The commercialization of complex science and energy technologies requires hefty capital investment, access to world-leading scientific tools and facilities and lengthy development timescales beyond the typical software start-up and venture capital models. To help entrepreneurs bridge this commercialization valley of death, CRI will support cutting-edge innovators to work on early-stage technologies that can deliver game-changing impact to the energy industry.
Selected innovators will benefit from up to a two-year engagement, including a fellowship, seed funding for technical collaboration with the laboratory, access to space at Argonne, guidance in using the R&D tools and expertise housed there and connections to the Midwest's rich network of business mentors and investors.
CRI is one of EERE's Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programmes (LEEP), sponsored by EERE's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO). LEEP, which is modelled on a successful pilot project between AMO and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) called Cyclotron Road, provides innovators the mentorship and technical support needed to advance challenging science and clean energy technologies to the proof-of-concept stage where they can launch into the marketplace. Embedding innovators in the national laboratory environment, with unparalleled R&D infrastructure and world-class technical expertise, allows innovators to build technologies that are otherwise too early or uncertain for venture capital to support.
"Clean energy is this generation's defining opportunity", stated Dr. David Danielson, assistant secretary for EERE. "It has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people worldwide and forever change the way we live."
"But our most promising innovators face significant challenges in getting the resources and support they need to create cutting-edge clean energy startups, especially when it comes to developing physical science based technologies. They increasingly are choosing to create software start-ups or direct their talents elsewhere. If we don't rally behind them as a nation, I fear we risk a 'lost generation' of early-stage clean energy technology entrepreneurs. With this initiative, we are giving our best and brightest the support needed to tackle our nation's greatest energy challenges and change the world."
Launching CRI at Argonne enables startups to leverage the unique collection of manufacturing hubs, Fortune 500 companies, research universities and innovation incubators and accelerators found in Chicago and the surrounding states.
"This launch of Chain Reaction Innovations should rally local innovators to pull together their boldest vision and greatest dreams", stated AMO Director Mark Johnson. "A similar programme called Cyclotron Road has had tremendous success at Berkeley National Laboratory in growing energy-focused start-ups and leveraging national laboratory expertise. We expect to transplant that same success to the Midwest because Argonne is a tremendous resource to be unlocked for would-be entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams in accelerating the creation of transformative products focused on energy, manufacturing and sustainability."
"Argonne and Chicago sit at the heart of one of our nation's greatest concentrations of research institutions, an industrial base that is driving clean tech and advanced manufacturing and a population that embraces innovation", stated Argonne Laboratory Director Peter Littlewood. "This is a fertile ecosystem in which to grow the nation's next game-changing energy or material-based technology."
Chain Reaction Innovations will provide innovators access to Argonne's deep network of 1,400 multidisciplinary researchers and engineers as well as unique tools, including the Mira supercomputer and the nation's highest-energy X-ray source, the Advanced Photon Source. Through a partnership with mentor organisations, CRI participants will also receive assistance with developing business strategies, conducting market research and finding long-term financing and commercial partners.
Interested innovators should sign up starting at the Chain Reaction Innovations web page to be notified when the application process opens later this summer.