Skip to main content

American-Made Challenges Program Selects New Cohort of Power Connectors

May 21, 2020

Delivering new products or innovations to market requires countless people in various behind-the-scenes roles to achieve a successful launch. The same is true for competitors in the American-Made Challenges (AMC) prize programs. They work determinedly to move new ideas toward their market-ready potential, but have the resources of a large, diverse, and talented network across the country supporting them as they advance through these multimillion-dollar prize competitions.

For some of the AMC prizes, teams are supported by a group of highly skilled partners, called “Power Connectors.” Power Connectors are a core group of incubators, universities, and other industry organizations who perform critical program tasks, including recruiting teams, hosting events, and providing assistance for the national prize competition.

This spring, a new cohort of Power Connectors joined the AMC team following a competitive application process. The group was chosen for their expertise in areas that would ensure the success of competing teams and the overall program. The new Power Connectors include ADL Ventures, Nation of Makers, University of Arizona Center for Innovation, the University of Texas at Austin, The Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University, and Zpryme.

Power Connectors partner with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to help promote a long-term sustainable strategy for scaling the American-Made Challenges, the prize program designed to energize U.S. manufacturing in renewable energy.

One of the key elements of the AMC program is the American-Made Network, an extended network of national laboratories, investors, facilities and other valuable industry partners from across the U.S. that support prize competitors. Power Connectors are the core members of the Network and a key component of competitor success.

 A group of five people stand in front of a wall holding photo props
Power Connectors support prizes in a variety of ways, including managing Demo Day events like the one shown in this photo from June 6, 2019, at Greentown Labs in Boston during the Solar Prize Round 1 Set! Demo Day. The Scott Institute will continue their work with the Solar Prize and will expand their reach to support the Geothermal Prize, too.

New Power Connectors Mean New Opportunities

Bringing in a new class of Power Connectors allows competitors to leverage a community of specified expertise that often proves to be invaluable to entrepreneurs.

“Power Connectors provide critical support to teams in participating prizes, so it’s important that they help teams be successful in the prize competition and set them up for long-term opportunity,” said AMC Prize Administrator Emily Evans.

This is the second cohort of Power Connectors chosen since the program launched in January 2018, and the first time they will support prizes beyond solar. The new Power Connectors will engage competitors in the Solar Prize, Solar Desalination Prize, and Geothermal Manufacturing Prize.

“We are thrilled that the Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University has been selected again as a Power Connector,” said Anna J. Siefken, executive director of the Scott Institute. “Our goal has always been to amplify and elevate startups and technologies—and their inventors—from across the country through our national and regional networks.”

The new Power Connectors include:

ADL Ventures, San Francisco, CA
ADL Ventures connects legacy-sector companies with the venture community, while working to develop and deploy new services and products. As a Power Connector, ADL will focus on taking both a technology-driven approach and Network-driven approach to identify and engage competitors. They will also support Network members in Northern California and the Northeast, with an emphasis on legacy-sector corporations that might mentor solar entrepreneurs.

Nation of Makers, Silver Spring, MD
Returning from the first cohort, Nation of Makers is a coalition of diverse organizations working together to support technology-savvy makers through community building, resource sharing, and advocacy. As a Power Connector, they will assist with competitor recruitment and host events.

University of Arizona (UA) Center for Innovation, Tucson, AZ
The UA Center for Innovation creates the place, environment, and interactive ground that generates, attracts, and retains technology companies and talent in alignment with the research, mission, and goals of the University of Arizona. As a Power Connector, they will provide team mentorship, host events, assist with recruitment, and serve as a regional hub for other Network members.

The University of Texas (UT) at Austin
UT Austin’s cutting-edge programs, resources, events, and opportunities have made them an essential engine of the booming innovation and knowledge economy. In their role as a Power Connector, they will mentor competing teams, recruit new competitors, provide support to the Network, and host events.

The Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation at Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, PA
An incumbent Power Connector from the first cohort, the Scott Institute addresses the world’s most important energy-related challenges by enabling collaborative research, strategic partnerships, public policy outreach, entrepreneurship, and education. They will continue to mentor teams, host events, and serve as a regional hub for Network members in the Northeast.

Zpryme, Austin, TX
Zpryme produces influential research events such as the Energy Thought Summit and offers premium media experiences. By using creative and interactive media such as podcasts and videos, Zpryme will help to promote competitions and attract new competitors. In addition, they will build a regional Network hub for solar innovators and stakeholders to help enhance the competition.

A map graphic of the United States with six pinpoints at various locations.
Six organizations from across the country have been selected as Power Connectors. These Power Connectors will work with NREL and prize competitors to advance innovation from startups and entrepreneurs.

A Legacy of Innovation

Thanks to the support of these organizations, countless entrepreneurs and innovators across the country are bringing renewable technology to market faster and more creatively than ever before.

“Zpryme is proud to partner with NREL to invite the bold, curious, and creative to join the path to energize American energy innovation,” said Jason Rodriguez, CEO and co-founder of Zpryme.

With more AMC prize competitions, and existing ones launching new rounds, Power Connectors have an increasingly important role and lasting impact on both the AMC program and the broader energy industry, helping to accelerate new energy technologies and American innovation. As the success of the program continues to grow, so does the need to find new partners with expertise in different technology areas.

NREL is currently seeking organizations to join the Power Connector team to support event management, outreach, team support, and partnerships for several prizes. Learn more about this opportunity and submit a letter of interest by June 5, 2020.