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Small businesses play a large role in shaping the American economy and the clean energy revolution. They’re an engine of job growth -- creating around two out of every three new jobs in this country -- and they are sources of the innovation and bold ideas that our country needs to address our energy challenges.

While larger firms and corporations provide the heft to help energy technologies reach global markets, small businesses thrive at the other end of the spectrum: in the innovation of new energy products and services.  They’re quicker to adopt new approaches and more willing to take on technology challenges. Given that, it is little surprise that small businesses create 13 times more patents per employee than their corporate counterparts.

Yet, even when a business has a great idea, it doesn’t translate into commercial success overnight. It takes time and capital to transition from idea to product. The challenge is one of staying power, or ensuring that small businesses have the resources to graduate to each stage in the innovation development process.

Last week, we announced funding of approximately $30 million to qualified small businesses to support the commercialization of promising new technologies. Building off the Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR), the new SBIR Phase III Xlerator Program will help provide small innovative companies the staying power they need to develop the manufacturing processes necessary to make their products at scale and low cost, a key hurdle to bringing their ideas to the marketplace. Supporting America’s entrepreneurs at this stage of the innovation development process will allow them to grow their companies at a critical juncture, leading to jobs and manufacturing in the clean energy economy.

Technologies that will be supported in this pilot program range from advanced building technologies to carbon capture and sequestration and the smart grid. Applications for the SBIR Phase III Xlerator Program are due August 4th, 2010, at 8 pm. For more information please visit:

Kristina M. Johnson is the Under Secretary for Energy.