Directed Funding Opportunity for Biomass Compositional Analysis

DFO Timeline
Date Action
May 3, 2021 DFO announcement
May 11, 2021 DFO webinar with open Q&A
May 24–28, 2021 Applicant presentations
June 11, 2021 Notice of intent deadline
June 18, 2021 Proposal submission deadline
July 30, 2021 Anticipated notification
September 2021 Anticipated project kickoffs

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) is offering directed funding assistance for industry and universities interested in leveraging NREL's unique biomass compositional analysis capabilities.


All U.S. companies and universities are eligible to apply for this directed funding opportunity (DFO).

Foreign companies and universities are eligible subject to DOE headquarters approval of the project.

Informational Webinar

Watch a recording of the DFO for Biomass Compositional Analysis informational webinar held on May 11, 2021.

How To Apply

Follow these steps to apply for this DFO. The deadline to submit a white paper proposal is June 18, 2021.

To assist with partnering and technical scope development, see NREL's biomass compositional analysis laboratory procedures.

Step 1. Notify of Intent to Propose a Project

Prior to submitting a notice to propose a project, please read the terms of the technical services agreement. These terms are non-negotiable, and awarded organizations must be able to agree to these terms. 

By no later than 11:59 p.m. MDT on June 11, 2021, complete and submit the form below to facilitate partnering with NREL analysts. No late submissions will be accepted.


Note: NREL will use the information provided to contact those interested in applying for the DFO. NREL will not share this information, and it will be retained for up to 3 months. See NREL's security and privacy policy.

Step 2. Meet with NREL Analysts

To ensure favorable alignment of your organization’s project with NREL’s biomass compositional analysis capabilities, arrange to meet with NREL analysts by May 28, 2021, to give a short presentation about your proposed project and topic areas.

Based on this preliminary meeting, you will be encouraged or discouraged to provide a formal white paper proposal submission. If the white paper proposal is encouraged, NREL analysts will be available to assist with developing the scope of work.

Step 3. Develop White Paper Proposal

Use the Biomass Analysis Technologies—Analytical Development Support DFO White Paper Template to develop your white paper proposal. Anticipated period of performance for all work should be less than 24 months.

To receive white paper proposal development assistance from NREL, contact by June 18, 2021.

White Paper Proposal Specifications and Elements

White paper proposals should be no more than 10 pages in length. In addition to project title and contact information for both industry and national lab partners, the white paper proposal should include the following elements (suggested length given in parentheses):

  • Technical approach (~2 pages)
  • Scope of work (3–4 pages)
  • Potential for Impact (2–3 pages)
  • Appropriateness of government funding (~1 page).

Accepted Topic Areas of Interest

Proposed projects must benefit the biofuels and bioproducts industry.  White paper proposals will be accepted in the following topic areas:

  • Characterization of Mixed Carbohydrate Streams
    This area of interest seeks to improve understanding of mixed carbohydrate usage during conversion to biofuels, bioproducts, or biopower by developing, improving, or assessing analytical methods for speciation and quantifications of poorly quantified analytes.

  • Rapid Characterization Methods for Mixed Carbohydrate and Lignocellulosic Streams
    This area of interest seeks proposals to advance development of rapid measurement techniques, such as spectroscopic methods, that enable at-line or on-line stream characterization for use by biomass carbohydrate, mixed carbohydrate, lignocellulosic, or waste-to-energy conversion facilities.

  • Analytical Methods for Characterization of Wet Organic Wastes
    This area of interest seeks to develop standardized analytical methods to support cost-advantaged feedstocks, including (but not limited to) feed streams for anaerobic digestion that improve understanding of components present in the streams.

Cost Sharing and Funding Levels

The white paper proposal should include a commitment to cost share contributions of 20% of the total project funding. Research project funding levels should range between $150k and $500k per project. The total program funding available is $1.5M.

Step 4. Submit White Paper Proposal

Submit your completed white paper proposal to by June 18, 2021. Late white paper proposals will not be accepted.

Note: NREL and BETO will use the information provided in the white paper proposal for the review process. They will not share this information for any other purpose, and it will be retained indefinitely. See NREL's security and privacy policy.

How the Project Review and Funding Process Works

Step 1. Review White Paper Proposals

A panel of external reviewers will be selected by BETO to perform the reviews based on review criteria in the table below.

Criteria and Associated Weighting for Reviewing White Paper Proposals
Criteria Weight
Technical approach: research plan, technical challenges addressed, NREL capabilities leveraged, milestones, proposed budget, and schedule 50%
Potential impact: targeting BETO goals, addressing technical barriers, and market impact on the biofuels and bioproducts industry 40%
Appropriateness of government funding, key personnel, and resources 10%

Reviewers will score the white paper proposals based on the associated weighting of each criteria, and white paper proposals will be ranked in priority for funding.

Step 2. Notify Organizations of Awards

It is anticipated that notification of funding awards will be sent to organizations who have submitted white paper proposals by July 30, 2021.

Step 3. Sign Technical Services Agreements

Prior to starting a project, a technical services agreement (TSA) must be signed by the company or university and NREL. The terms of the TSA agreement are non-negotiable. This agreement is silent on the treatment of intellectual property (IP), and it is not expected that IP will be generated in most projects under this program. If IP is a possibility, it will require special arrangements and be independently assessed and managed prior to the start of any work.

As background, NREL is a government-owned lab, managed and operated by Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC, for DOE.  The TSA is one of the mechanisms DOE permits NREL to use when we perform services for outside entities.  It has limits of $500,000 in value and 3 years for the period of performance, and has been preapproved by DOE, so we can get it in place fairly quickly.  The flip side of this is that we cannot make any changes to the terms.  It may be, however, that if you have concerns about anything here we can resolve them with some explanation.   

See example TSA.

Step 4. Launch Projects

Awarded projects are expected to begin in September 2021.

Once a project begins, the project will be subject to normal review and monitoring by BETO. It is encouraged to provide notice of significant outcomes from the project to BETO in a timely manner. Outcomes may include publications in peer-reviewed journals, technical highlights citing impact to the industry partner or the bioenergy field in general, realized cost savings, or risk mitigation for the industry partner.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is selecting the applications? Complete submitted white paper proposals will be reviewed by a team of external reviewers, selected by BETO for subject matter expertise and independence from DFO applications. The applicant, by submitting its application, consents to the use of non-federal reviewers. Non-federal reviewers must sign conflict of interest and nondisclosure acknowledgements prior to reviewing an application. The review team will score and make recommendations for each project white paper proposal. The DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy will then select from the list of projects recommended by the external reviewers, based on strategic priorities and the available resources at the NREL. 
Will any funding be available to companies?

No. No funding will be made directly available to companies/universities. Funding for projects will be sent to NREL for those scientists, engineers, and analysts to develop these analytical methods and sensors on behalf of the applying entity.

Companies are required to commit resources to the partnership in the form of a minimum 20% cost share (e.g., for a project with a total budget of $200K, available federal funds would total $160K, and the industry partner would expect to contribute a minimum of $40K).

Will any funding be available to universities?

No. The DFO is intended for stakeholders to leverage national laboratory resources. A company may subcontract part of the work to a university as part of their cost share, but DOE funds are only allocated to the national labs.

What qualifies as cost share?

Most substantive contributions to the project will count as cost share, such as, but not limited to, labor, travel, materials, equipment, data, or cash. Please see CFR 200.306 for more details on what is considered allowable cost share.

What cost-share accounting is required in the white paper proposal?

The white paper proposal requires industry tasks and deliverables, as well as cost estimates. If selected, the normal DOE requirements for accounting for in-kind cost share will apply.

Can projects run longer than 24 months?

Projects that propose activities beyond the 24-month time limits can be proposed, but in such cases the review team will concentrate on what is proposed for the anticipated project period.

Are go/no-go decision points required?

This is likely to be assessed on a case-by-case basis and will refer to the challenges and risks specifically called out in the white paper proposal submission. For instance, where a negative impact of a perceived risk is identified as a potential showstopper, this may necessitate a go/no-go milestone. The milestones should be used to enable proactive project management with clearly defined goals, metrics, and timelines.

How will intellectual property be managed?

For all projects, the non-negotiable technical service agreement (TSA) terms apply. See example TSA.

If there is any possibility of intellectual property being generated, this will be assessed individually and independently managed.

Is there an official method to ask questions about the program?

Yes.  Feel free to contact

Can a stakeholder submit multiple white paper proposals? Yes, provided that each application describes a unique, scientifically distinct project and otherwise meets the application requirements.
What are the intended outcomes of this program? As appropriate, NREL intends to publish laboratory analytical procedures as a result of this work. Publicly available procedures are at the center of this program’s goals to enable the bioenergy research community.
What are mixed carbohydrate streams? For the purposes of this DFO, mixed carbohydrate streams are streams that contain both cellulosic and non-cellulosic carbohydrates, for example streams containing both cellulose and starch.
What are wet organic wastes? For the purposes of this DFO, wet organic wastes are waste materials containing at least 40% water by weight. Typical wet wastes include (but are not limited to) manure, biosolids from water treatment facilities, and food waste.


If you have any questions about this DFO, contact