We admit it. We are a country that loves reality-television competitions, voting, and the American Dream. Despite its name, America’s Next Top Energy Innovator is not a reality television show (yet), but the Department of Energy-sponsored competition does encompass the latter. As part of the Obama administration’s Startup America initiative, the program takes down some of the barriers to innovation, helping small businesses realize their American dream and create green jobs.
While the government can be somewhat slow-moving when it comes to innovation, they’re cutting their own red-tape and putting the ideas and access into the hands of nimble, maybe even scrappy, entrepreneurs. The Department of Energy has seventeen state of the art national laboratories and the Y-12 National Security Complex driving innovation and discovery, but only ten percent of federal patents have been licensed to be commercialized.
America’s Next Top Energy Innovator opened up these patents from May 2nd – December 15th, 2011 to entrepreneurs who could apply for up to three patents for a mere $1,000 and a business plan on how they planned to use them. For startups which are usually more than a little strapped for cash, this allows wider access to patents that can cost up to $50,000, and puts the patents into action for real-world application.
The 14 startup companies who have signed option agreements for these patents are now plugging away, putting the patents to use to create the energy solutions of the future.