About Energy I-Corps

Energy I-Corps aims to accelerate the deployment of energy technologies by granting DOE laboratory scientists and engineers access to direct market feedback on their technology offerings. Inspired by the National Science Foundation Innovation Corps (I-Corps) model, the two-month Energy I-Corps program empowers teams with the tools, resources, and relationships necessary to discover potential market pathways for their innovations.  Teams return to the lab with a framework for industry engagement to guide future research and inform a culture of market awareness within the labs. In this way, Energy I-Corps is ensuring our investment in the national labs is maintaining and strengthening U.S. competitiveness long-term.

Program Background

In fall 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) Tech-to-Market office launched the Lab-Corps pilot program. The pilot was DOE’s first test of a specialized training curriculum aimed at accelerating the transfer of clean energy technologies from national laboratories to the commercial marketplace. Since the first cohort of teams graduated in December 2015, the program has grown to include new teams and technologies representing the broader energy sector, including Fossil Energy, Nuclear Energy, Electricity, and Environmental Management.  The Lab-Corps pilot program has since evolved into Energy I-Corps, an expanded program within the department and national lab community.   

The Energy I-Corps program moved to the Office of Technology Transitions  (OTT) in 2018.  OTT was established in 2015 in order to expand the commercial impact of the Department of Energy’s research and development portfolio to advance the economic, energy, and national security interests of the nation.

To date, 89 teams from 11 national labs have worked with more than 89 industry mentors to conduct more than 5,750 customer discovery interviews with industry and discover the potential commercial impact of their technologies. Because of Energy I-Corps training, their technologies have attracted over $22 million in follow-on funding. Six teams have launched new businesses, and more are on the way.

Specialized Curriculum

Inspired by the National Science Foundation's I-Corps program, the Energy I-Corps curriculum was built upon the Lean LaunchPad Methodology, and utilizes the Customer Discovery process and Business Model Canvas (BMC).  The program was also designed to address the unique challenges associated with deploying federally-funded technologies.  Teams participate in lectures and workshops that range from Customer Segments and Value Propositions to Conflict of Interest and Fairness of Opportunity.  After mapping out the energy ecosystem for their technology, teams conduct 75-100 customer discovery interviews and continue to refine their unique value proposition.

In addition to the program content, teams have direct access to industry expertise from carefully selected instructors and team mentors.  Our instructors impart their expertise both inside the classroom, and during one-on-one team office hours to provide targeted feedback for the teams.  Each team has a dedicated mentor with experience in a relevant industry who will guide the team as they navigate the potential market pathways for their technology.  The program also features Industry Night, a special energy industry networking session that pairs teams with local entrepreneurs and energy leaders for a series of interviews.

Program Management

DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) manages the Energy I-Corps program in partnership with the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association (CCIA). The management team leads curriculum development and program execution, recruits program instructors and industry mentors, and supports the selection of teams from other national laboratories.  The program management team is supported by technology deployment professionals who are responsible for recruiting and preparing teams from each of the following labs:

The Energy I-Corps management team includes: