-- This prize program has concluded. See winners below. --

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The Catalyst Energy Innovation Prize is an open innovation program in the Energy Department’s (DOE) Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and aims to catalyze the rapid creation and development of products and solutions that address near-term challenges in the U.S. solar and energy efficiency marketplaces. Through a series of contests, Catalyst makes it faster and easier for American innovators to launch cutting-edge companies, while tackling time-sensitive market challenges. The program transfers business plans to energy startups with products in 90 days.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) founded the program in 2014 and partnered with DOE’s Building Technologies Office to expand it in 2015. Since its inception, SETO has helped hundreds of innovators bring mature solar solutions to the marketplace. Catalyst’s prize challenge framework introduces the business community to the vast array of tools, capabilities, data assets and additional resources developed by Energy Department and the national laboratories. Catalyst’s open, fast-paced innovation cycle allows crowd-sourced engagement and frequent partnerships with the nation’s growing networks of technology mentors, incubators, and accelerators.

The Catalyst Cycle

The Catalyst program consists of four steps with value awarded to all winning contestants totaling $1,000,000, including about $500,000 in cash prizes.

Step 1IdeationUp to 5$1,000 cash per winner
Step 2Business InnovationUp to 20$25,000 in services per winner
Step 3PrototypeUp to 20 finalistsAll finalists advance to Incubation
Step 4IncubationUp to 5Up to $100,000 prize package per winner
Step 1: Ideation

The ideation contest focuses on generating and aggregating pressing U.S. renewable and energy efficiency market needs and problem statements that can be solved through automation, algorithms, data, and software, especially by leveraging available data assets, tools, capabilities, and resources. Anyone can participate by submitting problem statements online or by voting on problem statements submissions from others. A contestant with a problem statement may win $1,000 in cash prizes when a team, who adopted this problem statement in their business solution, has been selected among top five winners by a panel of judges in accordance with the rules of the incubation contest.

Step 2: Business Innovation

The business innovation contest is designed to help teams form and explore business solutions to the most compelling problems identified during ideation. Anyone can participate by submitting a business plan package online, including a five-minute video describing the proposed business plan. Up to 20 winners will be given the opportunity to move forward in the Catalyst process and work directly with a crowd-centric performance-based software development platform to develop the product proposed in their business plan and to create minimum viable products (MVPs).

Step 3: Prototype

The prototype contest is designed to help business plan contest winners rapidly develop MVPs using Appiro’s Topcoder, crowd-centric performance-based software development platform with more than 800,000 designers and developers. During the contest, DOE provides each team with $25,000 worth of software development services over a 60-day period. Each team will formulate their requirements and scope of work for one MPV, working closely with software designers and developers while developing their business plans in preparation for Demo Day.

Step 4: Incubation

The Incubation contest is designed to help teams with MVPs start their businesses and accelerate offering new products and services in the solar marketplace. To win cash awards, teams will participate in a DOE-hosted Demo Day to showcase their MVPs, market entry execution strategy, and six-month growth plan. During Demo Day, teams will be evaluated by judges according to pre-established criteria. The top five winning teams will receive up to $100,000 in cash prizes.

Catalyst Jamathons

The Catalyst team hosted a series of Jamathons, a 4-hour session for ideation and pitch practice, in Austin, Chicago, Boston, New York City, Pittsburgh, San Francisco and Washington, DC to help potential business innovators craft their startup pitch submission prior to the Business Innovation contest deadline. 

Catalyst Demo Day

The Catalyst Energy Innovation Prize culminates in Demo Day, an event where finalists from the Prototyping contest pitch and demonstrate their products and business plans to a panel of judges. Judges then select up to five winners to receive cash prizes. SETO has hosted Demo Day events in Philadelphia and San Francisco with 36 finalists in two cohorts.  

Winners of the Catalyst Energy Innovation Prize Demo Day were chosen out of 19 finalist start-ups that demonstrated their energy software solutions in Philadelphia on December 10th.

Demo Day Winners

Cycle 2

SETO hosted Demo Day on December 10, 2015 for the second cohort of the Catalyst competition in Philadelphia. Teams from around the country pitched innovative solar energy and building technology focused software products to a panel of investors, entrepreneurs, and energy policy experts. Judges awarded approximately $700,000 in cash prizes to 7 of the 19 competing teams. Read more about the winners and their innovations.

Location: Boston, Massachusetts
Amount awarded: $100,000
Project: Sharing virtual net metered and community solar system solar production credits

Solar Merchant
Location: Lake Forest, California
Amount awarded: $80,000
Project: Tapping small commercial rooftop solar potential

Pick My Solar, SolarBook
Location: Los Angeles, California
Amount Awarded: $100,000
Project: Developing a one stop shop for information about residential solar  

Location: San Francisco, California
Amount Awarded: $80,000
Project: Using peer networks to better target solar marketing

Solar Land Solutions
Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Amount Awarded: $50,000
Project: Matching landowners and building owners with utility and community solar developers

Livable Analytics
Location: Berkeley, California
Amount Awarded: $50,000
Project: Understanding how energy-saving technologies and building performance impact occupant satisfaction

​Kinetic Buildings
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Amount Awarded: $100,000
Project: Developing low-cost automated diagnostics for commercial buildings

Cycle 1

Demo Day on May 14, 2015 in San Francisco culminated the first cycle of the Catalyst competition, where a cohort of 17 companies competed for $500,000 in cash prizes. After all the finalists demonstrated their innovations, the panel of judges selected five winners: Gridmates, PVComplete, Savenia Solar Ratings, Solar Site Design, and UtilityAPI. Read more about the winners and their innovations and watch them pitch the panel of judges.

Location: Austin, Texas
Amount Awarded: $80,000
Project: Leverages peer-to-peer energy sharing to combat energy poverty

Location: Oakland, California
Amount Awarded: $100,000
Project: Offers comprehensive solar project design software for solar salespeople that is compatible with the systems used by solar energy system engineers, roofers, and contractors

Savenia Solar Ratings
Location: Bethesda, Maryland
Amount Awarded: $30,000
Project: Quantifies the value of solar energy systems for homeowners and installers

Solar Site Design
Location: Nashville, Tennessee
Amount Awarded: $100,000
Project: Sells qualified solar energy development projects to solar equipment manufacturers, suppliers, engineering firms, and finance companies

Location: Oakland, California
Amount Awarded: $100,000
Project: Automates utility data acquisition for solar companies so they can accurately size solar energy systems for customers based on their previous electricity usage

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  • For media inquiries, please contact DOENews@hq.doe.gov and put Catalyst in the email subject line.