Launching a new venture in the solar and cleantech industries can be incredibly challenging for small business owners and entrepreneurs. Resources available through the U.S. Department of Energy, National Laboratories, nonprofit organizations, and other government agencies can help small businesses and entrepreneurs work through the steps necessary to develop and advance their solar technologies.

 

Where can I apply for funding to help move my innovation closer to market?

The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) has several recurring funding opportunities that focus on supporting small businesses:

  • The American-Made Solar Prize is a competition designed to support entrepreneurs as they develop transformative technology ideas into concepts and then into early-stage prototypes ready for industry testing.
  • The Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer (SBIR/STTR) programs provide awards to support research and development efforts at small businesses that have a specific scope of work and concrete objectives.
  • The Technology Commercialization Fund promotes federal research and development investments in technologies with commercial potential, where DOE National Laboratories are the lead applicants.
  • The Incubator Program provides financial assistance to for-profit entities to cross technological barriers to commercialization that the private investment community is unable to address, to develop and demonstrate new products with high likelihood of entering the market, and to encourage private sector investment in the process.

In addition to those programs, funding opportunities often include topics for for-profit entities focused on moving innovative ideas from the proof-of-concept stage to commercially relevant prototypes that will fill a void in the market. View all open funding opportunities with SETO.

Several other government funding sources for solar small businesses and entrepreneurs exist outside of SETO:

How can I leverage resources and funding from DOE’s National Laboratories?

There are several National Lab programs that can provide assistance to solar small businesses and entrepreneurs:

How can I work directly with National Lab researchers to improve my solar innovation?

There are several programs at our National labs that allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to work side-by-side with our country’s top researchers:

Where can I access clean rooms to conduct testing on my solar innovations?

  • The National Science Foundation’s National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure provides access to university facilities with cutting-edge fabrication and characterization tools, instrumentation, and expertise within all aspects of nanoscale science, engineering, and technology.
  • Washington Clean Energy Testbeds are operated by the University of Washington’s Clean Energy Institute and provide access to instruments for fabricating prototypes, testing devices and modules, and integrating systems.
  • The American-Made Network, which is part of DOE’s American-Made Challenges initiative, is designed to strengthen and scale critical connections to accelerate and sustain innovation. The network consists of the national labs, industry experts, and fabrication and manufacturing facilities that help teams competing in the Challenges to turn ideas into real-world products.

Where can I conduct outdoor field testing on my solar innovations?

  • DOE’s Regional Test Center (RTC) Program for Solar Technologies is a network of outdoor testing facilities located in the major climate regions of the United States where standards and guidelines are developed to validate the performance and operation of photovoltaic modules and systems under a variety of field conditions over time.
  • The Solar Technology Acceleration Center (SolarTAC) is a test facility for research, demonstration, testing, and validation of solar technologies at the early-commercial or near-commercial stage of development.
  • Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratories ensure that your products meet the safety requirements to enter the United States and are recognized by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
  • Pecan Street conducts data research and product testing in the energy, water, and transportation sectors, from startups to large corporations.
  • The American-Made Network, which is part of DOE’s American-Made Challenges initiative, is designed to strengthen and scale critical connections to accelerate and sustain innovation. The network consists of the national labs, industry experts, and fabrication and manufacturing facilities that help teams competing in the Challenges to turn ideas into real-world products.

Are there any organizations that can provide me with validation/certification that could potentially make my company or innovation more appealing for financing?

Where can I receive business or technical support as a new entrepreneur that will enable me to develop my idea and validate my research?

Where can I learn from examples or experiences of other solar energy entrepreneurs?

  • The American-Made Network, which is part of DOE’s American-Made Challenges initiative, is designed to strengthen and scale critical connections to accelerate and sustain innovation. The network consists of the national labs, industry experts, and fabrication and manufacturing facilities that help teams competing in the Challenges to turn ideas into real-world products.
  • DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E) developed the ARPA-E University webinar series available on YouTube that provides energy-technology professionals with expert advice and information to help transition technologies into the market.