Argonne National Laboratory

Entrepreneur application opens for new $4.4 million energy incubator at Argonne National Laboratory

July 18, 2016

Two years' worth of financial and technical support to grow the next big idea in energy technology in the Midwest is now a reality for the nation's best and brightest innovators.

On July 12, the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), in partnership with Argonne National Laboratory, opened the application process to select the first national cohort of innovators for Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI).

CRI is the second energy and science technology accelerator to open at a national laboratory and the first one located in the Midwest, a hub of energy technology innovation. Part of EERE's Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programs, CRI is sponsored by the Advanced Manufacturing Office and co-managed in collaboration with the Technology-to-Market office. Entrepreneurs selected into the two-year program will have up to $350,000 to use on research at Argonne National Laboratory and up to $100,000 in a fellowship that covers living costs, benefits and a travel stipend.

Fast access to tools at Argonne, including fabrication, validation and scale-up facilities, and predictive modeling tools can reduce costly and time-consuming trial-and-error testing, enable faster development pivots and provide benchmarks of product performance to increase consumer and investor confidence.

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.

"This program gives innovators working on complex science challenges a jumpstart by giving them laboratory tools and experts to work with from day one, as well as a fellowship that pays their day-to-day costs and benefits so that they can work full-time developing their technology," said Andreas Roelofs, director of Chain Reaction Innovations. "Traditionally, energy technologies take longer to produce a return on venture capitalists' investments because of their longer development time line. But embedding entrepreneurs for two years into Argonne National Laboratory to validate and scale their technologies will accelerate the path to the consumer and investor marketplaces and compress the return timeframe."

Chain Reaction Innovations will provide innovators access to Argonne's deep network of 1,600 multidisciplinary researchers and engineers. In addition, the research may involve Argonne's DOE Office of Science User Facilities, such as the Mira supercomputer and the Advanced Photon Source, the nation's highest-energy X-ray source. Through a partnership with mentor organizations in the Midwest, CRI participants will also receive assistance with developing business strategies, conducting market research and finding long-term financing and commercial partners.

Fast access to tools at Argonne, including fabrication, validation and scale-up facilities, and predictive modeling tools can reduce costly and time-consuming trial-and-error testing, enable faster development pivots and provide benchmarks of product performance to increase consumer and investor confidence.

"There is huge opportunity and need to seed the emerging American energy ecosystem," said Mark Johnson, director of EERE's Advanced Manufacturing Office. "Today's best and brightest innovators have a chance to make transformative impacts in energy productivity and manufacturing processes and to create millions of jobs. Incubators such as Chain Reaction Innovations will give this generation of innovators the tools to leave their legacy."

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.