Below is the text version for the webinar, "How DOE Is Supporting Small Business to Strengthen Community Partnerships and Workforce Development," presented by the Bioenergy Technologies Office in October 2021.

[Begin audio]

Eric Ringle, National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

Hello, everyone, and welcome to today's webinar, “How DOE Is Supporting Small Business to Strengthen Community Partnerships and Workforce Development.” I’m Eric Ringle from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Before we get started, I’d like to cover a few housekeeping items so you know how to participate in the webinar today. You will be in listen-only mode during the webinar. You can select audio connection options to listen through your computer audio, or you can dial into your phone. For the best connection we do recommend calling in through a phone line. You may submit questions for our panelists today using the Q&A panel. If you are in full-screen view right now, click the question mark icon located in the floating toolbar at the lower right side of your screen. That will open the Q&A panel. If you're in split-screen mode, that Q&A panel is already open and is located at the lower right side of your screen as well. To submit your question today, simply select “All Panelists” in the Q&A drop-down menu, type in your question or comment, and press enter on your keyboard. It's as simple as that. You may send in those questions at any time during the presentations. We will collect these and time permitting address them during the Q&A session at the end. Now, if you have technical difficulties or need help during today's session, I want to direct your attention to the chat section. The chat section is different from the Q&A panel I just covered and appears as a comments bubble in your control panel. Your questions or comments in the chat section only come to me, so please be sure to use that Q&A panel for comments, questions for our panelists. We are recording this webinar. It will be posted on the Bioenergy Technologies Office website at a later date, along with these slides. Please see the URL provided on the screen here. If you're interested in learning about BETO news, events, and funding opportunities we also invite you to sign up to the BETO mailing list shown on the screen. I will post a link to both of these resources in the chat here momentarily.

Now a quick disclaimer before we get started. This webinar including all audio and images of participants and presentation materials may be recorded, saved, edited, distributed, used internally, posted on the U.S. Department of Energy's website or otherwise made publicly available. If you continue to access this webinar and provide such audio or image content, you consent to such use by or on behalf of DOE and the government for government purposes and acknowledge you will not inspect or approve or be compensated for such use. All right, with that, I will now turn things over to Justin Rickard to introduce our topic and panelists. Take it away, Justin.

Justin Rickard, National Renewable Energy Laboratory:

Alright, thanks, Eric; I appreciate it. Can you hear me OK?

Eric Ringle:

Yeah, your audio sounds great.

Justin Rickard:

Welcome, everybody. I’m Justin Rickard with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Just a few more items before we get to the presentations. This webinar is brought to you by the Bioenergy Communicators Working Group, also known as BioComms. This group is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Bioenergy Technologies Office, also known as BETO. The BioComms working group includes bioenergy communicators, laboratory relationship managers, and education and workforce development professionals from the national labs and the BETO organization who gather once a month to strategize on how to effectively communicate and promote BETO-funded research and development to the public. The BioComms working group also provides the public the opportunity to learn about current and emerging bioenergy technologies, projects, and partnerships through monthly webinars, which brings me to the agenda for today's webinar. We have three speakers. Eileen Chant will discuss DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Jasmine Bridges will discuss Small Business Innovation Research optimization efforts. And Elizabeth Burrows will discuss how BETO is broadening participation in the bioeconomy through small business partnerships.

All right, before we get started I’d like to provide the bios for all three speakers. Eileen Chant joined DOE in 2020 as the outreach program manager at the Office of Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, also known as SBIR/STTR. She has over 25 years working as a mechanical engineer in diverse energy technology areas encompassing startup assistance, commercial and industrial equipment consulting and nonprofit industry associations. Eileen received her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology.

Jasmine Bridges is a commercialization executive from the Bipartisan Policy Center leading an optimization effort for DOE's SBIR program. She is a mechanical engineer and advanced manufacturing strategy consultant with expertise in technology development and implementation, small business development, and fundraising. Jasmine has led domestic and international teams to implement complex technical programs in the energy and aerospace sectors. She also served as the first industry fellow at DOE in the Advanced Manufacturing Office, where she helped design a national manufacturing infrastructure to spur advanced manufacturing in the United States. Jasmine guides companies, universities, and researchers through the technology development “valley of death” to successfully mature and transition technology from research and development to production, while ensuring the sustainability of programs. She earned her B.S. from Johns Hopkins University and an M.S. from Columbia University, both in mechanical engineering.

Our third speaker is Elizabeth Burrows, who is a technology manager in DOE’s Bioenergy Technologies Office, where she works on the Feedstock Technologies subprogram. Her prior work includes 14 years conducting research in algal biofuels and forest and wetland ecosystem science, including working at an algal biofuels startup company. She holds a B.S. in mathematics and environmental studies from Mount Holyoke College and a Ph.D. in biological and ecological engineering from Oregon State University.

All right, before I hand it over to Eileen Chant, I’d like to remind you that you can ask questions at any time during the presentation using the Q&A panel and selecting “All Panelists.” We will collect these and try to address them during the Q&A session at the end of the presentations, time permitting. All right, next slide, and Eileen, please take it away.

Eileen Chant, Office of Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer:

Hello, everybody. Can people hear me clearly?

Eric Ringle:

You sound great.

Eileen Chant:

OK, well, thank-you, everybody, for attending this webinar. I’m happy to talk to you as the outreach manager of the SBIR/STTR program, to tell you about the program, how you can find out if you're a good fit for the program, and also how you can get different kinds of application assistance if you're interested in applying for funding. Next slide.

OK, first of all, what is the federal SBIR/STTR program? This is a very large fund. It's almost four billion dollars at this point in time. An early-stage non-dilutive research and development fund for small businesses. This is a mechanism to fund really early-stage high-risk ideas in the private sector. And these are early-stage ideas that are really too early stage for other types of more conventional investment. So it's a very good space for the government to operate. The program goals do include bringing in small businesses to stimulate technological innovation, and it is a policy directive of the SBIR program to foster and encourage participation by socially and economically disadvantaged small business concerns and women-owned business concerns. We're always looking for ways to elevate awareness amongst underrepresented groups and increase the participation in the SBIR program. There are 11 agencies that have SBIR programs, and each agency is the same but different. So when you're starting to look at SBIR programs, whether it's DOE or another agency, be aware that each program is a little bit different, and you have to sort of understand how each agency works. And you do have to be a small business. You do have to be a for-profit small business, and you do have – the business does have to be owned by one or more individuals who are citizens or permanent residents in the United States. Next slide.

And one of the things, when you're thinking about applying, you should understand the difference between SBIR program and the STTR program. The SBIR program has been around for almost 40 years. It is a – the awardee is the small business of the SBIR program. The principal investigator of the award must be an employee of the small business. You can have a nonprofit research institution involved in SBIR, but it is not required. And a minimum of two-thirds of the R&D must be performed by the small business. The STTR program is a little bit younger. It was established to foster technology transfer between research institutions and small business concerns. And the original idea about it was that there's a lot of technology that's sitting in research institutions and universities that's been discovered and has commercial potential. And this is a program to get small businesses to look for that technology, take it out of the university, and turn it into something that is commercially viable. Because it is a goal of the SBIR program to have positive commercial outcomes. So the STTR program requires a nonprofit research institution be a partner. The PI can be either an employee of the small business or the research institution. The awardee of the STTR program is still the small business. So keep that in mind. A minimum of 40 percent of the R&D must be performed by the small business, and 30 percent must be performed by the research institution. Take note that if you fill requirements, if you put together a plan, and you end up filling the requirements of both SBIR and STTR, you can submit your exact same application to both programs. There are two different pots of money. So in a sense for a high-quality application, you're increasing your chances of receiving funding. Next slide.

So the DOE has some specific things about it. One thing is that we have two Phase 1 releases a year. Phase 1 is the entry point into our program. It is in July. We release topics, in which case those applications are due in October. And in November we release topics, and those applications are due in February. Note November 8, coming up just around the corner, we are releasing our Phase 1 fiscal year ‘22 release two topics. This has nine different program offices that release topics as shown in the blue shape on the right-hand side of this slide. A lot of these topics are more applied and more practical in a sense, although it is a mix of topics. So these are things that you probably associate with the Department of Energy, electricity, improving the grid, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, which BETO who is hosting this webinar is part of the EERE office. Ways to improve, make more efficient, fossil energy carbon management, carbon capture. The Office of Nuclear Energy is in this release, as well, too, as well as some fundamental high sort of fundamental topics, such as high-energy physics and advancing fusion energy science, as well, too. So this is the link to our funding opportunities page. I’m going to type that in later when I’m done with my talk. November 8, go to our funding opportunities page, pull up the topics document, and see if there's something in there for you that matches your expertise. Next slide.

So another distinctive thing about the Department of Energy is that we issue very specific topics. Some of the agencies are more broad in what they fund. They'll fund things that are just, they think are a good idea and have commercial potential. We fund specific topics that are aligned with our mission. What is our mission? Well, everybody probably knows that the DOE provides leadership in clean energy technologies. I’m not going to read off all these topics that are shown on the slide, but on the leftmost column those are some sampling of the types of topics that we issued associated with clean energy. But did you know that the DOE also provides leadership in basic energy and engineering sciences, as well, too? So we fund some topics such as advanced instrumentation, components needed to improve accelerator technology, materials science, and ways in which to better study advanced materials modeling and simulation, better ways of modeling the atmosphere, better ways of modeling the environment, and more. And finally, the third DOE mission is enhancement of nuclear security. So we do fund topics with in-situ remediation of, remediating the DOE nuclear weapons waste sites around the country, and also technologies that will advance nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear monitoring around the globe. Next slide.

How does our funding work? The Phase 1 is the entry point into our program. That's the release that's coming out in November. We will be accepting Phase 1 applications in February. The Phase 1 program will last from nine to 12 months in duration. The maximum award is $200,000 to $250,000. It is a feasibility evaluation. It is an idea that you have for a technology that aligns with DOE but also has commercial potential. We issue about 350 to 400 awards per year. If your feasibility evaluation works out and things are looking good, you can apply for a Phase 2 grant, which is $1.1 to $1.6 million. It lasts a longer time, for two years, and 40 percent of Phase 1 awardees go on to receive a Phase 2 award. We also have follow-on Phase 2 awards. You can receive up to three Phase 2 awards, which can carry you for up to seven or eight years, in order to take your idea, develop your prototype, advance your commercialization strategy. This program is designed to take you through that valley of death in which startup companies can fail because they're not quite at the point where they can launch their technology. Next slide.

Again, this is the solicitation. This is the all-important funding opportunities page. November 8, the topics will come out. The topics document will populate in that square just below the Monday, November 8. We will have a webinar. At the topics webinar the topics managers participate, and you can ask them questions. The questions should be focused on what they're looking for in terms of the topic. You shouldn't try to sell your technology at that webinar. That's what your application is for. But the topics webinar is really to help you better understand what the topics managers are looking for. About a month after the topics are released, the funding opportunity is released. This is a document which tells you about the details of the program and the details of the application process. We also have a FOA webinar; that is right now scheduled for December 17. And you can ask questions about the application process. So there's the schedule for this upcoming release, too. Next slide.

In addition, we're not just an organization awarding grants. We want to demystify the process. We want to help you with your applications. If you are a first-time DOE SBIR/STTR applicant, you should seriously consider enrolling in our Phase Zero program. This is an application assistance program. You will receive a one-on-one coach in your technology area. So that coach knows about your technology area, and that coach also is an expert in our application process. You go to the link shown on this page and there's just a web form, and you fill in some basic information. You should know what you want to do, which topic you're going to apply to, which subtopic you're going to apply to, and be able to sort of intelligently discuss your idea when you apply for the Phase Zero program. I talked about the topic and FOA webinars. We have an online learning center. There's 36 videos on that, our online learning center, for different parts of the application process. I’m going to go through this slide a little bit quickly in the interest of time. You can explore collaboration opportunities with the Department of Energy, and during the application process we host weekly Q&A webinars. You can jump on the call and ask us questions about the application process. Make sure you're on our mailing list. That's where you'll get all the information, the updates, the invitations to the webinars. And you can join on the mailing list from our home page. And follow us on Twitter. We just started a LinkedIn page, really a few days ago. Join us on LinkedIn and email us any questions you want at all. We are very responsive to questions that are sent to our email address. Next slide.

A quick moment about the application review process. What's important is that you are a good fit with the program, with the topic and the subtopic for which you're applying, that you have a good technical approach, the strength of your technical approach, and your work plan in order to get to the feasibility evaluation to prove feasibility of your idea. The ability of the team to execute the plan is important. Make sure you have the right expertise. You don't have to have a Ph.D., but make sure you have the right team. And then the impact of your technology on the field in which, the R&D field in which you're proposing to work in. The most highly ranked applications are selected based on available funding. Next page.

And just a few quick slides on diversity, equity, inclusion. DEI is critical to our success. We are always looking for ways to elevate awareness to underrepresented groups. The underrepresented groups that we track include but are not limited to women-owned small businesses, socially and economically disadvantaged small business, historically under-utilized business zones, and small businesses that are in underrepresented states. Some states get a large fraction of the awards, and some states get a small fraction of the awards. And we're working to remediate that. Next slide.

And we do have some initiatives to advance diversity. We're working with a working group in the Office of Diversity, Inclusion and Research and Integrity. And we are going to be rolling out some new practices to advance diversity. Our Phase Zero application program is designed to assist underrepresented applicants with the one-on-one coaching. And we do have a new diversity supplement program, which provides Phase 2 awardees an opportunity to diversify their workforce by bringing in students from underrepresented groups into their business. And we provide the funding for that. Next slide.

I’m not going to get into this slide, but I do want to emphasize that we have many support programs along the path to commercialize your technology. We have applicant assistance programs in the blue. We have awardee – once you're an awardee, we have a lot of programs that help you move your technology along towards commercialization. Finally, if you're not a good fit with the DOE program, go to and look at the other 10 agencies that offer SBIR programs and see if there's a fit for you out there somewhere else. Thank-you for your time. Now I want to introduce Jasmine Bridges, and she's going to be talking about her role in the Office of Technology Transitions.

Jasmine Bridges, Office of Technology Transitions:

Thanks, Eileen. This is Jasmine Bridges. Can everyone hear me OK?

Erik Ringle:

Yeah, your audio sounds great, Jasmine.

Jasmine Bridges:

OK, perfect. So again, my name is Jasmine Bridges, and I’m a commercialization executive in the Office of Technology Transitions. Next slide.

I will be explaining a little bit about Office of Technology Transitions. I’ll share some of the efforts that OTT is leading. And then I will share the SBIR Optimization effort, again, SBIR being Small Business Innovation Research which Eileen just explained really well and in depth. And so we're leading an optimization effort. And so I will go into that. Next slide.

So the Office of Technology Transitions’ statutory mission as per the Energy Act of 2020 is to expand the commercial impact of the department’s research investment. We also oversee delivery of the DOE strategic goals for technology commercialization, and then finally we streamline information and access to the DOE national labs and sites. So overall, when you hear technology transitions and the Office of Technology Transitions, think commercialization. Our primary focus area is commercialization and helping to commercialize and lead commercialization efforts for the Department of Energy. Next slide, please.

Some of the areas that we work in are the Energy I-Corps program, which many of you have probably heard of, particularly if you have been an SBIR awardee or if you've worked with NSF at all. And so I’ll talk a bit about the Energy I-Corps program, and then also the Lab Partnering Service, which is a really wonderful resource to learn information about our labs and to actually ask lab personnel questions and to tap into the lab expertise. And then again, I’ll go into the DOE optimization effort. And so those are some areas that we're actually working in. Next slide, please.

So what is Energy I-Corps for SBIR and STTR? It is an amazing program that really helps to educate researchers on the entrepreneurial concepts and practices. As many of us are focused in research and development and are really technical people, of course, when you're thinking about commercializing technology, there's a business and entrepreneurship side that has to be worked on and developed. And so the I-Corps program focuses on those entrepreneurial and business concepts to enable the innovation to be better commercialized or commercialized at all. The format is that it's a training that includes interactive workshops and webinars. And it really focuses on customer discovery, which is specifically asking customers or asking potential customers about your technology. And so really getting that firsthand input from your customers so that you start to build that into the research and into the technology itself. So it focuses on customer discovery, identifying market segments, and crafting the value proposition. Again, all those areas are around entrepreneurship and the business side of the technology in terms of, for example, the market segments, knowing what market your technology would serve. And then your value proposition, how does this actually serve your market and what's the value that this technology brings? Not only is it technically feasible, but will the market actually absorb and will the market – is there a market for the technology? Who can apply? Phase 1 awardees are eligible to apply. There is no cost to the participants. And participants are selected based on their commitment statement on why I-Corps training will improve their commercialization efforts. And so please do read more about the I-Corps program. And of course, again, it's around commercialization. The Office of Technology Transitions supported the SBIR office with leading I-Corps and actually implementing I-Corps. Last year was the first cycle. And then this year we've actually started the second cycle. So I-Corps is a wonderful program if you are interested in SBIR and if you're an SBIR awardee. And it really, again, helps to ensure the commercialization and business topics are learned by the SBIR awardee. Next slide, please.

Another thing as I mentioned that the OTT works on is the Lab Partnering Service. So if you Google “Department of Energy Office of Technology Transitions,” you will come to our webpage, which looks like this. So I want to just inform you of what the web page looks like and help you navigate it. And so you'll see this intro page. Next slide, please.

And if you scroll down, you'll see this Lab Partnering Service tab. And then next slide.

And if you click on that tab, you will come to the Lab Partnering Service. OK. And of course, it says “Discover/Connect/Partner.” So you will discover more about the labs. You can connect with the labs, and then you can partner with the labs or learn about how to partner with the labs. And so these really are screenshots from the web page, just to familiarize you. If you want to go directly to the web page, the web page is Next slide.

And if you keep scrolling, you will see this link, “Ready to Explore? Visit OTT's Lab Partnering Service,” and then you click here and it will take you into the Lab Partnering Service application. Next slide, please.

And once you're in, there is a lot to see. And so a few things I want to bring to your attention are “Ask an Expert.” So if you click “Ask an Expert,” it actually enables you to connect with lab experts in various industries and in various research areas so that you can tap into their expertise. Also, you can explore the variety of patents and intellectual property that is held by the labs. Next slide, please.

And so this is what the Lab Partnering / Ask an Expert page looks like. And you'll see that there are several research topics. You can click directly on the researcher themselves. You can actually view by lab, or you can view by content type. So this is a wonderful resource to speak to and connect with actual lab personnel and lab experts. Next slide, please.

And then this is the visual patent search. So again, you can search by various topics. You can search by energy, engineering. There are several topics. You can actually put in the search what your topic area is. You can search by inventor. You can see that there are more than 35,000 inventors that are in the Lab Partnering Service database. You can search by lab, by patent status, and then taxonomy or tag. So there are several different terms that you can use to search by. Next slide. Oh, I’m sorry, can you go back one more slide. And so overall, I highly encourage you to go to the Lab Partnering Service and definitely do some research, check it out, just get familiar with it, because there is truly an abundance of information on this website and in this application. Next slide.

And now I’ll speak about the SBIR Optimization effort, which I’m leading. Next slide, please.

As Eileen mentioned, the SBIR program is a program for small businesses. And overall, the statutory goals of the SBIR and STTR programs are to utilize small businesses for federal research and development, to stimulate and commercialize federally funded R&D. And as Eileen mentioned, to foster and encourage participation by women and socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. And then finally, specifically for the STTR program, it's to foster technology transfer through cooperative R&D between the small business and the research institution. So the STTR program really enables a partnership between the small business, and the research institution could be a national lab or a university, any federally funded research institution. And so these tenants of the program are really important just to ensure that we as the DOE, that you-all as potential constituents and stakeholders, understand what the goals of the program are. Next slide, please.

And so, that said, the program has a lot of opportunity. It's a significant funding opportunity for small businesses that need support with their research and development. And as Eileen said, it's non-diluted, which means the Department of Energy does not take any equity stake in your business or in your technology. It truly is a grant program that gives you the funds, or gives the awardees the funds, to develop their technology. And so that said, we do recognize that there are opportunities to further enhance the program. And as I’m leading this effort to identify those opportunities and develop a set of recommendations, I’m looking at all aspects of the program, including the program structure, operations, the stakeholder engagement and how we engage with stakeholders, technical assistance. For example, some of those things that Eileen said are there's a commercialization assistance program. So we're looking at those things, diversity, equity, and inclusion, policy implications, because we realize that there are some things that actually, the policy has to change to enable the program to enhance or to be optimized. We're looking at metrics, funding, and commercialization. So overall, I’m really looking at all aspects of the program, just how to make the program better, how to ensure the program is actually meeting those statutory goals, which we spoke about on the previous slide, and how to ensure the program is serving the population it's supposed to serve. Next slide, please.

So I’ve been speaking with a cross-section of stakeholders including the program managers within the DOE, the small business community, including incubators and accelerators, those who are in the financing community; that would be like venture capitalists. Those in the private sector who fund small businesses. Policy leaders, reviewers, the national labs themselves, those who are in the diversity space, different contractors. Again, those would be like the commercialization vendor that helps with commercialization to the awardees. And then also universities. So I’ve really had an opportunity to speak with quite a few stakeholders and get a cross-section of insight to help inform the recommendations. Next slide.

And so through these conversations, through observation, data analysis, the stakeholder conversations and research, and reading a lot of previous research that's been done in the program, some opportunities that we've identified are particularly in the areas of diversity and commercialization, and really enhancing those areas and ensuring that they meet the goals of the program for encouraging innovation to women and underrepresented people. And then also encouraging and furthering commercialization. So those are two key areas where we see opportunities for this program. Next slide.

And some of the data that has helped to provide that insight is all of the SBIR data is actually public. And so I’ve done some analysis that shows, you know, where the data, where the awards, particularly the funding is being dispersed. And so typically the Department of Energy and most of the federal government looks at funds to women-owned businesses, to socially and economically disadvantaged businesses, and also to hub zones. So this analysis specifically focuses on women and socially and economically disadvantaged people. And what I’ve added is disaggregating some of this data, so that we're not only looking at women but we're actually showing socially and economically disadvantaged women and those who are not. And then within socially and economically disadvantaged, we're looking at men and women. And then this final column shows those who are not women, who are and who are not socially and economically disadvantaged. So just for this analysis and for this data, we can see that there's quite a bit of opportunity still on the diversity side and ensuring that the program is including diverse constituents. And so this next slide Eileen will speak on.

Eileen Chant:

Hi, everybody. So I’ll just quickly want to say that, as I talked about in my presentation, that we are tracking certain underrepresented groups, which are the women-owned small businesses, the hub zone, the socially and economically disadvantaged, SED and underrepresented state. So we are – tracking and collecting data is an important part of knowing where you are and how you're doing. And this plot shows the award rate of these groups over time from 2013 through 2021. We do see that the numbers are improving over time. I have a regression line drawn through these curves because they're pretty – you know, they're pretty bouncy. They go up, they go a little up and down. They wiggle around over time. But we do see that these numbers are improving slowly over time. We'd like to see them improve more quickly. And you know, we're going to be trying – you know, we have a lot a number of diversity initiatives that will hopefully accelerate these trends. You know, and then there's always the idea that we need to set goals about where we want to be. For example this last year the women-owned awards were about 11 percent of all the awards. But these are women-owned small business entrepreneurs. We did try to do in and out; we tried to do an analysis and say, well, how many, what is the percentage of women-owned small businesses that are doing R&D in the DOE mission-focused areas. And we did use census data. We looked at the industries that are conducting R&D in the engineering sciences, the life sciences, and the physical sciences. And for women that's about 17 percent. Women-owned small businesses in the industry that applies to the DOE SBIR/STTR program. Now of course, it's not a perfect analysis. Not all of these businesses are necessarily going to be applying for DOE programs. But it does tell you that while the women-owned businesses are not 50 percent, even though women are 50 percent of the population, that there is room for improvement over time. OK.

Jasmine Bridges:

OK, thanks, Eileen. I appreciate that. So as you can see, the trend is getting better. And lots of analysis has been done, and there are many activities that the Department of Energy is doing. And so as Eileen said, this is certainly an area that the Department of Energy is looking to enhance and improve. And that said, next slide, please.

So my next steps are to finalize my analysis and to finalize recommendations, to compile a report to the Department of Energy regarding recommendations and the findings. And so where you can support is I am seeking to further speak with diverse applicants, those who have been awarded and not awarded, stakeholders who focus on diversity, and or specifically diversity in science, technology, engineering, and math. I would love to speak with you further and gain your perspective and insight. And then also those previous applicants who have either been awarded or not awarded. So you will see my contact information at the end of this presentation. Feel free to reach out to me. I would love to speak with you and just schedule some time. And with that said, thank you for your time.

And next I will introduce Dr. Elizabeth Burrows, who will be speaking. And she is from the Bioenergy Technologies Office.

Elizabeth Burrows, Bioenergy Technologies Office

Thank you so much, Jasmine. Right, so next slide.

In light of the data you just saw from Eileen and Jasmine, I’m going talk to you about a pilot that a few members in the Bioenergy Office developed last year. And in light of the data you just saw, we wanted broadening participation to be core to the topic content. So two topics were developed. One is focused on community scale research with stakeholder engagement and meaningful benefits to the community at the core of the proposals. And the second topic was to solicit research-driven workforce development programs and tools where a company would partner with a bioenergy business, and via the inclusive workforce development, improve the commercialization potential of the business partner. So the full topic descriptions are still available online. Erik can put it in the chat there if you want to read them in more depth. But next slide for now.

So in addition to the core topic content being broadening participation, it was a focus throughout the process last year. So we worked with the communications team to amplify the topics beyond our normal stakeholder groups. And the topics manager who was in charge last year hosted a webinar, wrote a blog, and described in depth how to apply to these topics. After the proposals came in, we also focus strongly on getting a diverse reviewer pool. And we wanted diverse reviewers both on the technology and the community partnering and workforce development aspects of the proposals. Also, we treated the workforce development and community partnering aspects of the proposals as an R&D component of the project. And last, we set up a simple teaming mechanism so that organizations who may not have the resources to put in a full SBIR application themselves could have their names added to a partner list. And this list was used to create some really more unique teams last year. So in light of this wide amplification, we got an overwhelming number of absolutely incredible proposals. And it was harder than ever to narrow it down to just seven. Next slide.

So we did end up funding seven projects. Five were in the community partnership topic, and two were in the workforce development. The teams were notified last May. They started in June-July this year. And as you can see here, the percentages are quite a lot higher than the numbers you saw from Eileen and Jasmine. Especially notable is the first-time awardees and first-time applicants because we did focus on getting the word out and trying to get really new applicants. So I wanted to highlight each of these seven projects because they're so great and so unique. And so the PIs were kind enough to give me one slide, condense all their amazing work into one slide. So I’m just going go through seven slides, one for each project. And the PIs are online so they can chime in in the chat and add any aspects that I forget to mention or don't have time to mention. And then at the end, they could be unmuted if you have specific questions about their technologies, and you can hear the answers from them directly. But I will move on to the first of the seven projects. Next slide.

This company is 525 Solutions. They are based in Alabama, and they're focused on using shrimp shell waste to create biofuels and bioproducts. So they extract the chitin, and then they can convert this to a variety of products including renewable plastics. And for their community engagement piece, they are developing a huge community of stakeholders partnership. They're contacting and interfacing with the local fishing community, who is core to this, to get the feedstock, and also the seafood processing businesses, nonprofit organizations, high schools, community colleges. So they have a real goal of revitalizing the economically depressed areas in Alabama and elevating underrepresented groups in Alabama. So it's a really nice project there. So next slide.

Moving all the way out to California, Hexas is a company that has developed proprietary energy crop called XanoGrass. And they're working with the California State University – Chico, both to develop a feasibility plan and to determine the most valuable products that can be ultimately made from this XanoGrass crop. So the feasibility plan is going to look at ecosystem services, carbon capture, as well as the revenues that can be generated for the local farmers. And this company, Hexas, is also working with Woodland Community College to both survey the community and educate the community on how they feel about bioenergy crops and also the economic and environmental benefits of these types of bioenergy crops. Last, they're going perform test plantings. They have a test site at the City of Calusa's wastewater treatment plant. So they'll be using the gray water from the wastewater treatment plant to water the XanoGrass. And in turn the XanoGrass can improve the soil quality in the marginal soil; the soil quality is marginal in that area. So next slide.

Now moving out to Hawaii, Simonpietri Enterprises is working on a project that's focused on construction and demolition waste in Hawaii. There's only one landfill that takes construction and demolition waste, and it's in a community of native Hawaiian, residential community around the landfill. So it's extremely unpopular. And this material, C&D waste, is extremely hard to recycle. And so Simonpietri is going to use this dirty C&D waste to create green hydrogen, eventually sustainable aviation fuels, and other products like that. So in their community input, they have a very detailed social science project. And it has three design spirals of increasing community input. The native Hawaiian voices are central to the conversation and they have team members that are female native Hawaiian civil engineers in the picture here. And so they're really working hard with the community. And their ultimate goal will be 97 percent lower greenhouse gas life cycle emissions, compared to petroleum. So next slide.

So All Power Labs has a project going in New York. They have a waste-to-energy mobile unit that takes waste biomass, mostly woody biomass, and converts it into combined heat and power and also biochar. And so this biochar has been proven to have several benefits to the soil. So All Power Labs is partnering with the plant, which you see in the picture here, which was an old coal power plant. And now it's converted into a climate education center. And the Epic Institute for Climate Solutions is working with the plant, and they're providing several partnership opportunities at this site. So All Power Labs will do community outreach, mainly to community gardens and community farms and individual households, to really test the biochar product on their soils. So next slide.

And this is the last of the community partnering topics. And this is Takachar, and they're developing a mobile unit as well that can go on the end of a tractor or other large equipment in a forestry setting. And they are going to develop this more densified, more homogenized feedstock dispersed, so it's right in the field or in the forest. And they can use several different kinds of biomass. And then it reduces the logistics costs 30 to 70 percent when transporting it to the off-tank markets like the biorefinery or other places. So the stakeholder community that they reached out to first, centers around the Jackson Demonstration State Forest, and landowners that have forests around there and nearby farmers. And also they're partnering with PG&E for two reasons. Both, they can use the biomass that is cleared from the electric equipment and power lines, and then PG&E is also interested in using the densified projects from Takachar for their R&D operations. So next slide.

So the last two projects I’ll discuss are both the workforce development topics. So this company is iZen, and their project is called Skill-in-a-Flash, because they are developing education and training programs that can be put on a flash drive so that people without Internet, without computers, can use these trainings in this. So this is especially beneficial in rural areas, which provide the foundation for so much of the bioeconomy. So it's really a great idea to have this training package right on the thumb drive. And so they are going to develop e-learning, certification programs, and they’re working with the bioeconomy to find the job roles that the industry needs most. And they're going to develop these training materials directed toward those kinds of jobs. And so providing this affordable access to training really increases diversity and inclusion in the bioeconomy and overall. So next slide.

This is the last but very not-least project from Pathways United. They are solving a huge problem with their very sophisticated experiential workforce platform. They are focused really on enhancing opportunities for people of color and minorities, women, and rural and impoverished communities. And so they right now, Dr. Prince and her team, are working to develop this very advanced curricula and also reaching out to many different bioenergy companies. They have several partners listed that they'll work with to develop a really focused and great learning tool. So with that, that is my final slide.

And we have some time to answer questions. And I will turn it back to Justin to field the questions. And thank you so much for – in the chat, Hexas is headquartered in Washington, but this project is taking place in California. But yes, thank you.

Justin Rickard:

All right, thanks. Thank you, Liz. I appreciate it. And thanks to all three of you for some great presentations. For the audience, I’d like to point you to the chat section where there are links to good resources on these topics. Those links are also interspersed throughout this deck, as well. All right, let's get right to the audience questions. We've got a few minutes left. So I think on slide eight, Erik, if you could jump there real quick …

In the STTR column, the question was, does the minimum 40 percent of R&D performed by small business mean the amount of work or amount of funding?

Eileen Chant:

That one is for me. So it is funding. And one thing that's really important is if you go to our applicant resources page and then you go to the page that is about preparing a Phase 1 grant application, there's a spreadsheet you can download. It tells you exactly how to calculate. So the research institution must perform at least 30 percent and the business must perform at least 40 percent of the funding. And we do have a level of effort worksheet so that you can confirm that you're compliant with those requirements.

Justin Rickard:

All right, thank you. Any of the three panelists can jump in here: What are the best practices and pitfalls of the application process?

Eileen Chant:

Do you want me to take that one?

Justin Rickard:


Eileen Chant:

OK. First of all is that you must read the funding opportunity announcement. Unfortunately it's 80 pages. But you do need to ask yourself the question, do I have time over the next three months to devote in excess of 100 hours towards this application? It is a lengthy process. If you can divide it up between people, you do have three months. But get to know the funding opportunity announcements so that you understand all the requirements and you don't spend a lot of time and then make some kind of mistake.

Make sure that you submit all the correct information. Get involved. Jump on our Q&A webinars. Get to know the process, OK? You know, make sure that you feel – make sure you understand the topic and the subtopic and that your technology is a good fit with the subtopic. And so those are kind of the main things. That kind of covers everything that – the mistakes that people make, is get to know the FOA, make sure you're a good fit, and get involved and listen to all our webinars, because then it's going help demystify the process.

Elizabeth Burrows:

I would just chime in one little thing that just emphasizes what Eileen says. Just use the exact wording that you see. Once you read the long document, the descriptions of the project that you'll apply to are, we try to keep them pretty short, but if you look at that and just use the same wording, the same units, the same metrics that are in there, it will make your topic look that much better of a fit, right, to the reviewers and the program managers that are reviewing so many applications.

Eileen Chant:

Thank you, Elizabeth, for that. Yes, and get to know the topic, read the topic, read the subtopic, read all the references in the topic, in the subtopic. You're expected to be an expert. Understand the state of the tech art of the technology and what you're proposing and why it's better than what's out there. So you should know what's out there, what type of competitive technologies are out there.

Justin Rickard:

All right, thank you. This one's kind of nice: Do you have any favorite success stories you can share, in particular, if you have a DEI business that benefited from SBIR/STTR support?

Eileen Chant:

Well, Liz shared seven projects. We have a project for a company that's in California. The name of the company is Twelve. That was started by three graduate students. It is an SED-owned business, started about five or six years ago. They have received a number of Phase 1 and Phase 2 grants. It's a very cool technology. They have developed a new catalyst technology. They use renewable electricity, and their PEM (polymer electrolyte membrane), and they take water and they take an exhaust stream of carbon dioxide and they produce high-value chemicals from their process. So it's a carbon sequestration technology that's producing chemicals that right now petroleum products are used for. And they have had a lot of success with funding. They've recently received about 57 million dollars in funding from a variety of private investors. And you can go to our website. We have Phase 3 success stories. Phase 3 refers to people who are now outside of the SBIR world and are becoming commercially successful. And you can read all about the success stories.

Justin Rickard:

Awesome. And that would be with the website on the left there, right?

Eileen Chant:

Yes. You go to our home page, and right on our homepage on the left panel is Phase 3 success stories.

Justin Rickard:

OK, perfect.

Elizabeth Burrows:

You did just see my seven favorite success stories. But also if there are folks on the line that have success stories, please let us know, because we’d love to highlight them, as well.

Eileen Chant:

Yes, we are always willing – we're always welcoming success stories. We like to hear about them, and we like to write about them, as well, too, so you can always reach out to me about that, as well.

Justin Rickard:

We've had a couple questions on this and sort of promotion. How are you attracting small businesses to the SBIR/STTR programs?

Eileen Chant:

Well, we have a variety of strategies. I am the outreach manager and I’ve only been here for a year, so I’m still on the learning curve. But I do a lot of webinars with various organizations. I work a lot with the state support organizations. Those are the fast awardees, the state incubation centers, commercialization assistance centers. And we organize webinars. And they have an extensive mailing list within their state. So we do a lot of webinars. I’ve only been here for a year, so I’ve been operating in the pandemic virtually. I also reach out to professional societies and try to get a speaking slot with their cohort, as well. Social media – you know, I’m working on an initiative to build up my social media network so that people will follow our LinkedIn page and our Twitter, and just to try to create awareness and elevate awareness about the program. SBA works at that, as well, too. SBA oversees all of the federal SBIR programs, and they do a lot of outreach programs, as well, that we participate in.

Justin Rickard:

SBA – small business...?

Eileen Chant:

Sorry, Small Business Association. And they run the site, which I mentioned during my talk. And you can go there and look at all 11 agencies, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, NIH, NSF, and find out if maybe you're a better fit with those programs. If you – we would love for you to apply to DOE, but if you think you're a better fit with another agency, go check out their programs.

Justin Rickard:

We're just at the top of the hour. How about one more question, one last question: What if there is no good fit with the DOE SBIR/STTR topics?

Eileen Chant:

Yeah, I mean, I talked about the different agencies. And I think it's important to mention that NSF will fund – they're not topic-focused; they will fund anything that they think is a good idea. And they are continually accepting pitch papers. And if they like your pitch paper, they will invite full proposals. So they're not fixated really on any topic. If it's not a good fit, you read the topics document. There are contacts in the topics document. And you can reach out to the topics managers and start a conversation with them about the topic. But you also can reach out to them and say, hey, I’m not a good fit here but this is my technology; is there any interest? Because you can receive funding from the DOE outside of SBIR. You also can suggest a topic, a future topic, to a topic manager. And then I also want to mention ARPA-e, which has a DOE SBIR/STTR program. We don't administer that program. And they are really kind of focused on highly disruptive technologies, technologies which are going to have a very big impact. But that's another SBIR program you can investigate.

Justin Rickard:

Thank you. OK, looks like we are definitely out of time. If you didn't get your question answered, you are welcome to send them to any of the speakers. Their email addresses are on their headshot slides at the beginning of their presentations. Or you can send to the general office email address on this slide here. For more webinars like this, and about other BETO-funded research, please sign up at the link at the bottom of the slide, bottom of the thank-you slide. And this webinar recording and slides will be posted on the BETO webinars page in a couple of weeks. And I’d like to thank Eileen Chant, Jasmine Bridges, and Liz Burrows for taking the time to speak to us today. Have a great rest of your day, everybody.

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