NREL Small Business Commitment Spotlights US Department of Energy Program Success

Mentor-Protégé Program Helps Startups Secure Federal Contracts and Grow Capabilities for Expanding Energy Security and Resilience Market

June 27, 2024 | By Anton Molodetskiy | Contact media relations

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is always looking for new ways to support veteran-owned businesses and disadvantaged communities across the United States. Fostering a strong commitment to small business is central to the laboratory’s mission of delivering solutions for a clean energy economy.

In fact, each year over 50% of all NREL subcontracts, approximately $60–$75 million, are awarded to small businesses, and the laboratory regularly invites small, disadvantaged, women-owned, HUBZone, veteran-owned, and disabled-veteran-owned businesses to collaborate on short-term and long-term projects.

Three people holding an award stand on a stage.
NREL Small Business Program Manager Rexann Dunn (left) joined DOE Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) Director Ron Pierce (right) in congratulating Converge Strategies LLC Principal and co-Founder Wilson Rickerson (center) on his Protégé of the Year Award in June 2024. Photo from Wilson Rickerson, Converge Strategies

In the United States today, small businesses employ approximately 61.7 million Americans, nearly 47% of all private-sector employees, and represent a major part of the nation’s economy. They also often have the experience and skills that make them great potential partners for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and NREL. This is one reason why NREL regularly participates in outreach and educational opportunities with the U.S. Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU) and DOE.

One of the most effective ways for NREL to support small businesses has been through a multitude of mentorship programs, such as the DOE Mentor Protégé Program (MPP). The MPP has allowed NREL to share its research and technical knowledge on renewable energy and advise participants on a vast array of topics, including project management, information technology, business equipment, and workspaces.

In June 2024, program participant and NREL mentee Converge Strategies (CSL) achieved two big milestones that are already changing the trajectory of its business. In addition to graduating from the MPP, CSL received the Protégé of the Year award from the OSDBU Annual Small Business Awards Program. This program celebrates the outstanding performance of people and organizations that promote and expand the partnerships that DOE has with small businesses. Due to their partnership with NREL, CSL was a great example of a business that was able to expand its capabilities and collaborate with federal laboratories and DOE.

With NREL as its mentor, CSL received a variety of assistance, including in developing business partnerships with national laboratories and agencies, access to world-class research, and strategy development to ensure their team could more effectively respond to opportunities from other national laboratories and federal organizations. CSL is now on track to exceed its revenue projection for 2023 and is growing in both revenue and staff. Through NREL mentorship, CSL has effectively responded to project opportunities from other national laboratories, creating new avenues for business growth and supporting its business mission.

CSL may be one of the latest laboratory partners, but they are not the only one. NREL is always looking for new vendors and subcontractors that can meet the laboratory’s continuing requirements for goods, services, research and development, construction, and other laboratory needs.

If you are interested in learning more about partnering directly with NREL, visit our Small Business Commitment page or complete the Small Business Registration form.

To learn more about the DOE Mentor Protégé Program, see the OSDBU info page. NREL looks forward to hearing from you.

Tags: Entrepreneurs,Partnerships