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NREL's Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program

California companies win spot in DOE's Entrepreneur in Residence program to commercialize green energy project

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Venture Capitalist Firm Selected for NREL's Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program

February 27, 2008 -- DOE’s newly established Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) pilot program aims to accelerate deployment and commercialization of advanced clean energy technologies from 3 DOE National Laboratories into the global marketplace.

The EIR pilot program furthers a comprehensive strategy to reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by empowering researchers and entrepreneurs to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology.

Through a competitive solicitation, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has selected the venture capitalist firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers to sponsor an entrepreneur at NREL under its new Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program. The entrepreneur will help identify opportunities for spin-off companies based on NREL-developed technologies. The entrepreneur will then help develop business plans for these promising technologies using a "venture-friendly" license agreement.

"While NREL has great networks within the venture capital community, the entrepreneur will bring different experience and skills directly into the laboratory," said Tom Williams, director of NREL's Technology Transfer Office.

The Entrepreneur in Residence pilot program provides venture capital-sponsored entrepreneurs with access into three Energy Department’s world-class national labs to accelerate adoption of advanced renewable energy and energy efficient technologies to fundamentally transform how we power this nation

The EIR pilot program involves placing venture capital-sponsored and selected entrepreneurs in three of DOE’s world-class National Laboratories to identify laboratory-developed technologies funded by DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and to develop business cases for their commercialization. Following evaluation of responses to DOE’s October 2007 competitive Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), DOE has selected

  • Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers (Menlo Park, CA) to work with DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory;
  • ARCH Venture Partners (Chicago, IL) to work with DOE’s Sandia National Laboratory; and
  • Foundation Capital (Menlo Park, CA) to work with DOE’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Selections are subject to negotiation of final terms and execution of a Cooperative Agreement with each selected recipient.

The FOA proposed that each laboratory would host one entrepreneur in residence at a given time, and DOE would support this work by providing up to $100,000 for each entrepreneur to help defray salary and other expenses. Each firm will match DOE funding and may contribute additional funds to support its entrepreneur’s work.

Using their vast business expertise, the selected firms will be permitted to give proven start-up entrepreneurs the opportunity to work directly with laboratory staff for a hands-on look at various, commercially viable technologies. Entrepreneurs will conduct technology assessments, evaluate market opportunities, formulate preliminary business cases, and propose business structures in an effort to bring cutting-edge technologies to market.

Upon selecting a technology for commercialization, entrepreneurs in residence and their venture capital sponsors would negotiate a license to use the laboratory-developed technology.

Working with their respective entrepreneur, the venture capital sponsors will form and finance a start-up business based on the licensed technology.

The foundation of each start-up’s business plan would be the commercialization of licensed clean energy technologies.

Standard License Agreement Tailored for Small Business

To further accelerate the commercialization process, the EIR pilot program seeks to utilize a Standard License Agreement, tailored for entrepreneurs and small businesses. The Standard License Agreement includes a provision that would permit the EIR to offer partial ownership of the start-up company as full or partial payment for the license. This provides the opportunity for a start-up company to use its initial resources to grow the company rather than to make substantial up-front cash royalty payments. Built off of the structure of successful university licenses, the Standard License Agreement was attached to the FOA.

Sandia National Laboratories and Oak Ridge National Laboratory are also participating in this pilot program.

Edited by Carolyn Allen
| innovation | green energy | DOE |


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