Innovation Economy

The Challenge

Innovation cannot happen in isolation. If we want to take on the major environmental and energy crisis facing the globe today, we need to partner with other experts, collaborate with industry and sponsor cutting-edge research by supporting early career researchers and entrepreneurs.

How are we making a difference? 

The Energy Technologies Area (ETA) produces real-world solutions to help us mitigate and adapt to some of the most pressing global crisis. We start with the science, and in order to effect real-world change, we have created programs dedicated to inspire entrepreneurship, partner with industry experts to accelerate technology transfer and mentor the next generation of rising scientists who want to make a difference.

 

ETA values the intersection of entrepreneurship and scientific innovation, from Cyclotron Road, an ETA Division dedicated to supporting entrepreneurial scientists, to ETA's leadership role in several California Energy Commission-funded grant programs for clean energy entrepreneurs.

ETA emphasizes the importance of mentorship throughout our divisions and research groups. Whether through funding opportunities, such as Berkeley Lab's Laboratory Directed Research and Development program dedicated to early-career scientists, or the daily mentorship that our staff scientists provide to graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, ETA understands that investing in the scientific innovations of our future includes investing in the next generation.

Cyclotron Road

The world's first entrepreneurial research fellowship

ETA’s Cyclotron Road Division, led by Division Director Rachel Slaybaugh, is renowned for its fellowship program that supports leading entrepreneurial scientists as they develop commercially viable technology solutions for clean energy and bring them to market. Each year, the program recruits a cohort of scientific innovators to receive the unique opportunity to “embed” at Berkeley Lab for two years.

Innovation Partnerships

Investing in Our Energy Future

ETA is proud to partner with state and national programs to further develop clean-energy technologies, and to connect entrepreneurs with Berkeley Lab’s unique expertise and capabilities.

ETA works closely with the California Energy Commission’s Sustainable Energy Entrepreneur Development (CalSEED) program, which supports California’s clean-energy goals by identifying and funding early stage and emerging clean-energy technologies developed by entrepreneurs. The soon to be published “Breakthrough Technologies Report” developed by Berkeley Lab for CalSEED provides an overview of a multitude of innovative technologies that have the potential to help the state meet its decarbonization goals while targeting efforts to support and nurture technology innovation.

CalTestBed is a California Energy Commission funded five-year, $8.8 million program designed to connect entrepreneurs with the unique laboratory space and testing facilities in the UC System, including Berkeley Lab. 

The Small Business Voucher program is an innovative public-private program that facilitates access to the DOE national labs for qualified small businesses by making the contracting process simple, lab practices transparent, and access to the labs’ unique facilities available. Berkeley Lab has received vouchers worth $3.75 million to date to partner with small businesses.

Laboratory-Directed Research and Development (LDRD)

Investing in Innovative Science and New Research

The Lab-directed Research and Development (LDRD) program is one of the principal means to seed innovative science and new research directions at Berkeley Lab.

Industry partnership and technology transfer play a central role across all three divisions in ETA. Our partnerships include access to Berkeley Lab's unique facilities and expertise, contracts to license Berkeley Lab technology, formation of start-up companies to further develop Berkeley Lab technology and co-development between researchers and industry for commercial applications. 

Patents and Awards

Accelerating Energy Storage Technologies

ETA has a long history of commercializing technologies and successfully transitioning technologies to the marketplace. ETA is the recipient of multiple R&D 100 awards over the last 20 years.  Widely recognized as the ‘Oscars of Invention,’ the R&D 100 Awards identify and celebrate the top technology products of the year. ETA’s efforts at technology transfer to industry have resulted in multiple Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer awards to our commercial partners. ETA has a robust patent portfolio with 138 patent and patent-pending applications that have led to licensing by industry or resulted in start-ups.

Energy I-Corps

Ring Burner Success Story

ETA Researchers developed an innovative gas burner technology called the Ring Burner with support from Energy I-Corps. The patented technology design can transform user experience, efficiency, and emissions of home kitchen cooking appliances.

The Ring Burner is based on Berkeley Lab’s patented low-emission technology that utilizes premixed fuel and air supply, as well as a simple flame stabilizing mechanism, to evenly heat a surface with minimal pollutant formation. The team has set its sights on deploying the technology to enhance the cooking experience in residential and commercial kitchens. Energy I-Corps helped the team develop other value propositions in response to market feedback.

The manufacturing sector needs incentives to improve infrastructure and manufacturing processes, as well as to diversify energy sources, but this can be challenging due to high capital and operating costs. ETA’s research supports the U.S. manufacturing industry by providing knowledge around the science of synthesis, new ways to use renewable resources as green manufacturing feedstocks, and understanding of the science of scale-up to move from the lab to industry with minimal waste. ETA is devoted to developing clean energy technologies for the manufacturing sector that lower costs and increase productivity and performance.

Circular Economy

The increasing focus on circular supply chains opens the potential for innovative product design that facilitates recyclability and the development of highly reconvertable or biodegradable materials instead of single-use consumption that requires energy-intensive, complicated recycling routes. ETA researchers are working to improve the rapid characterization of new polymers, focusing on their compatibility with waste management infrastructure and their fate in the environment.

Decarbonizing Industrial Processes

ETA’s researchers are studying energy intensive manufacturing processes such as the drying of slurries for batteries and the photo-thermal curing of large plastic parts. Through modeling and experimentation, our researchers are improving the efficiency of these and other processes and finding ways to utilize renewable sources of heat to power industrial manufacturing.

Research Highlights

Battery Company’s Success Has Origins with Cyclotron Road

European battery manufacturer Northvolt recently acquired the U.S.-based battery technology company Cuberg, Inc., which was co-founded by Richard Wang, a 2016 fellow hosted at Cyclotron Road.
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The Story Behind Infinitely Recyclable Plastic

A Q&A with scientists Brett Helms and Corinne Scown about their ground-breaking research on solving the practical and environmental problems of traditional plastics
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High-Performance Window Demonstrates Berkeley Lab-to-Market Success

After several years of a research and development relationship, one of the largest window and door replacement companies in the U.S. announced the national launch of a new high-performance glass option for select replacement windows.
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