Washington, D.C. – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has named the semifinalists in the American-Made Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize Round 2. Twenty-four incubators and accelerators across the country were each awarded $50,000 in cash prizes for their high-impact ideas that support energy start-ups and entrepreneurs. 

The three-phase, year-long competition was designed by DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) to support robust energy innovation ecosystems as a means of increasing local business productivity, improving the commercial success of start-ups, and driving the pace of regional innovation. 

“OTT recognizes that start-ups, particularly in energy-related sectors, often require a variety of services beyond capital access, including mentorship, technology validation, business development, and connections to manufacturers. As such, we are excited to support these awardees who are amplifying the potential impact of energy start-ups,” said Dr. Vanessa Z. Chan, DOE’s Chief Commercialization Officer and director of OTT.

EPIC Prize applicants included incubators that aid in the development of new ventures, business accelerators, coworking start-up communities, and other organizations that advocate for entrepreneurship and innovation. They were divided into two categories: New/Emerging and Established, to create a more level playing field. 

Each team was asked to design a plan that proposed new programming in support of hard-tech start-up creation focusing on building regional partnerships with measurable, time-bound success metrics. OTT received a strong field of submissions that harnessed regional ingenuity and resources by designing innovative, place-based plans supporting energy entrepreneurs. 


The semifinalists were chosen because they each demonstrated a commitment to supporting local energy start-ups, often focusing on diverse and underrepresented entrepreneurs. By centering benefits to disadvantaged or underserved communities, accelerators and incubators can drive significant impact for those often most affected by climate change. 

Map of semifinalists for EPIC Prize Round 2, Phase 1

These competitors represent a wide range of geographies, from Appalachia to Silicon Valley, and technology focus areas including the built environment, storage, food security, manufacturing, solar, nuclear, workforce training, the blue economy, wind, carbon reduction, and more.


1. Accelerating the Underestimated and the Overlooked (Austell, Ga.) – GPV Solutions is supporting underestimated and overlooked founders to provide solutions for the built-environment in disadvantaged communities through a pilot program at Florida Memorial University. Get to know this semifinalist.

2. BlueSwell – Broadening Blue Entrepreneurship (Cambridge, Mass.) – BlueSwell is developing an incubator program that supports blue technology entrepreneurs with a more diverse audience of potential founders in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Get to know this semifinalist.

3. ClimateHaven: A New Haven for New Innovation (New Haven, Conn.) – ClimateHaven is leveraging regional strengths in manufacturing and scientific research in southern Connecticut to incubate new hard-tech focused ventures. Get to know this semifinalist.

4. Connecting Climatetech & Community through Pilots (Burlington, Vt.) – IoT Conduit’s Technology Partner Program supports entrepreneurs through pilot demonstrations of their technology in a living lab in Vermont. Get to know this semifinalist.

5. Imani Works’ Hard-Tech Community Incubator (Chicago, Ill.) – Imani Works is supporting African-American entrepreneurs to ensure that green hard-tech manufacturing is located in disadvantaged communities in Chicago. Get to know this semifinalist.

6. LabStart: Accessibility to Lab IP Entrepreneurship (Golden, Colo.) – LabStart is helping diverse engineers launch clean energy start-ups based on technology from DOE National Laboratories. Get to know this semifinalist.

7. Low-Carbon Mass Deployment Accelerator (Charleston, W.Va.) – Leveraging Appalachia’s skilled workforce and infrastructure, ADL Ventures and their partners are developing a low-carbon mass deployment accelerator for construction hard-tech innovation. Get to know this semifinalist.

8. Positive Deviancy’s Embryia Solar Accelerator (Sterling, Va.) – Positive Deviancy’s Embryia Solar Accelerator Program supports early stage solar hard-tech entrepreneurs across the United States. Get to know this semifinalist.

9. REACHing Energy, Food, & Water Ventures (Fort Collins, Colo.) – REACH is providing a dedicated accelerator to support founders at the nexus of food, energy, and water in the Rocky Mountains Great Plains region. Get to know this semifinalist.

10. Xcelerating Black Building Tech Startups (Portland, Ore.) – Northwest Xcelerator and its partners are supporting black and underserved entrepreneurs in the creating of energy-related building technology start-ups in Oregon. Get to know this semifinalist.


11. Black and Veatch’s IgniteX Climate Tech Accelerator (Overland Park, Kan.) – Black & Veatch is accelerating hard-technologies capable of significant carbon reduction and increased diversity in the energy innovation ecosystem. Get to know this semifinalist.

12. Clean Energy Technology Transfer (Stony Brook, N.Y.) – This program is coordinating energy-relevant hard-tech IP portfolio development across National Labs and universities. Get to know this semifinalist.

13. Energizing the Blue Economy (San Pedro, Calif.) – Braid Theory’s program engages entrepreneurs with industry to advance marine energy and blue economy solutions into the market. Get to know this semifinalist.

14. Energy and Mobility Innovation in Detroit (Hadley, Mass. and Detroit, Mich.) – VentureWell is parting with TechTown Detroit to support hard-tech start-ups in business model and financial model validation. Get to know this semifinalist.

15. Manufacturing Expertise-In-Residence (Somerville, Mass.) – FORGE will leverage experts in residence with domain knowledge to provide additive, special manufacturing-focused support to start-ups. Get to know this semifinalist.

16. New Energy New York Charge Up (Binghamton, N.Y.) – The Koffman Incubator is delivering a complementary bootcamp and microgrant program to address major gap areas for energy storage startups. Get to know this semifinalist.

17. PowerNorth Incubator (Minneapolis, Minn.) – Grid Catalyst is matching energy start-ups with regional corporate partnerships for product refinement and accelerated market entry specifically around cold climate challenges. Get to know this semifinalist.

18. Scalable Energy Testbed Project (La Cruces, N.M.) – The Arrowhead Center at New Mexico State University is establishing a utility-scale testbed for solar, wind, and geothermal technologies. Get to know this semifinalist.

19. Structured Sales Support Program (Chicago, Ill.) – Evergreen Climate Innovations is providing sales training to diverse founders, addressing the lack of training and resources in this space that is common with energy hard tech founders. Get to know this semifinalist.

20. Transportation Energy Nexus Innovation Program (Los Angeles, Calif.) –This Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator program supports start-ups with combined hardware and software systems that deliver integrated solar, storage, and charging solutions. Get to know this semifinalist.

Bonus Prizes

In addition to the $1 million in Core Incubator Prize funding, OTT partnered with five DOE program offices to offer an additional $300,000 in technology-specific bonus prizes. The following incubators each received $50,000 for supporting start-ups in water power, buildings technologies, solar, wind, and nuclear energy.

Founder Mentorship Program (Miami, Fla.) – Water Power

The Water Power Technologies Office (WPTO) is committed to developing and deploying a portfolio of innovative technologies for clean, domestic power generation from resources such as hydropower, waves, and tides. 

The Seaworthy Foundation is supporting diverse early-stage start-ups working in global ocean and climate startups. Its activities enabling entrepreneurship in the blue economy are noteworthy and will accelerate company growth by supporting commercialization of water power technologies while increasing connectivity and collaboration between relevant stakeholders. Get to know this semifinalist.

Low-Carbon Mass Deployment Accelerator (Charleston, W.Va.) – Buildings Technologies

Xcelerating Black Building Tech Startups (Portland, Ore.) – Buildings Technologies

The Building Technologies Office (BTO) focuses on developing innovative technologies that advance energy and carbon reduction, high-efficiency operation, and smart systematic control of the built environment while enabling grid interactivity and interoperability.

Both BTO bonus prize winners have deep expertise in the buildings space and are located in regions that have strong potential to advance the construction industry while addressing the needs of local low- to moderate-income communities. They are poised to achieve significant improvements in the built environment by addressing specific commercial barriers across a wide range of building technologies and engaging with diverse set of innovators to develop holistic and targeted solutions.

Regional Innovation Start-Up Studio (Surprise, Ariz.) – Solar Energy

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 and to tackle emerging challenges in the solar industry.

Pegasus Technology is building a start-up studio that helps build new solar hard-tech companies from research conducted at university labs. Their start-up studio model is an effective way to connect researchers who are developing innovative technologies with experienced entrepreneurs and help rapidly develop the start-up with fewer setbacks caused from inexperience founders. Get to know this semifinalist.

ARIEL Offshore Energy Innovation Program (Norfolk, Va.) – Wind Energy

The Wind Energy Technologies Office (WETO) enables the innovations needed to advance U.S. wind systems, reduce the cost of electricity, and accelerate the deployment of wind power.

Through the ARIEL program, OpenSeas Technology Innovation Hub is creating a dedicated program aimed at renewable ocean energy, starting with offshore wind. Get to know this semifinalist.

SPARK Virginia (Ashland, Va.) – Nuclear Energy

The Office of Nuclear Energy (NE) mission is to advance nuclear energy science and technology to meet U.S. energy, environmental, and economic needs.

Dominion Energy Innovation Center is making it safer and easier to build, generate, transmit, and consume nuclear and hydrogen energy in Virginia and beyond. Get to know this semifinalist.

Coming Up

Next, the 24 semifinalists will have four months to implement their proposed program in Phase 2 of the competition. Ten finalists will each be awarded $100,000 and move on to the final phase. Teams in Phase 3 will be tasked with demonstrating success in their planned goals. 

Stay tuned to our American-Made Challenge page for updates. 

Start-Up Pitch Competition

The next phase of the EPIC Prize also offers a national pitch competition where $80,000 in cash prizes will be awarded to start-ups across the country. Semifinalists from the first phase will nominate worthy start-ups from their region that are focused on hard-tech development. These start-ups will pitch their business idea and compete by demonstrating a clear understanding of their technology, the market, and the business model to commercialize. 

OTT's EPIC Prize Start-up Pitch Competition

This is a great opportunity for incubators and accelerators to elevate their most promising partners and identify them as one of the nation’s best energy related start-ups.

Start-ups that are solely software or a business model innovation without being part of a hard-tech package are not eligible.

Learn More

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 OTT's broader 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 epicprize@nrel.gov with any questions.