Argonne National Laboratory

Argonne launches first tech incubator

May 24, 2016

Developing transformative energy technologies and cleaner manufacturing processes and new materials requires more than a great idea and some committed people. It takes an innovation ecosystem.

To meet this challenge, the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) and Argonne National Laboratory announced today a new innovation accelerator program for science and energy entrepreneurs called Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI).

‪ Interested innovators should sign up starting today at the Chain Reaction Innovations web page to be notified when the application process opens later this summer.

Chain Reaction Innovations will provide access to Argonne's deep network of 1,400 multidisciplinary researchers and engineers as well as unique tools, including the Mira supercomputer and the nation's highest-energy X-ray source, the Advanced Photon Source.

The commercialization of complex science and energy technologies requires hefty capital investment, access to world-leading scientific tools and facilities and lengthy development timescales beyond the typical software startup and venture capital models. To help entrepreneurs bridge this commercialization valley of death, CRI will support cutting-edge innovators to work on early-stage technologies that can deliver game-changing impact to the energy industry.

Selected innovators will benefit from up to a two-year engagement, including a fellowship, seed funding for technical collaboration with the laboratory, access to space at Argonne, guidance in using the R&D tools and expertise housed there and connections to the Midwest's rich network of business mentors and investors.

CRI is one of EERE's Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs (LEEP), sponsored by EERE's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO). LEEP, which is modeled on a successful pilot project between AMO and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) called Cyclotron Road, provides innovators the mentorship and technical support needed to advance challenging science and clean energy technologies to the proof-of-concept stage where they can launch into the marketplace. Embedding innovators in the national laboratory environment, with unparalleled R&D infrastructure and world-class technical expertise, allows innovators to build technologies that are otherwise too early or uncertain for venture capital to support.

"Clean energy is this generation's defining opportunity," said Dr. David Danielson, assistant secretary for EERE. "It has the potential to improve the lives of billions of people worldwide and forever change the way we live."

 "But our most promising innovators face significant challenges in getting the resources and support they need to create cutting-edge clean energy startups, especially when it comes to developing physical science based technologies. They increasingly are choosing to create software startups or direct their talents elsewhere. If we don't rally behind them as a nation, I fear we risk a 'lost generation' of early-stage clean energy technology entrepreneurs. With this initiative, we are giving our best and brightest the support needed to tackle our nation's greatest energy challenges and change the world."

Launching CRI at Argonne enables startups to leverage the unique collection of manufacturing hubs, Fortune 500 companies, research universities and innovation incubators and accelerators found in Chicago and the surrounding states.

"This launch of Chain Reaction Innovations should rally local innovators to pull together their boldest vision and greatest dreams," said AMO Director Mark Johnson. "[A similar program called] Cyclotron Road has had tremendous success at Berkeley National Laboratory in growing energy-focused startups and leveraging national laboratory expertise. We expect to transplant that same success to the Midwest because Argonne is a tremendous resource to be unlocked for would-be entrepreneurs to achieve their dreams in accelerating the creation of transformative products focused on energy, manufacturing and sustainability."

"Argonne and Chicago sit at the heart of one of our nation's greatest concentrations of research institutions, an industrial base that is driving clean tech and advanced manufacturing and a population that embraces innovation," said Argonne Laboratory Director Peter Littlewood. "This is a fertile ecosystem in which to grow the nation's next game-changing energy or material-based technology."

Chain Reaction Innovations will provide innovators access to Argonne's deep network of 1,400 multidisciplinary researchers and engineers as well as unique tools, including the Mira supercomputer and the nation's highest-energy X-ray source, the Advanced Photon Source. Through a partnership with mentor organizations, CRI participants will also receive assistance with developing business strategies, conducting market research and finding long-term financing and commercial partners.

Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

The U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, visit the Office of Science website.

The U.S. Energy Department's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy accelerates development and facilitates deployment of energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies and market-based solutions that strengthen U.S. energy security, environmental quality, and economic vitality.

EERE's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) supports applied research, development and demonstration of new materials and processes for energy efficiency in manufacturing as well as platform technologies for the manufacturing of clean energy products.

EERE's Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs (LEEP) are sponsored by EERE's Advanced Manufacturing Office (AMO) and managed in collaboration between AMO and EERE's Technology-to-Market office.