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SuperCohort to the Rescue

Energy I-Corps Cohort Boasts New Leadership―and New Collaborations

Oct. 29, 2020

For five years, the Department of Energy's (DOE's) Energy I-Corps program has been bridging the gap between scientific research and commercialization of new energy technologies.

A constant stream of ideas flowing out of the national labs has turned into viable concepts for a variety of commercialization pathways, via a demanding two-month entrepreneurial boot camp. Program graduates have so far raised more than $40 million in post-program funding combined.

Energy I-Corps manager Shelly Curtiss
New Energy I-Corps program manager Shelly Curtiss is the former director of the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association.
But this year everything is a little different. The Energy I-Corps program, managed for the DOE Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), has a new leader: Shelly Curtiss, the former executive director of the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association.

Curtiss spent 11 years working with Colorado's only cleantech trade association, supporting the ecosystem and fostering the growth of the state's cleantech industry. Starting at NREL this year, Curtiss said, was the next step in that evolution, a place where she can forge the local relationships that help NREL researchers thrive.

"The Energy I-Corps program really focuses on creating dialogues between industry mentors and researchers," Curtiss said. "Each team conducts 75 customer discovery interviews as a part of the process, with a total of more than 7,000 logged to date."

However, this year, COVID intervened. The scheduled spring 2020 session in March was cancelled; today, the class of 2020, dubbed the "SuperCohort," is a double-header with 17 teams participating virtually. Training runs from Sept. 16 to Dec. 10.

Webinar training with several students from various labs.
Although this class met via Teams, these enterprising researchers from several labs benefited from industry mentors and business development training.

The 17 teams in the SuperCohort were selected based on commercial potential and are funded by the corresponding DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) technology offices: Advanced Manufacturing, Bioenergy, Buildings, Office of Electricity, Office of Science, Vehicles, and Wind and Water. Additionally, the National Nuclear Safety Administration and the National Alliance for Water Innovation (NAWI) are funding teams through the program.

As always, the selected teams comprise a mix of technologies, but some things are new. Instead of having dinner together, they are all eating at home and watching each other present on their customer discovery findings via the Microsoft Teams app.

"The DOE has been really happy with the continued growth of the Energy I-Corps program over the years. In pivoting to an all virtual format for this cohort, we have created a whole new model for how to administer the program while maintaining the excellence for which Energy I-Corps is known," said Zack Baize, OTT program manager. "I look forward to working with these teams and their technologies as we pursue DOE's tech transfer mission together."

The 17 teams selected are:

  • ARME – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • BETTER – NREL
  • CAP Fastener – Sandia National Laboratories
  • EB Treement – Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
  • EMEE – Idaho National Laboratory
  • HECATE – Sandia National Laboratories
  • IHESS2020 – Idaho National Laboratory
  • HOPP – NREL
  • OpenOA – NREL
  • RE-Metal – Idaho National Laboratory
  • SLIC – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • SuperChips – Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory
  • Sustainability Integrators – Idaho National Laboratory
  • SWaP Electronics – Sandia National Laboratories
  • TRAST – Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
  • WaterDAMs – NREL/National Alliance for Water Innovation
  • Water-TAP3 – NREL

Applications to join the next cohort of Energy I-Corps are now open.

For a free sample of the training provided, interested researchers can watch one of the Energy I-Corps training videos on how to write a value proposition for your idea, company, or technology.

Learn more about Energy I-Corps here, or reach out to Shelly Curtiss with any questions at shelly.curtiss@nrel.gov.