Office of Technology Transitions prize event awards over $160,000 and generates optimism for the nation’s clean energy transition 

On July 11, 2023, eight cutting-edge clean tech startups pitched their innovative ideas to a panel of reviewers for a chance to win up to $100,000 in cash prizes at the Small Business Forum & Expo hosted by the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSBDU) in New Orleans, Louisiana. Each team was nominated by incubators for the second phase of the Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize program, a $4 million competition that awards cash prizes to the top clean-tech incubators across the nation. 

The teams had five minutes to present their technology, market opportunity and strategy, business model, and team to a panel of four reviewers and an audience of over 1,000 professionals.  

“The EPIC pitch competition is invaluable for participating businesses to gain exposure, connect with potential investors or partners, receive expert feedback, and potentially earn funding to further their ventures,” said Katherine Harasanyi, OTT EPIC Prize Program Manager.  

The EPIC Prize is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Technology Transitions (OTT), which is responsible for developing and overseeing delivery of DOE's strategic vision and goals for technology commercialization and engagement with the business and industrial sectors across the United States. OTT works to catalyze high-impact clean energy technology development and ultimately deploy those technologies into the private sector for use by American consumers and businesses. 

Stefan Streckfus presenting the OTT EPIC Pitch Competition.
Stefan Streckfus, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Renewell Energy, pitching to the reviewers and audience. Photo by Leo Boczar

The audience listened intently to the pitches on day one of the two-day event. Jacob Kumpton, participating startup and founder of KLAW Industries, noted the value in hearing competing pitches. “Listening to the other teams' pitches, we [KLAW Industries] gained valuable knowledge about the adversities they face and their creative solutions to overcoming many of the same challenges we face today.” 

Chern-Hooi Lim, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of New Iridium, pitching to the reviewers and audience. Photo by Leo Boczar
Chern-Hooi Lim, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of New Iridium, pitching to the reviewers and audience. Photo by Leo Boczar

Presentations from the eight promising technologies filled the room with inspiration and an positive outlook towards a successful clean energy transition. “There are real reasons to be optimistic about our fight against climate change. Talent from across the country are working on amazing technology in many sectors,” said Matt Maroon, Chief Executive Officer at C-Motive Technologies. “I was in awe of my fellow startup presenters and am inspired by the breadth of DOE’s innovative focus areas to meet our nation’s decarbonization goals. And it will take all of us,” added Vince Wong, at ElectricFish Cofounder and Chief Operating Officer. 

The Small Business Forum & Expo hosted by OSBDU brought together small businesses, investors, and industry experts. Steven Chung, Rejoule Cofounder noted, “The pitch competition's audience was particularly meaningful. Participating in the event provided me with the chance to establish connections and engage in conversations about the battery waste issue in the electric vehicle industry. That's powerful.” 

DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of OTT Dr. Vanessa Z. Chan speaking during her keynote speech. Photo by Leo Boczar
DOE Chief Commercialization Officer and Director of OTT Dr. Vanessa Z. Chan speaking during her keynote speech. Photo by Leo Boczar

In addition to the groundbreaking pitches, the audience heard speeches from Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, OSBDU Director Ron Pierce, OTT Director Dr. Vanessa Chan, OTT Deputy Director for Commercialization Programs Victor Kane, and American-Made Challenges Prize Lead Eli Cain from NREL.

"As a small business, the EPIC competition provided SUPERClean Glass with an unparalleled networking opportunity to discover new customers, alternative markets and directly interface with potential investors. It has taken herculean efforts to launch our high technology startup company but with the tremendous foresight and supports that leaders like Secretary Granholm and her staff at our Department of Energy have provided to us the roadblocks appear a lot smaller now," said Jim Smith Vice President for Business and Technology Development at SUPERClean Glass.

EPIC Pitch Competition winners, other competitors, and event organizers alongside Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm and Officer and Director of OTT Dr. Vanessa Z. Chan on the stage in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Leo Boczar
EPIC Pitch Competition winners, other competitors, and event organizers alongside Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm and Officer and Director of OTT Dr. Vanessa Z. Chan on the stage in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo by Leo Boczar

The following day, Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, alongside OTT Director Dr. Vanessa Chan and OTT EPIC Prize Program Manager Katherine Harasanyi, awarded five winning startups.

  • First Place: KLAW Industries, $100,000
  • Second Place: Renewell Energy, $40,000
  • Third Place: C-Motive Technologies, Inc. $20,000
  • Fourth Place: ReJoule, $5,000
  • Fifth Place: Plantd, $3,500

Additionally, Koffman Southern Tier Incubator, which entered the first-place winner into the competition, received a cash prize of $25,000 for nominating KLAW Industries.

Upon the announcement of prizes, the energy in the room was palpable. The crowd stood with applause in support of each team. “It was heartening to see this level of excitement for clean energy technologies,” said Victor Kane, OTT’s Deputy Director for Commercialization Programs. “The participating teams exhibited creative and incredibly impactful business plans.”

See the winners’ announcement here: Trailblazers of Clean Tech: Announcing the Winners of the Second EPIC Pitch Competition.

Up next, the EPIC Prize is currently in Phase 3: Prove It, where ten incubator finalists will have to prove their program was a success and provide documentation that the program can replicate and scale. The EPIC Prize Round 2 will wrap up in Fall 2023 with up to four winners receiving $500,000 each.

The EPIC Prize is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) through American-Made Challenges. To learn more about EPIC and other DOE prizes, visit www.americanmadechallenges.org.

Meet the eight participating teams:

C-Motive Technologies, Inc.: C-Motive is commercializing a sustainable, high-efficiency electrostatic motor to decarbonize industrial and e-mobility applications. Based out of Middleton, WI, their innovative motors and generators offer modular, scalable, and customizable solutions with lower environmental impact, reduced carbon emissions, and a diverse regional supply chain.

ElectricFish: ElectricFish is building resilient energy infrastructure for communities. Their networked energy storage solutions enable fast electric vehicle charging, providing up to 170 miles of range in just 10 minutes using renewable energy. Using a data-powered approach and proprietary AI model, they identify vulnerable grid locations to maximize resilience impact, while their energy storage devices act as flexible resources, preventing grid congestion and providing backup power as needed.

Klaw Industries (Binghamton, NY): KLAW Industries developed Pantheon™, a high-quality, partial cement replacement made from post-consumer glass. By adding additional crystal structures to concrete, Pantheon™ strengthens it and allows concrete producers to reduce cement content, saving costs and lowering carbon emissions. Klaw Industries aims to provide material solutions that benefit the concrete and recycling industries while helping to combat carbon emissions.

New Iridium (Boulder, CO): New Iridium is decarbonizing the chemical industry through their light-driven photocatalysis technology. By efficiently upcycling CO2 and combining it with alternative feedstocks, they produce green, lower-cost versions of commodity chemicals while significantly reducing carbon emissions from chemical manufacturing.

Plantd (Durham, North Carolina): Plantd is providing carbon-negative materials for new homes and buildings. By harnessing the power of perennial grass and innovative manufacturing techniques, they are creating stronger, lighter, and more affordable building panels that lock away CO2.

ReJoule (Signal Hill, CA): ReJoule is supporting the all-electric revolution by maximizing the value of batteries. Their technology enables speedy and accurate diagnostics of battery health, making it easier for automakers to monitor and repurpose batteries to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

Renewell Energy (Bakersfield, CA & Houston, TX): Renewell Energy’s technology can repurpose inactive oil wells and convert them into a renewable energy storage network, which addresses environmental hazards, reduces costs, and creates long-term revenue for well owners. With their patented process, they are transforming oil and gas liabilities into renewable energy assets, contributing to sustainability and economic benefit.

Superclean Glass Inc. (Stony Brook, New York): Superclean Glass Inc.’s waterless, self-cleaning technology removes dust from solar panels (which reduces energy output) and regains up to 95% of lost energy, addressing the inefficiencies, expenses, and sustainability concerns associated with manual labor and water-based cleaning methods. Their solution is focused on utility-scale solar installations in desert regions, saving significant energy costs and conserving billions of gallons of potable water over the panels’ lifetime.

Bonus prize winner:

Koffman Southern Tier Incubator (Binghamton, New York): Koffman Southern Tier Incubator is the incubator that entered the first-place winner, KLAW Industries. Koffman Southern Tier Incubator serves as a hub for start-ups in the region, while providing working areas, mentorship, and resources that inspire individuals and companies to create and develop transformational products.