Pacific Northwest National Laboratory will be helping small businesses develop their clean energy technology as part of a new Department of Energy pilot program.
The Department of Energy national lab in Richland will receive about $2.7 million of the $20 million DOE is investing in the project to support small businesses with lab expertise.
Businesses with fewer than 500 employees can apply for vouchers from $50,000 to $300,000 that can be used for technology assistance from national laboratory scientists and engineers and use of lab facilities.
PNNL will support small businesses working on bioenergy, water power and energy-efficient building technologies. The lab has 200 researchers specializing in these areas.
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Four other national laboratories also are taking lead roles in the project, with expertise in advanced manufacturing, solar, wind, geothermal, vehicles and fuel cells.
Lead laboratories will match businesses with experts throughout the national lab network to help businesses test, validate and introduce new products, expand their businesses and grow the clean energy sector.
The pilot’s goal is to help small businesses bring next-generation technologies to the market faster, DOE said.
“We will draw on PNNL’s award-winning Technology Assistance Program, which has been in existence for more than 20 years,” said Cheryl Cejka, PNNL technology deployment and outreach director. “We’ve been able to help a lot of small companies who have great innovations but not necessarily all the right resources to move them to the marketplace.”
One example of a small business that initially received technology assistant from PNNL is Genifuel Corp., according to PNNL. It has worked with PNNL on a process to convert algae to a useful crude oil through a chemical process that takes just minutes in a lab.
Later this summer, DOE will launch a web-based tool to exchange information between the labs and small businesses. It will market the labs’ capabilities and will be used to accept applications from companies that want to participate in the program.
Vouchers for assistance will be awarded competitively in three cycles in 2015 and 2016.