Thirteen selected Direct Air Capture Pre-Commercial EPIC Prize “Think It” semifinalists will elevate direct air capture technology through entrepreneur and start-up support

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management (FECM) today announced 13 semifinalists to receive a total of $1.3 million for commercialization programs that support technologies to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) pollution by removing it directly from the atmosphere. Advancing developments in carbon dioxide removal, including direct air capture (DAC) technology, is imperative to attaining the Biden-Harris Administration’s historic climate and clean energy agenda. The DAC Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize is one of several prize competitions hosted by DOE and funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to support breakthrough direct air capture technologies that demonstrate strong potential to accelerate economic support and expand domestic carbon removal.

“To meet our net-zero ambitions, we must rapidly commercialize and scale carbon dioxide removal. That is why accelerating the direct air capture industry is so important,” said Brad Crabtree, Assistant Secretary of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management. “The DAC EPIC Prize “Think It” Phase winners have demonstrated a passion and expertise for assisting the transition of direct air capture technologies from an idea to a marketable product through design, industry networking, and business strategy support.”

Direct air capture is a process that separates CO2 from the air, helping to reduce the level of CO2 already in the atmosphere. The separated CO2 can then be safely and permanently stored deep underground or converted into useful carbon-containing products like concrete that prevent its release back into the atmosphere.

DAC Pre-Commercial EPIC Prize Semifinalists

The DAC EPIC Prize sponsors incubator teams that provide creative and impactful solutions that support entrepreneurs and innovators in the direct air capture space. Incubators and accelerators help break down barriers that innovators and entrepreneurs face when they develop new technology. From mentorship and networking to prototyping assistance and intellectual property management, incubators can accelerate economic development, strengthen innovation, and expand domestic carbon-removal technology development and manufacturing.

Learn more about the semi-finalist teams and their winning solutions:

  • Activate Global, Inc. — Berkeley CA: Layers new, targeted direct air capture programming into an existing entrepreneurial fellowship to support three to five new direct air capture startups yearly, including direct recruitment of diverse direct air capture founders leveraging generative artificial intelligence  and natural language modeling.
  • Impossible Labs, Inc. (Airminers) — San Mateo, CA: Kickstarts a DAC Pioneers program offering that gives direct air capture startups resources and DOE national laboratory partnerships with a focus on environmental justice, leveraging a network of more than 2,000 members that support carbon removal startups.
  • Black & Veatch Corp. (Black & Veatch +RTI International — IgniteX DAC Accelerator) - Overland Park, KS: Advances the development and commercialization of hard-tech direct air capture and carbon removal technologies, regardless of development stage, through access to expertise, a network of clients and partners, and mentorship.
  • Greentown Collaborative (Carbon 2 Value Initiative) — Houston, TX: Supports equity-driven direct air capture and carbon management technologies from innovation to deployment, enabling direct air capture startups to engage with the carbontech value chain.
  • NECEC Institute Inc. (Cleantech Open Northeast) — Somerville, MA: Helps innovators establish product-market fit and connect with experts who can accelerate technologies from lab to pilot through a 10-week program.
  • Trustees of Columbia University (Carbontech Development Initiative) — New York City, NY: Provides technology development grants and accelerator training to direct air capture innovators, emphasizing whole-team training rather than focusing on startup executives.  
  • Expanding Frontiers Corp. — Brownsville, TX: Empowers local entrepreneurs to tackle challenges through recruitment of both staffing, innovators, and subject matter experts with the goal of bringing up to five new innovations to the market in three years.
  • gener8tor Management LLC (gener8tor DAC Accelerator) — Chicago, IL: Will invest $100,000 per company in five direct air capture startups in the first year and guide them through the process with individualized coaching, mentorship, networking, and supporter access.
  • LabStart Innovations Inc. — Boulder, CO: Creates accessible pathways for entrepreneurs to bring direct air capture technology from national labs to market, including recruitment, assistance with funding, stipends, and industry resources.                                                 
  • Newlab LLC — Brooklyn, NY: Developed the DAC Slingshot Program to accelerate the development of direct air capture technologies by providing targeted and differentiated support and addressing barriers to formation and lab-to-pilot innovations.
  • OxiCool, Inc. (Radicle Development Center) — Malvern, PA:  Treats hardware development as a specialized skillset and matches physical infrastructure with an experienced team of engineers to catalyze the build out of promising direct air capture technology.
  • Tribuquent Corp. (TerraDAC Project) — Tulsa, OK: Advances direct air capture technologies with the purpose of fostering climate restoration and a sustainable future through research and development, funding, lab resources, community partnerships, and business development.
  • Campus Research Corp. (University of Arizona Center for Innovation) — Tucson, AZ: Supports direct air capture innovators by providing online training and expertise, connections, incubation programs, facilities, and resources.

The competition received many high-quality submissions, leading to the award of 13 semi-finalists instead of 12 as initially planned. This is a testament to incredible work that clean-tech incubators are doing to support carbon removal technologies.

Each semifinalist team will receive $100,000 in cash prizes and is eligible to advance to the “Move It” Phase of the prize competition to demonstrate momentum toward implementation of their solutions. “Move It” Phase winners will advance to the final “Prove It” Phase, where they are asked to demonstrate the success of their solution implementation and compete for a grand prize of $750,000 and runner-up prize of $250,000 in cash awards.

The DAC EPIC Prize is funded by FECM and administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The EPIC prize model was developed by the Office of Technology Transitions. The DAC EPIC Prize is part of a suite of separate but connected prizes to support direct air capture technology advancement with a focus on community and labor engagement, creating high-quality jobs, and providing economic and environmental benefits to affected communities. Learn more about the DAC Prizes suite.

The DAC Pre-Commercial Technology Prize is currently accepting submissions for innovative technology solutions to advance direct air capture systems. The submission deadline is September 26.

FECM minimizes environmental and climate impacts of fossil fuels and industrial processes while working to achieve net-zero emissions across our economy. Priority areas of technology work include carbon capture, carbon conversion, carbon dioxide removal, carbon dioxide transport and storage, hydrogen production with carbon management, methane emissions reduction, and critical minerals production. To learn more, visit the FECM websitesign up for FECM news announcements, and visit the National Energy Technology Laboratory website.