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Informational Only

This challenge is no longer accepting new submissions.

Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC)

The DOE Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) is launching a $1,000,000 prize competition to award cash prizes to the nation’s most innovative incubators for creative plans to build clusters supporting entrepreneurs and innovators launching businesses focused on energy-related technologies.

Department of Energy - Office of Technology Transitions

Total Cash Prizes Offered: $1,000,000
Type of Challenge: Ideas, Business plans
Submission Start: 07/20/2020 12:00 PM ET
Submission End: 09/10/2020 05:00 PM ET


The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) helps power and secure America’s future and ensure the country’s role as a leader in science and technology. In 2015, the Secretary of Energy authorized the formation of the Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) to be responsible for developing and overseeing delivery of DOE’s strategic vision and goals for technology commercialization and engagement with the business and industrial sectors across the United States. OTT’s mission is to expand the commercial impact and public benefit of DOE’s research and development portfolio to advance the economic, energy, and national security interests of the Nation. 

Energy startups and innovative technologies are critical to the growth of the energy economy in the United States and abroad. Startups drive technology development, business model innovation, and job creation. The private sector has had difficulty providing sufficient capital, business development services, and entrepreneurial training to early-stage, high-risk, longer-term, capital-intensive technologies, like those required for transforming the nation’s energy systems. 

Strong business incubation services—including, but not limited to, mentoring, entrepreneurial training, access to testing and prototyping assistance—not only provide direct support for early-stage startups, but also have the potential to de-risk the startups for follow-on investors. Incubators have the potential to accelerate regional economic development, strengthen national innovation capacity, and expand domestic energy-related manufacturing. By providing due diligence, screening applicant companies, assisting with prototyping, connecting entrepreneurs with manufacturers, and advising startups to prudently use their capital on vital services, incubators play a critical role in supporting startups as they transition into the market.

The EPIC prize seeks to recognize the most novel, comprehensive, and impactful incubator plans that focus on developing strong innovation clusters, connections, and support for energy-related technology and entrepreneurial innovation. Prize competitors will develop a strategic plan to create or bolster innovation clusters through regional engagement, including engagement of other private actors—both for- and non-profit—as well as state and local entities that can provide additional resources. The prize seeks to address a capital gap in supporting these critical organizations by providing funds to be applied where incubators need them most. Providing capital to enable creative, forward-thinking organizations is critical to allow organizations to think more expansively about the role of incubators in the broader regional and national innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystem. Further, it is DOE’s hope that this funding will enable winners of this prize to enhance their organization’s resilience and operational sustainability. 


Total Cash Prize Pool


Prize Breakdown

$50,000 for each winner


Please go to the prize website for complete rules (guidelines):


  • Private entities (for-profits and nonprofits), non-federal government entities such as states, counties, tribes, and municipalities, and academic institutions subject to the following requirements:

    • Private entities must be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States with majority domestic ownership and control. If an entity seeking to compete does not have domestic ownership and control, the DOE Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) may consider issuing a waiver of that eligibility requirement where the entity submits a compelling justification; the entity is incorporated in and maintains a primary place of business in the United States; and the entity otherwise meets the eligibility requirements. OTT may require additional information before making a determination on the waiver request. There are no rights to appeal DOE’s decision on the waiver request. See Appendix 2 of the rules document for more information on the waiver process.
    • Academic Institutions must be based in the United States.
  • DOE employees, employees of sponsoring organizations, members of their immediate families (i.e., spouses, children, siblings, or parents), and persons living in the same household as such persons, whether or not related, are not eligible to participate in the Prize.
  • Federal entities and federal employees, acting within the scope of their employment, are also not eligible to participate in any portion of the Prize. DOE national laboratory employees cannot compete in the Prize.
  • Entities and individuals publicly banned from doing business with the U.S. government such as entities and individuals debarred, suspended, or otherwise excluded from or ineligible for participating in Federal programs are not eligible to compete.
  • Entities identified on a Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Binding Operational Directives (BOD) as an entity publicly banned from doing business with the Unites States government are not eligible to compete. See
  • Entities and individuals identified as a restricted party on one or more screening lists of Department of Commerce, State and the Treasury are not eligible to compete. See Consolidated Screening List
  • This prize is expected to positively impact U.S. economic competitiveness. Participation in a foreign government talent recruitment program (for more information see full rules document) could conflict with this objective by resulting in unauthorized transfer of scientific and technical information to foreign government entities. Therefore, individuals participating in foreign government talent recruitment programs of foreign countries of risk (currently the list includes Russia, Iran, North Korea, and China) are not eligible to compete. Further, teams that include individuals participating in foreign government talent recruitment programs of foreign countries of risk are not eligible to compete.
  • No organization may submit as the lead entity more than one entry to the prize. If an entity is the lead organization on multiple submissions, DOE will accept the most recent submission submitted before the deadline and determine other submissions ineligible.

Submissions will be reviewed for eligibility and completeness. Eligibility determinations as well as approval of any waiver requests will be at DOE’s sole discretion. The application may be deemed ineligible if a competitor does not meet the eligibility criteria or does not provide the items listed in the “What to submit” section of the rules document. Eligible submissions will be evaluated by expert reviewers, who may include officials from OTT or other federal agencies, and/or private sector experts.

Desired Competitor Characteristics

Competitors in this prize should include most, if not all, of the following elements (not listed in order of importance):

  • A signification portion of the entities efforts are focused on the formation and growth of startups
  • A selective process to choose participating startups.
  • Regular networking opportunities for startups.
  • Introductions to customers, partners, suppliers, advisory boards, and other players.
  • High-growth and tech-driven startup mentorship and commercialization assistance.
  • Resource sharing and arrangements for startups.
  • Virtual Tools/Telework capabilities.
  • Physical spaces to operate.
  • Opportunities to pitch ideas and startups to investors along with other capital formation avenues for startups.
  • Angel money, seed capital, or structured loans for member startups.

In keeping with the goal of growing a community of innovators, competitors are encouraged to form multidisciplinary teams while developing their concept. The submission platform provides a space where parties interested in collaboration can post information about themselves and learn about others who are also interested in competing in this contest.

Judging Criteria

The table below explains the manner in which the final scores for each submission will be calculated. Please go to for full detail on judging criteria.

EPIC Judging Criteria (described above)

How to Enter

The EPIC Challenge is accepting submissions at the following site:

What to Submit

The items below comprise the submissions package for the EPIC Prize and must be submitted through the HeroX platform. Each element is described in more detail on the prize website:

EPIC Submission table (described in text above)

Competitors may only provide one submission package for review. If a competitor submits multiple submission packages, DOE will only review the most recently submitted package that was received before the deadline.