Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently awarded 24 regional incubators and accelerators with the Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize. In the spirit of lifting others up, these semifinalists then nominated the best startup from their cohort for the EPIC Showcase. During this virtual pitch competition, we heard from the nation’s most promising energy entrepreneurs and handed out more than $150,000 in cash prizes.
Hosted by the Office of Technologies Transitions (OTT) in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and American-Made Challenges, the EPIC Showcase was truly the most epic cleantech pitch competition of the year. Twenty-four leading startups, hand-selected by the most innovative place-based incubators, gathered in front of a panel of three industry experts and more than 250 virtual attendees.
Each cleantech startup not only showcased their technology tackling a piece of the climate crisis, but also presented a business model to commercialize it, thereby ensuring a quick path-to-market. It was an inspiring day that highlighted how robust our regional energy innovation ecosystems really are.
The entrepreneurs were given five minutes to pitch and judged on six categories: Technology, Market Opportunity and Strategy, Business Model, Team, Investment Potential, and Overall Impression. They represented dozens of states from across the country and presented hard-tech solutions spanning residential, buildings, and agricultural sectors as well as innovations in maritime, solar, electric vehicles, and grid enhancements.
In partnership with the Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) and Office of Electricity (OE), and with input from a panel of reviewers, OTT named the top three startups and awarded more than $150,000 to those with the highest-potential hard-tech energy innovation. These companies represent the best of regional ingenuity and are poised to strengthen America's clean energy future while facilitating an equitable transition.
First Place: OMC Hydrogen – OMC Hydrogen uses heat from concentrating solar and renewable electricity along with low-cost, domestically common materials to simultaneously split both CO2 and water into syngas, which can be upgraded into many valuable fuels and chemicals. OMC Hydrogen won $50,000.
OMC Hydrogen was nominated by REACH Energy Accelerator, located in Fort Collins, Colo. and providing a dedicated accelerator to support founders at the nexus of food, energy, and water in the Rocky Mountains-Great Plains region. REACH also won $25,000.
Second Place: Argyle Earth – Argyle Earth is developing a system for converting low-temperature waste heat into electricity for less than $0.08 per kilowatt hour. Argyle Earth won $20,000.
Third Place: Mars Materials – Mars Materials is commercializing carbontech nitrilation, developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, to produce acrylonitrile from captured C02 biomass. Mars Materials won $10,000.
Solar Bonus Prize: Sol Clarity – The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) supports innovative hardware technologies that can improve the performance, affordability, reliability, and value of solar systems on the U.S. grid.
Sol Clarity’s technology automatically removes dust and improves the energy yield of solar panels without using water for cleaning. Sol Clarity clearly spoke to the progress and technology demonstration they have been able to conduct to date. Sol Clarity won $20,000 from SETO.
Sol Clarity was nominated by FORGE, located in Somerville, Mass and leveraging experts in residence with domain knowledge to provide additive, special manufacturing-focused support to start-ups. FORGE also won $10,000.
Grid Enhancing Technologies Bonus Prize: Gemini Energy Solutions – The Office of Electricity (OE) ensures that the American power grid is secure and resilient to disruptions and sought to award startups that strengthen, transform, and/or improve electricity infrastructure.
Gemini is creating opportunities for rural and disadvantaged communities by reducing the training required to perform investment grade energy audits and expanding jobs in low-income areas impacted by the energy transition. Gemini Energy Solutions won $20,000 from OE.
Gemini Energy Solutions was nominated by Green Power Ventures Accelerator, located in Austell, Ga. and supporting underestimated and overlooked founders to provide solutions for the built-environment in disadvantaged communities. Green Power Ventures Accelerator also won $10,000.
The EPIC Prize will narrow the field of semifinalists from 24 to 10 in mid-April, following the conclusion of the Move It! phase. As the second of three phases wraps up, we’ll get an update on how these incubators and accelerators have implemented their innovative, place-based plans supporting energy entrepreneurs over the last three months.
The American-Made program fast-tracks innovation through prizes, training, teaming, and mentoring, connecting the nation's entrepreneurs and innovators to America's national labs and the private sector. Teams competing in the EPIC Prize Round 2 will have access to the American-Made Network, which provides mentoring, tools, resources, and support to accelerate the transition of ideas into real-world solutions to achieve clean energy goals.
The EPIC Prize is administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and is part of the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Technology Transitions Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) program that provides funds and support to place-based incubators to encourage the robust growth of regional energy innovation ecosystems across the United States. NREL is the Prize Administrator for this prize. In this role, NREL will disburse prize funds upon receipt from DOE. Email email@example.com with any questions.