Direct Air Capture Prizes To Accelerate Just and Sustainable Carbon Management Solutions

Applications Now Open for Two DAC Prizes Focused on Pre-Commercialization

March 13, 2023 | By Rebecca Talley | Contact media relations

The clean energy revolution is taking to the sky.

Decarbonization has long felt like a pie-in-the-sky effort, restrained by cost, technology, and scale. As removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere grows increasingly critical to tackling the climate crisis, researchers and industry alike are focused on solving these longstanding decarbonization challenges.

Two new prizes from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) American-Made program hope to launch one such promising carbon dioxide removal method—direct air capture—into the mainstream by offering over $7 million in prizes and technical support to those who can rise to the challenge.

A Critical Component of Decarbonization: Direct Air Capture

Direct air capture (DAC) is a technology that captures carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere and is a critical tool to counterbalancing hard-to-decarbonize sectors. It is shaping up to be a key component of meeting net-zero emissions goals in the United States.

The American-Made DAC Prizes, sponsored by DOE's Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon Management, support DAC technology advancement for decarbonization with a focus on incorporating environmental justice, community benefits planning and engagement, equity, and workforce development. The prize suite consists of separate but related competitions to address all phases of moving an innovation from an idea to a marketable product.

"We designed the suite of DAC Prizes to both fast-track direct air capture technology advancements and create a community of resources and support that will fortify the industry going forward," said Amishi Claros, acting division director of DOE's Carbon Dioxide Removal and Conversion Program.

Two DAC Prizes—the DAC Pre-Commercial Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize (the DAC EPIC Prize, for short) and the DAC Pre-Commercial Technology Prize (the DAC Technology Prize, for short)—officially launched on March 9. Together, the two prizes advance technological innovation, support incubators, and help to achieve emissions-reduction targets.

An illustration of four people looking at a blueprint with American Made U.S. Department of Energy Direct Air Capture Pre-Commercial Prizes to the right.
The Pre-Commercial DAC Prizes work together to advance carbon dioxide removal technologies and the incubators that make them possible.


Incubators and accelerators are extremely important to help break down barriers that innovators and entrepreneurs often face during the process of moving technology to market. From mentorship and networking to prototyping assistance and intellectual property management, incubators can accelerate economic development, strengthen innovation, and expand domestic carbon-removal technology development and manufacturing.

However, funding for incubators and the crucial resources they provide is not always widely available.

The DAC EPIC Prize is designed to address that challenge by providing up to $3.7 million in prizes for impactful plans that support DAC innovators and entrepreneurs.

Teams of emerging and/or established incubators are encouraged to submit solutions tailored to reducing commercialization barriers for those working to advance DAC solutions. They win increasingly larger prizes as they progress through the competition's three phases: Think It, Move It, and Prove It.

The deadline to apply for the first phase of the DAC Pre-Commercial EPIC Prize is June 22. Learn more, read the rules, and apply on the HeroX prize platform. Join the informational webinar on April 12 at 3 p.m. ET for more in-depth information and a live Q&A session.

DAC Technology Prize

There are numerous barriers when advancing DAC technologies in today's industry. Direct air capture is very technologically complex compared to other carbon capture systems; scaling and integrating systems into the full carbon-management value chain is costly; and energy or other resource demands can be prohibitive.

Enter the DAC Technology Prize, which offers up to $3.2 million in awards and $800,000 in technical assistance and vouchers to help eliminate those and other barriers, with a goal of accelerating technology solutions.

Teams are encouraged to identify and develop a scalable solution for a critical need in the industry. They have the opportunity to win increasingly larger prizes as they successfully meet milestones over the course of three phases: Develop, Design, and Deploy.

The deadline to apply for the first phase of the DAC Technology Prize is Sept. 26. Learn more, read the rules, and apply on the HeroX prize platform. Teams can also find more information and ask questions during the informational webinar on May 16 at 3 p.m. ET.

The DAC Prizes are funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, with support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and National Energy Technology Laboratory. Learn more about the DAC Prizes.