U.S Energy Secretary Steven Chu yesterday announced that the Department of Energy will award a total of $188 million to small businesses in 34 states to develop technologies with a strong potential for commercialization and job creation, includes $73 million in recovery act investments to help small businesses bring clean energy ideas to the marketplace.
“Small businesses are a major engine of innovation and job creation in our economy,” said Secretary Chu. “Bringing these innovative technologies to market will help spur economic growth and reduce the country’s energy use.”
Funded through DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR), today’s selections are for Phase II work, which means that the 201 awards will support the development of prototype or pilot operations for innovative technologies that have successfully passed the proof of concept stage.
The 201 awards fall in 76 targeted technology topics, in areas such as the smart grid, energy efficient buildings, industrial energy use, advanced renewables, cleaner fossil power, carbon cycle measurement, and high performance computing. A sample of the Phase II SBIR/STTR topic areas and awards is highlighted below:
1. Smart Grid Controllers – The development of a smart grid will reduce energy use, mitigate the need for new power plants, and prevent outages. However, an effective smart grid requires communication among a variety of devices, from utility control systems to household appliances. One project, led by Infotility in Boulder, CO, will develop a “Smart Controller” that enables communication among distributed energy systems-such as roof-top solar panels, a plug-in electric vehicle, and demand response devices in the home. (DOE award: $999,655)
2. Advanced Solar Technologies – Solar energy is our largest energy resource and can provide clean, sustainable energy, but innovations are needed to bring down the cost. This topic seeks to develop novel, previously untried but commercially feasible solar concepts and devices. One project, led by Luminit, LLC, in Torrance, CA, will develop a unique sun-tracking holographic concentrator that separately uses both visible light for photovoltaic power and infra-red light to provide heat and hot water for a building. (DOE award: $999,986)
3. Carbon Cycle Measurements – Eighty-five percent of our nation’s energy comes from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas. These processes add carbon to the atmosphere, principally in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2). A project led by Aerodyne Research, Inc, in Billerica, MA, will develop an extremely accurate CO2 monitor, which will assist in understanding global climate change and will help companies measure carbon capture and sequestration projects. (DOE award: $749,787)
The small businesses being announced yesterday will join the ranks of past SBIR and STTR recipients, many of which have successfully brought their innovations to market. For example, past SBIR recipient A123 Systems has grown into a leading manufacturer of cutting-edge lithium ion batteries and is now expanding its manufacturing base in Michigan, and another past SBIR winner, Amonix, is growing its concentrating PV manufacturing capacity in Nevada, which is expected to employ hundreds of workers.
Small businesses play a major role in spurring innovation and creating jobs in the U.S. economy. Between 1993 and 2008, small business created 64% of all net new jobs, totaling 14.5 million new jobs. Small businesses employ nearly 40% of the U.S. science and engineering workforce. The goal of DOE’s SBIR program is to help innovative small businesses succeed. In keeping with the goals of the Recovery Act, the Department’s SBIR efforts have incorporated a fast-track process for applications, increased emphasis on job creation and commercialization potential in the review and selection process, and provided business incubator funding.