There are more effective ways for the government to boost U.S.-based innovation and manufacturing without tariffs. Example: The Department of Energy’s American Made Challenge Solar Prize competition is awarding $3 million in prizes as well as support from the DOE’s robust U.S.-based network to help build business plans, prototypes and funding sources for labs and innovators. Additional cash prizes are then awarded to the most viable concepts.
“What role does DOE want to have? To focus on early stage research and forge strong partnerships with the private sector,” said Elaine Ulrich, Senior Advisor, Solar Energy Technologies Office, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Department of Energy, at Intersolar 2018 in San Francisco last week. “We know this is the cornerstone of our success, so a new way we speed innovation is through prize competitions.”
And speed it, it does. This isn’t a laborious grant application process, but a series of contests. Record a 90 second video with a strong pitch and answer four questions: What’s the problem? What’s the solution? Who is on the team? What’s the plan?
How to win
Participants must identify an impactful solution that addresses critical challenges related to American solar competitiveness, create a proof of concept, and secure a committed partner to test a prototype. Competitors will also participate in demo days, where they will pitch their idea to a team of expert reviewers, who will evaluate competitors based on the quality of their solution and the progress made during the contest period.
The $3 million in funding from the DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) will be distributed through a series of three contests:
Ready! Contest (up to $50,000 prize per winner): Winners will be selected after identifying an impactful idea or solution addressing a critical need in America’s solar industry.
Set! Contest (up to $200,000 prize per winner): Competitors will work to substantially advance their technology solution toward a viable and promising proof of concept.
Go! Contest ($500,000 prize per winner): Competitors will work to substantially advance their solution from proof of concept to a refined prototype and find a partner to perform a pilot test of the prototype.
“Within six months, you could have $750,000 in cash and $150,000 in facility vouchers and tapped into a full network,” Ulrich said. “This is just the first, of hopefully many of these contests.”
Participants in this program can be entrepreneurial individuals, representatives of a company, university students or professors, small business owners, or researchers at a national laboratory, as long as they are based in the U.S. and have the desire to bring an impactful solution to advance U.S. solar competitiveness.
Quit reading this and send in your video. Deadline is Oct. 5.
— Solar Builder magazine