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Last week, the EERE Lab-Corps Initiative graduated its first class of top scientists who’ve gone back to school to gain an entrepreneurial education. With technologies ranging from bioenergy to building efficiencies, this $2.3 million pilot program, managed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), trains top lab researchers across the nation on how to move high-impact national laboratory-invented technologies into the market.
Six weeks ago, fourteen teams – comprised of a lab innovator, an industry mentor, and an entrepreneur – came together at NREL to begin the Lab-Corps journey. Teams were initially introduced to private sector and consumer interests – like product-market fit and consumer demand – before returning to the laboratory to refine their technology’s market application. After weeks of juggling research projects and Lab-Corps responsibilities, the teams have completed their cohort training and are armed with a platform for assessing the potential market impact of virtually any innovation they create.
To gauge interest in and use for the technology, teams interviewed more than 650 customers in person, over the phone or using Skype. The information that teams took away from these interviews increased their value propositions among specific customer segments. Some pivoted from their original assumptions while others were able to better align with industries that could adopt these innovations.
Assistant Secretary Dr. Danielson spoke at the graduation of the first cohort, commending our national lab scientists for taking time from their work to walk in the shoes of an entrepreneur for a few weeks and consider how their innovations could transform the marketplace.
As director of the Lab-Corps Node at NREL, I am impressed by how much these teams have learned. They invested in the Lab-Corps methodology and gained tremendous insight about the value of their product. We’ll be watching to see where this training takes them and how they in turn can create excitement around this new curriculum with their fellow scientists.
The NREL Lab-Corps Node team is already looking for teams to participate in the second cohort, which will start next Spring, lasting from late-March into early May. Visit our website for more about this game-changing enterprise or read this informative fact sheet.