DOE Innovation Challenge + Clean Tech Start Ups = Pure Genius

In April, the US Department of Energy announced it would be hosting a really neat new competition – America’s Next Top Energy Innovator. Though it sounds like a reality TV contest, it is actually a creative way for the US government to get the nation’s top innovators linked up with existing unlicensed patents for new clean energy technology.

Currently, national laboratories have over 15,000 clean energy patents that they don’t have the time, money, or manpower to develop and get off the ground. The DOE is stepping in by:

1) Drastically reducing the paperwork process for patent licensing
2) Creating a flat application fee of $1,000
3) Pitting the innovators against eachother to compete for a showcase at the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in 2012.

Today (May 2nd) innovators, entrepreneurs, and developers will have the opportunity to submit an application showing which patent they’d like to work on as well as submit their business plan. Applications will be accepted through December 15th, 2011. After all applications have been reviewed, the DOE will select some winners to go to the Energy Innovation Summit.

The DOE hopes that by reducing the proverbial red tape of the licensing process and reducing the up-front cost of applying by 90-99% of what it normally costs, innovation will come pouring in for technologies that would otherwise be shelved indefinitely at our national labs. Can I just say I love this?

By creating an incentive of less (less paperwork, less cost), the DOE is enlarging the innovation pie. They’re not  giving out money the government doesn’t have yet they’re incentivizing innovation in a massive way. Clean tech start-ups, dig in!

You can go to the Energy Innovation Portal to view all the available patents for the challenge. Here are some of *my* favorites – energy efficiency technology patents:

  • Energy Efficient Laboratory Fume Hood: Fume hoods, used to protect the user from breathing harmful chemical vapors, consume large amounts of energy, estimated to be 1GW in California alone. This power load comes from the fan power need to move air out the hood, and to condition make-up air.
  • Thermoelectric Ambient Energy Harvester: A novel thermoelectric generator (TEG) design by PNNL allows the conversion of ambient thermal energy into electric power for a variety of low-power uses. These miniature TEGs are able to power wireless sensors and their associated radio frequency transmitters used in a wide range of remote monitoring applications including building energy management, automotive component controls, agricultural monitoring, security surveillance, and wildlife management.
  • Power Quality-Improving Appliances: Power Quality-Improving (PQI) Appliances are devices developed to manage appliance load profiles to improve overall power quality in terms of power factor and harmonics.

If I was a start-up kind of broad, I’d be all over this challenge.

What do you think about providing incentive through lessening the red tape?

Are you considering throwing your hat in the ring? If so, I’d love to help any way I can. Get in touch!

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  1. US DOE Takes Efficiency Clean-Tech Global « The Life and Times of an Energy Careerist - May 12, 2011

    […] was really excited about the DOE’s Next Top Energy Innovator Challenge a couple weeks ago but this initiative has pushed me over the edge and I’m officially in […]

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