If you have an innovative but risky solar energy research idea, you’ve come to the right place! The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) just opened another round of its annual Small Innovative Projects in Solar (SIPS) funding opportunity, which will provide up to $6.5 million to support targeted, early-stage ideas in solar energy research.
SIPS is one of SETO’s most open-ended funding opportunities: Nearly any idea in photovoltaics (PV) or concentrating solar-thermal power (CSP) is eligible for a SIPS award, with amounts ranging from $250,000 to $400,000.
Rohini Bala Chandran, Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, had her CSP research idea funded by the SIPS program in 2021. She says the opportunity helped her “establish a rich network of fellow researchers from university, national labs, and industry working under the large umbrella of SETO” and “get a sense for future funding priorities within and outside of SETO.”
SIPS awards have a fast turnaround—achieving results within the first year of performance—and can be used to quickly validate novel concepts, laying the foundation for continued research and follow-on funding.
Julia Hsu, Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at University of Texas at Dallas, received a PV SIPS award in 2018. Building on the success of that project, she applied and was selected for an award through the SETO 2020 Perovskite Funding Program.
“I learned a lot through the SIPS project on managing the milestones, deliverables, and both technical and financial reporting. This built my confidence in applying for a regular SETO grant,” said Hsu. “The scope of this project is technically much more challenging and complex, and the funding amount is substantially larger.”
SIPS has an easier, more streamlined application process ideal for early-career researchers or those who are new to SETO funding. These awards also have no cost share for most applicants, which means they are 100% funded by DOE with no cost commitments required from the researchers.
Heayoung Yoon, Associate Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Utah, received a PV SIPS award in 2019. “The SIPS funding was crucial in the early stages of my academic career. As an assistant professor starting a new laboratory, SIPS funding provided the necessary resources to establish my lab,” said Yoon. “This support also helped my career development and subsequent promotion to associate professor.”
Not ready to apply yet? SIPS is an annual SETO program that’s been running since 2015, so we’ll be here this time next year when your idea is ready to hit the ground running.
If you’re curious about the types of projects selected for SIPS awards, read about the 24 newly selected SIPS projects that received $7.8M in funding. Of the 24 recipients, 10 are first-time lead researchers on a SETO-funded project.