The 17 national laboratories in the U.S.–including notables like the Argonne National Lab, Lawrence Livermore National Lab, and Los Alamos National Lab–are innovation machines, holding a total of 15,000 patents. Problem is, it costs tens of thousands of dollars for private companies to license the technologies, not to mention countless hours spent on paperwork. As a result, only 10% of all federal patents have been licensed for commercialization. The Department of Energy’s solution: America’s Next Top Energy Innovator, an initiative launched today as part of the recently announced Startup America campaign.
To be fair, America’s Next Top Energy Innovator isn’t exactly a competition; it’s just a catchy title for a program that will allow startups to save on cash and paperwork when applying for government patents. The process is simple: Beginning on May 2, startups can use a DOE-provided template for their business plan, and if approved, they need only pay $1,000 to score licensing for a patent (normal costs range between $10,000 to $50,000) and negotiate other details (i.e. equity and royalties) on a case-by-case basis with the DOE.
Any licensing terms outside of the $1,000 up-front fee can be paid once the startup achieves commercial success. The DOE also plans on revamping its licensing process for startups to include a standard set of terms–meaning the agency can process patents more quickly.
Interested startups can check out the available patents now at the DOE’s Energy Innovation Portal. Highlights include Sandia’s water contaminant removal system, Pacific Northwest Lab’s power grid-friendly appliance controller, and Sandia’s method for detecting the impacts of glint and glare on solar installations. What are you waiting for?