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Non-Proprietary Partnering Opportunities for Photovoltaic Research

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), with funding from the Department of Energy (DOE), is actively pursuing collaborative research that will enable cost-competitive photovoltaic (PV) generation of electricity by 2020. This objective is achieved, in part, through non-proprietary partnering opportunities (NPOs) that enable collaborative research between NREL and the PV community to advance and publish scientific understanding in critical areas of PV technology development.

NPO projects initially focused on enabling collaboration between the National Center for Photovoltaics (NCPV) Measurement and Characterization (M&C) team and the wider PV community. The NCPV, however, is launching a selective pilot program to expand the available capabilities to include PV resources across NREL, in addition to M&C.

Following the general guidelines below, NPOs:

  • Are available to all U.S.-based industry and university partners interested in non-proprietary collaborative research that will advance DOE SunShot Initiative goals

  • Are selected based on a merit review of the proposed work

  • Must result in publishable work that advances the PV community's scientific understanding in PV-related research areas

  • Are limited in scope to technical PV research efforts that involve NREL's PV expertise

  • Allow travel and temporary housing support for a graduate student or postdoc to work alongside NREL PV researchers during the project.

The primary goal of these NPOs is to strengthen the U.S. PV community by leveraging NREL PV expertise to collaboratively advance the scientific understanding of PV technologies. A defining aspect of these NPO partnerships is the requirement that the partnering entity work together with the NREL researchers to generate an impactful scientific publication of interest to the PV community at-large.

To achieve this purpose, NPOs must focus on activities that address one or more of the following objectives:

  • Increase PV cell and module efficiency, reduce costs, and/or improve reliability

  • Develop the scientific knowledge-base required to advance PV technologies

  • Accelerate PV technology maturation and commercialization.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Any U.S. business or university may apply.
  • A principal investigator (PI) should limit his or her submissions to one proposal for each NPO selection cycle.
  • If a business, or a research group at a university, has an existing NPO project, another project will not be selected from the same business or research group while the existing project is under way. However, the business or research group can submit an NPO proposal if the start date for the new project follows the anticipated completion date of the existing project.

Application Process

Proposals must adhere to the general proposal requirements listed below and the specific proposal template requirements. Proposals can be submitted at any time and are evaluated quarterly. Specific upcoming deadlines and evaluation dates are contained in the table at the bottom of this page.

Proposal Requirements

  • All NPO responders must prepare a proposal that adheres to the template requirements contained in the NPO Request for Proposals.
  • Responders are required to work with NREL PV personnel to determine what capabilities are available and to discuss the scope of potential NPO projects.
  • Any graduate student or postdoc that desires to participate in on-site collaborative research with NREL's PV researchers must identify a NREL PV researcher to mentor the proposed work and obtain a letter of support from the identified mentor.
  • It is the responsibility of the responder to write the NPO proposal.
  • All proposals must include the acceptance Cover Letter (see the last two pages of the NPO Request for Proposals) signed by the PI and an authorized budget official of the responder's organization. These signatures acknowledge the NPO responder's acceptance of the NPO collaborative research requirements detailed within the acceptance cover letter.
  • Proposals should be limited to a maximum of 8 pages (this page limit does not include the NPO cover letter, references, resumes or student/postdoc-related documentation, if applicable).
  • The proposed duration of the NPO collaborative research is restricted to 3–12 months.

If you have questions about the PV Non-Proprietary Partnering Opportunity program or the proposal process, please contact the NCPV Business Manager Kaitlyn VanSant.

Evaluation Criteria

Successful proposals will emphasize how the proposed collaborative research will utilize NREL PV expertise and capabilities to investigate innovative solutions to the most critical technical problems currently confronting the PV community. Proposals will be evaluated according to the following criteria, which are equally weighted and scored as Excellent, Good, Fair, or Poor.

  1. Scientific merit:
    • Does the proposed collaborative research fit under one of the critical areas of PV technology development that warrants further investigation?
  2. Work plan:
    • Is the proposed project technically feasible in terms of the conceptual framework, specific aims, study design, methodology, and data analysis?
  3. Potential impact:
    • How does the proposal aim to achieve PV cost reductions in line with DOE SunShot goals?
    • How does the project advance the scientific community's understanding of PV technology?
  4. Project resources:
    • Will the proposed research team provide the full range of capabilities needed to execute the project effectively?
    • Does the proposed project align with NREL PV capabilities and expertise?
    • What is the likelihood that the company's resources will be sufficient to achieve the proposed research objectives?
  5. Graduate student or postdoc involvement (if applicable):
    • What is the value that the student/postdoc provides to the proposed research project?
    • What is the extent to which student's or postdoc's skills complement the expertise of NREL's in-house researchers?
  6. Probability that proposed collaborative research will lead to impactful publishable results.

In the event that the resources required for a highly-rated proposal are not immediately available, we will work with the responder to develop a suitable plan for how to proceed (e.g. delaying the start date or restructuring the research plan to accommodate resource availability).

Timeline for Proposal Selection

Proposals can be submitted at any time and are evaluated quarterly. The proposed duration of the NPO collaborative research is restricted to 3–12 months. Award announcement is scheduled for three weeks after the posted proposal due date. NREL anticipates awarding 2–4 NPO projects for each round, depending on the availability of funds and resources.

2014/2015 Proposal DeadlineFor Project Initiation by:
July 15, 2014August 5, 2014
October 31, 2014 November 21, 2014
February 2, 2015 February 23, 2015
April 15, 2015 May 6, 2015

All proposals should be submitted to NCPV Business Manager Kaitlyn VanSant.