison of some of the nation’s most notable cleantech incubators and accelerators, finding that each organization fills a unique niche and competition among them is not an issue.

In New Approaches to Energy Hardware Innovation and Incubation, authors David Garfield, Kate Moore and Richard Adams evaluate nine organizations across seven factors, dividing them into three broad categories. Based on an analysis of these organizations, the authors suggest that technology-focused innovation organizations complement each other well and are showing signs of success in aiding startups across the “valley of death.” Ultimately, they conclude that the success of energy technology innovation depends on a multitude of approaches.  

In the report, the authors examine features such as founders, year launched, technology focus, and funding type, as well as whether the program offers lab equipment or access, technology testing or validation, and facilitated industry and investor introductions. They classify organizations into three categories:

  • Mature organizations focused on access to technology development facilities and expertise, such as the Cyclotron Road program;
  • Newer organizations inspired by the successes of these earlier incubators, such as the Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP) Nodes at Argonne and Oak Ridge National Labs; and,
  • Organizations that provide equity-based resources, such as The Engine by MIT or the philanthropic-led PRIME Coalition.
startups, energy, doe, dept of energy