The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) today announced an Energy I-Corps fiscal year 2023 (FY2023) call for proposals from DOE National Laboratories and Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs). The goal of the Energy I-Corps program is to train National Laboratories and FFRDCs to advance energy-related technologies toward commercialization.

Read the solicitation on OTT – Exchange.

OTT expects to award at least $500,000 across three topics in this first instance of the updated Energy I-Corps lab-call structure. However, additional funding may be available based on proposals alignment with OTT and partner office goals.

This solicitation seeks to encourage the participation of underserved communities and underrepresented groups. Applicants are highly encouraged to include individuals from groups which are historically underrepresented in STEM on their project teams. All applicants are required to reference, if available, their existing laboratory DEIA plan and describe how diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility objectives will be incorporated into proposed projects.

DOE expects to select EIC projects from DOE National Labs and FFRDCs in the following three topics:

Topic 1 - EIC Pipeline Development

Topic 1 seeks proposals from national laboratories and FFRDCs for projects and programming that have the potential to directly increase participation in subsequent EIC Training Cohorts. Successful projects will be able to demonstrate how the funded activity leads to increased EIC Training Cohort applications. Examples of Topic 1 projects include:

  • Funding interns to work directly with PIs to develop EIC applications
  • Interviewing EIC alumni, analyzing the chain of events that led alumni to apply to EIC, and running a pilot to try to recreate the experience for other primary investigators (PIs)
  • Hosting or participating in a low cost, lighter lift entrepreneurial program geared towards recruiting for subsequent EIC training cohorts

Examples of activities that would not be well suited for Topic 1 because they do not directly lead to increased EIC Training Cohort (Topic 2) applications include:

  • General trainings on a specific component of the commercialization process such as intellectual property protection
  • General talks or lunch-and-learns about the commercialization process 

Individual projects under Topic 1 will be considered up to a total $100k per laboratory.

Topic 2 - EIC Cohort 17

This topic seeks team applications to participate in EIC Cohort 17 and will follow a similar application structure and process to previous lab calls. Selected teams of researchers and industry mentors will participate in an intensive, 8-10 week curriculum-based program, to understand market awareness and learn about market pathways for their technology.

Each selected team will be provided $80,000 to support their participation in the training. Historically, DOE program offices have been interested in supporting high potential teams going through the training. 

Topic 3 - Post EIC

This topic provides an opportunity to fund a small subset of the most promising EIC Training Cohort (Topic 2) graduates that have a high likelihood of commercializing their technology. The funds are not meant to support the teams’ full commercialization effort. Instead, the funds are intended to cover costs of the next actionable step in technology commercialization and facilitate the teams in reaching their next source of more substantive support to continue their commercialization journey.

OTT is expecting to make a limited number of awards and is seeking a unique type of application. Only teams or individuals who have previously participated in the EIC cohort training (Topic 2 for this lab call) are eligible to apply for this topic. The ideal applicant will have identified a clear discrete next step and a modest amount of resources to achieve an outcome that is needed to get to that next step, and have a credible chance of achieving success if funded. In addition, if successful, this funding should unlock the potential for much larger public or private funding sources to continue the commercialization process. Applications that do not align with the above goals are not suitable for this topic. Projects will be considered up to $100,000 in funding. Applications will also be shared with relevant program offices for their consideration.  

Questions can be directed to the following email: DOE will not respond to questions about the solicitation except from eligible entities. Eligible entities to EIC are DOE’s National Labs and FFRDCs.