Biden toured NREL’s new net-zero-energy Research Support Facility and then announced that a Boulder-based start-up, U.S. e-Chromic LLC, which manufactures a thin film for windows that makes them more energy efficient, is the first company to sign on to “America’s Next Top Energy Innovator” challenge program.
The program is part of the administration’s “Startup America Initiative,” launched in March to stimulate entrepreneurship throughout the country. “The U.S. in the best position to market great new technologies like this,” Biden said. “Now, more than ever, America’s future competitiveness depends on innovation and our capacity to live up to our history of technological advancement. Through this kind of public-private collaboration, we are bringing groundbreaking technology out of the lab and into the marketplace and people’s lives.”
The electrochromic technology used by U.S. e-Chromic LLC and developed at NREL utilizes an electric field to tint windows, controlling the transparency based on the time of day, the temperature or the amount of sunlight. Most of today’s electrochromic windows turn darker when activated and absorb heat. However, the U.S. e-Chromic LLC film reflects sunlight and keeps interiors cooler. The film can be applied to existing windows, reducing cooling costs by 25% to 30% for commercial buildings during the hottest months, company officials said.
“This is a great example of what can happen when we unleash the American innovation machine and allow entrepreneurs to turn a great idea into a business opportunity,” said U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “By making it easier, faster and cheaper for start-ups to license groundbreaking technologies, we can move innovative ideas to the marketplace, creating jobs and growing our economy.”
Biden, who was accompanied in his NREL visit by U.S. Reps. Diana DeGette, Denver; and Ed Perlmutter, Golden; and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet, said that Chu had encouraged him to visit the new NREL facility, completed last summer.
In his speech, Biden defended public-funded investments in technology, saying that new-energy innovations “remind Americans of what our capacities are,” and denounced critics who call such investments anti-business. Quoting 20th Century Irish poet William Butler Yeats, Biden said that the “world has been changed utterly” by technology and that America can be “one of the primary catalysts for this change. We are laying the groundwork for the most fundamental innovations of our time,” he said.
“Government is not in the business of providing commercially viable products, but it can be the spark to make that happen,” he said. “We can’t know which ideas being generated here will become the next big thing.”
However, incentives like the Top Energy Innovator agreement demonstrate how American innovation is growing the economy and keeping America competitive in the 21st Century, Biden said.
NREL officials announced that beginning this month, entrepreneurs interested in some of the 15,000 patents and patent applications held by the 17 national laboratories can obtain a streamlined option agreement through the DOE’s Top Energy Innovator challenge. The restructured option agreement allows entrepreneurs to option groundbreaking technologies developed by the national laboratories for a $1,000 upfront fee.
According to NREL, more than 400 companies and entrepreneurs have inquired about the patents available under this challenge—including biomass, vehicle technology and grid energy storage. A list of technologies and the restructured patent agreements are available on the DOE website at http://techportal.eere.energy.gov/.