Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

New Lab Investment Incubator Program Helps Jumpstart Manufacturing Innovation

October 2, 2019

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Research helps drive American innovation. Scientific research at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Laboratories, along with collaborations with industry and academia, have fueled many breakthroughs over the years. In an effort to continue to fuel cutting-edge work in the energy storage sector, DOE has developed a robust energy storage research program and world-leading capabilities at the National Laboratories. For example, over the past 10 years, DOE-funded research and development has helped reduce the cost of lithium-ion batteries by 80 percent, lowering the cost of electric vehicle packs to $185/kWh.

While significant progress has been made with batteries, for electric vehicles to become more widespread, we need to continue to drive down the costs. We believe there are promising technologies that have been demonstrated at lab-scale, but do not have the level of technology maturity that can lead towards commercialization. The Lab Investment Incubator Activity can help address this challenge.

The Lab Investment Incubator Activity is designed to attract "funds-in" investment from the private sector to mature these promising technologies from lab-scale to demonstration. This investment works to overcome the technology and engineering challenges that hinder these DOE lab-developed technologies. Funds from the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s (EERE’s) Vehicle Technologies Office will be matched by private-sector investment through laboratory cooperative research and development agreements.  

EERE’s Vehicle Technologies Office is working with three public-private partnerships to advance the innovation from lab-scale to demonstration in large-format pouch cells. Each laboratory is focused on advancing a different battery innovation:

  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory, working with Sparkz, is advancing low cobalt cathodes.

  • Argonne National Laboratory, working with Navitas, is focused on low cobalt cathode and electrolyte additives.

  • Berkeley National Laboratory, working with Kraton, is advancing silicon anode materials and polymer anode binders.

At the first InnovationXLab Summit, more than 300 attendees discussed how energy storage continues to be one of the biggest challenges to unlocking the potential from the next generation of transportation and electricity grid technologies. The summit showcased the broad array of technical resources available from across DOE’s National Lab complex that can be leveraged by industry to address these challenges.

The first in a series or summits, this event facilitated a two-way exchange of information and ideas between industry, universities, manufacturers, investors, and end-use customers with innovators and experts from across the DOE R&D complex. This Lab Investment Incubator initiative is another step towards bridging the gap between research and development and the commercial market.