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Feds Invite Startups to Be America's Next Top Energy Innovator

The Obama Administration is offering a deal to America's entrepreneurs: With a strong business plan and $1,000, startup companies that qualify can get an option agreement to license some 15,000 patents and patent applications for groundbreaking energy technology developed by the country's 17 national laboratories.

Starting May 2 and continuing through December 15, the Department of Energy is cutting upfront fees and streamlining the paperwork for the licensing of national lab patents and patent applications. The deal offered through the "America's Next Top Energy Innovator" challenge represents a big cut in price and red tape. Typically, the upfront fees run $10,000 to $50,000.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the limited-time offer this week. "America's entrepreneurs and innovators are the best in the world," Chu said in a statement. "We're challenging them to create new businesses based on discoveries made by our world-leading national laboratories."

The program is designed to address several of the administration's aims -- stimulating high-growth entrepreneurship through the Startup America Initiative, accelerating commercialization of next-gen energy technology, and reducing the country's reliance on fossil fuels and improving energy security by developing new technology and finding new ways to use existing technology better.

Details on program requirements and how to apply are available at the Energy Innovation Portal set up by the DOE's office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

"Because we've cut the upfront fees and reduced the paperwork, we'll make it easier for startup companies to succeed and create the new jobs our economy needs," Chu said. "Our goal is simple: Unleash America's innovation machine and win the global race for the clean energy jobs of the future."

Only about 10 percent of federal patents have been licensed to be commercialized. Through the America's Next Top Energy Innovator program and the Startup America Initiative, the government hopes to double the number of startup companies spurred by technology developed by the national labs.

In addition to the challenge program, the DOE is lowering the advanced payment it requires companies to pay before using national lab facilities for collaborative research and development. The requirement had been for companies to pay upfront for 90 days of research work in the facilities; now the requirement will be for a 60-day upfront payment. The rate change applies to all firms, not just startups.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Ian Muttoo.

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