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October 13, 2016 | Tom Ballard

ORNL provides more details on “Innovation Crossroads”

innovation-crossroadsBy Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA

Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) held a webinar earlier this week to provide interested energy entrepreneurs the opportunity to learn more about the “Innovation Crossroads” initiative announced on September 21.

About two dozen people tuned-in to hear Tom Rogers, Director of Industrial Partnerships and Economic Development, outline the program’s goals, eligibility requirements, benefits, operating parameters, and schedule.

As noted in this article when the program was announced, “Innovation Crossroads” is the third initiative funded under the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program (LEEP). The pilot, named “Cyclotron Road,” was tested at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and a second program, named “Chain Reaction Innovations,” started earlier this year at Argonne National Laboratory.

“ORNL is the third node,” Rogers said, noting the LEEP is focused on helping accelerate the introduction of clean energy technologies through start-ups that draw on DOE expertise.

“Energy start-ups are by themselves challenging,” he added, citing the fact that venture capital has declined significantly for clean energy start-ups in recent years. LEEP is one approach to trying to address the need and opportunity to bring new technologies to market.

Throughout the 30-minute webinar, Rogers continually emphasized that he and Beth Papanek, ORNL Project Manager for Entrepreneurship, were available to answer questions during the application process that ends at 5 p.m. November 18. After up to five energy innovators are selected in early February, the two will be providing continual assistance throughout the two-year engagement.

As far as eligibility, entrepreneurs applying for the program must have a minimum of five years of R&D experience. “We are looking for people who have a deep R&D background and experience,” Rogers emphasized. Later, in response to a question, he encouraged the individual to share his resume so a determination could be made for him.

Other eligibility criteria include a requirement that the entrepreneur must focus on clean energy or energy saving technologies, the project must leverage ORNL R&D capabilities and impact DOE missions positively, a limitation to first-time founders, the entrepreneur has to relocate to the Knoxville-Oak Ridge region for the two-year period, the individual must be a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and the applicant must be a first-time founder.

“You can have been part of a start-up, but not the founder,” Rogers explained.

The timeline is as follows:

  • 5 p.m. EST November 18 – Application deadline.
  • Mid-December – Semi-finalists selected and invited to meetings at ORNL to assess fit.
  • Mid-January – Finalist interviews held.
  • Early February – Offers extended.
  • March – Two-year program launches.

Those selected will receive a stipend that will help cover living expenses and healthcare, collaboration space at ORNL, up to $350,000 in R&D support from ORNL through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), business model development assistance, help with marketing strategies, mentorship, and introductions to other successful energy entrepreneurs as well as potential industry partners.

For more information, go to the “Innovation Crossroads” website.

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