Energy Innovator Challenge Not A TV Game Show

It might sound like a government funded reality TV show, but it certainly is not. The “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator” challenge is the brain-child of the Department Of Energy (DOE) and, according to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and the DOE, is designed to give start-up companies a crack at building successful businesses around technologies that have been developed by the nation’s 17 national laboratories… all for the low, low price of $1000.00.

Apparently, the government is holding on to about 15,000 patents and patent applications for clean energy technologies that were developed by national labs. This program is designed to help get some of those technologies up and running in the real world by clearing the path to licensing the patents. By cutting out some red tape and establishing a flat fee of $1k, the DOE hopes that some of the nation’s entrepreneurs and innovators will jump at the opportunity and, as Chu put it, “unleash America’s innovation machine and win the global race for the clean energy jobs of the future.”

image via U.S. Department of Energy

The challenge is set to kick off on May 2, 2011. At that time, the DOE will post a simplified online application that asks entrepreneurs to indicate which of the 15,000 available technologies they are interested in and submit a business plan for consideration. The deadline for submission is set for December 15, 2011. The $1,000 fee will cover up to three patent licensing applications which the department notes represents a savings of anywhere from $10,000-$50,000 in up-front fees. The department says that Issues such as equity and royalty concern will be dealt with on a case by case basis and, for the most part, won’t need to get paid out until the company has obtained “widescale commercial success”.

The most promising applicants will be given the opportunity to be showcased at the 3rd Annual ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in 2012, where they can get some exposure to clean energy investors who are looking to jump on board with propitious start-ups.