The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) developed the Seedlings and Saplings Program in Fiscal Year 2020 to explore innovative new research ideas in hydropower and marine energy. This program encourages U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory researchers to expand their research roadmaps and explore outside-of-the-box ideas in water power by allocating relatively small funding amounts to projects over a short time, thereby providing a low-risk and potentially high-reward opportunity.

To learn more about the WPTO Seedlings Program, watch the overview video.

Video Url
Water Power Technologies Office Webinar: Seedlings Program
U.S. Department of Energy

All projects under this funding opportunity begin as “seedlings,” eligible for up to $100,000 depending on the type of seedling. The type is determined based on feasibility and potential outcomes of proposed projects.

  • Phase I seedlings are eligible for up to $50,000 over a nine-month period with the same funding and time subsequently allotted for Phase II (if awarded).
  • Projects that bypass Phase I and II are known as full seedlings, and are eligible for $50,000 to $100,000 over a 12-month period.

Successful seedlings are eligible to continue their research as “sapling” projects, which are eligible for $250,000 to $500,000. Sapling projects build on the foundational research gathered in the seedling stage and focus on either R&D or commercialization. Both seedling and sapling projects are incredibly flexible, as research and funding can be redirected as circumstances change. The low-risk nature of this funding encourages researchers to take on ambitious projects in uncharted scientific territories. 

Learn more about WPTO’s funding opportunities.

Seedlings for Universities

WPTO also offers seedling programs to universities through various grants and funding opportunities.

  • WPTO and NSF Engineering Research Initiation Special Emphasis Areas: WPTO and the National Science Foundation (NSF) released a special funding focus on hydropower and marine energy for new science and engineering proposals. This solicitation aims to build engineering research capacity across the country by investing in new academic investigators who have yet to receive research funding from federal agencies.
  • WPTO and MSRDC Seed Grants for Marine Energy and Hydropower: WPTO and the Minority-Serving Institutions STEM Research and Development Consortium (MSRDC) released this $1.2 million funding opportunity to support promising, potentially high-impact water power research ideas from minority-serving colleges and universities.