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  • Writer's pictureKristin Cooper

Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC)

Funding: Total: $4,000,000. Maximum awards: $50K-$1M, depending on cluster.

Dates: Informational Webinar: November 18, 2020. Letter of Intent Due: December 9, 2020. Questions Deadline: January 19, 2021. Full Application Submission Deadline: February 3, 2021.


Innovation clusters enhance national energy entrepreneurship and commercialization. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) seeks to fund the most creative, comprehensive, and impactful innovation-accelerating organizations that support energy and related hardware technology development and testing in regional innovation clusters—geographic concentrations of specialized skills, industries, and technology sectors. Innovation-accelerating, entrepreneurially-focused organizations (often referred to as accelerators or incubators) are critical to the growth of an innovation economy; these organizations help entrepreneurs accelerate the launch, growth, and scale of their businesses, ultimately resulting in the commercialization of new technologies and business models, and development of jobs in the United States.

Through this FOA, the Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) seeks to support the formation and development of regional clusters supporting entrepreneurs and startups by funding innovation-accelerating organizations that demonstrate the ability to advance energy and related technologies in collaboration with and with the support of state, regional, and/or local entities. To accomplish these goals, the EPIC FOA anticipates funding four to eight innovation-accelerating organizations across the United States. OTT welcomes as applicants organizations that aid in the development of new business ventures, business incubators and accelerators, co-working startup communities, or any other organizations and multi-organizational applicants that self-identify as advocates for innovation and entrepreneurship.

Eligible Applicants:

For-profit entities, educational institutions, and nonprofits that are incorporated (or otherwise formed) under the laws of a particular state or territory of the United States and have a physical location for business operations in the United States are eligible to apply for funding as a prime recipient or subrecipient. Nonprofit organizations described in section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 that engaged in lobbying activities after December 31, 1995 are not eligible to apply for funding. A foreign entity may receive funding as a subrecipient. State, local, and tribal government entities are eligible to apply for funding as a prime recipient or subrecipient. DOE/NNSA FFRDCs are eligible to apply for funding as a subrecipient, but are not eligible to apply as a prime recipient. Non-DOE/NNSA FFRDCs are eligible to apply for funding as a subrecipient, but are not eligible to apply as a prime recipient. Federal agencies and instrumentalities (other than DOE) are eligible to apply for funding as a subrecipient, but are not eligible to apply as a prime recipient. Incorporated consortia, which may include domestic and/or foreign entities, are eligible to apply for funding as a prime recipient or subrecipient. Unincorporated Consortia, which may include domestic and foreign entities, must designate one member of the consortium to serve as the prime recipient/consortium representative.

Project Topic Areas:

Applicant Characteristics (not listed in order of importance)

  • The entity’s efforts are focused on the formation and growth of startups, with a concentration on companies that are developing or commercializing hardware for energy-related applications within DOE’s portfolio.

  • It employs a selective process to choose participating startups.

  • It hosts regular networking opportunities for startups.

  • It makes introductions to customers, partners, suppliers, advisory boards, and other players.

  • It provides high-growth and tech-driven startup mentorship and commercialization assistance.

  • It facilitates resource sharing and arrangements for startups.

  • Its resources include virtual tools and telework capabilities.

  • It provides its startups with physical spaces to operate.

  • It creates opportunities for startups to pitch ideas to investors, along with providing other capital formation avenues for startups.

  • It assists member startups in obtaining angel money, seed capital, or structured loans.

  • It has a strong mentorship program.

  • It provides entrepreneurial training.

  • It uses metrics and data analytics to track its performance.

  • It provides access to legal and contract services.

In keeping with the goal of growing a community of innovators, applicants are encouraged to form multidisciplinary teams while developing their concept. DOE does not ask applicants to simply present strategies that replicate another successful model because what works in one environment or region of the country may not work in another. OTT encourages applicants to examine existing successful models for best practices and lessons learned, and to submit creative ideas.


OTT expects to make available approximately $4 million of Federal funding for new awards under this FOA subject to the availability of appropriated funds. OTT anticipates making approximately four to eight awards under this FOA. OTT may issue one, multiple, or no awards. Individual awards may vary between approximately $500,000 and approximately $1,000,000. OTT may establish more than one budget period for each award and fund only the initial budget period(s). Funding for all budget periods, including the initial budget period, is not guaranteed. Before the expiration of the initial budget period(s), OTT may perform a down-select among different recipients and provide additional funding only to a subset of recipients. OTT anticipates making awards that will run up to 36 months in length, comprised of one or more budget periods. The cost share must be at least 20% of the total allowable costs for research and development projects and must come from non-federal sources unless otherwise allowed by law.

Project Requirements:

Regional Engagement Strategy Plan

The applicant is required to submit a regional engagement strategy with an implementation plan. The plan should identify the opportunity and outline clear goals with objectives for addressing the opportunity, and how and when the applicant will execute its plan. If awarded, this will become the basis of the DOE-funded project. The plan should include a description with all available evidence to support how the applicant will foster a sustainable entrepreneurial environment through regional engagement. Proposals should provide a description of the applicant’s organization, its regional engagement strategy, and its up to three-year implementation plan.


OTT considers it critically important to track awardee performance metrics during the award period. Therefore, the awardee project director shall provide to OTT semi-annually, data on the performance metrics listed below, which OTT intends to collect on EPIC awardees and the companies they serve during the period of performance. OTT shall use these data to measure the performance of the awardee in terms of productivity and output throughout the duration of the program.

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