Are you America's Next Top Energy Innovator?

Department of Energy launches a program for companies to take advantage of the 15,000 patents owned by the national laboratories. Licensing will cost a mere $1,000 a pop.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

The Department of Energy is hoping that "America's Next Top Energy Innovator" will be a model of success.

The program, which kicks off May 2, will offer start-ups the opportunity to license patents from among the 15,000 owned by the government's 17 national laboratories for a mere $1,000. The government also plans to reduce paperwork.

"America's entrepreneurs and innovators are the best in the world," U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu said today in a statement. "Today, we're challenging them to create new businesses based on discoveries made by our world-leading national laboratories. Because we've cut the upfront fees and reduced the paperwork, we'll make it easier for start-up companies to succeed and create the new jobs our economy needs.

"Our goal is simple: unleash America's innovation machine and win the global race for the clean energy jobs of the future," Chu continued.

Reducing the cost of licensing the National Laboratories' patents is central to achieving that goal. According to the Energy Department, dropping the licensing fees to $1,000 will help save companies between $10,000 to $50,000 in "upfront fees" alone. However, start-ups will be forced to agree to "equity and royalties" when the respective firm starts generating revenue from the technologies it developed with the help of the licensed patents.

The national laboratories patents are far-reaching in the energy field. Their focus includes turning solar energy into chemical and then thermal energy. It also has a Grid Friendly Appliance Controller that can be installed into household appliances that would turn the respective units off for a while until the wider electrical grid can be stabilized. The Department of Energy says the controller can "prevent blackouts."

When America's Next Top Energy Innovator kicks off in May, companies must submit a business plan, as well as the technologies they want to use for their efforts. Submissions will be accepted until December 15.