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DOE Seeks Clean Energy Entrepreneurs to Work at Three National Labs

October 31, 2007

Researchers at DOE's national laboratories may be experts in their field, but they may not be the ideal people to identify the business opportunities in their midst. With that in mind, DOE launched its new Entrepreneur in Residence Program on October 24th, calling for business people with start-up experience to spend up to one year working directly with technical management and staff at one of three national laboratories: the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, or Sandia National Laboratories. The main intent is to commercialize energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies, so each entrepreneur must be sponsored by an established venture capital firm that has at least $10 million in funds available for energy efficiency and renewable energy technology investment and has an overall fund size of at least $100 million. DOE plans to award grants of $100,000 to help support entrepreneurs in residence at each of the three national laboratories.

The new program seeks to identify promising laboratory technologies that, if commercialized, would contribute to the mission of DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Selected entrepreneurs will conduct technology assessments, evaluate market opportunities, formulate preliminary business cases, and propose business structures for start-up enterprises. The entrepreneurs could also recommend policy and business practice modifications that would help the national laboratories to commercialize their technologies. The entrepreneurs will be expected to sign a non-disclosure agreement to facilitate full access to lab personnel, inventions, and data, but they will also be granted a 180-day first right of refusal to license the identified technologies. To streamline the intellectual property negotiation, the solicitation includes a standard equity-share license agreement. Applications are due by December 21st. See the DOE press release and the funding opportunity notice on the Grants.gov Web site.