January/February 2002 edition

How NREL Fosters Entrepreneurial Efforts in Clean Energy

Guest Author: Lawrence (Marty) Murphy

    The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) transfers technology in wide variety of ways, including licensing, the publication of peer review journal articles and through participation in professional/technical conferences, along with a host of other approaches. NREL also fosters the development of entrepreneurial enterprises by being a catalyst in helping these clean energy firms take their own, or licensed, clean energy technology to the marketplace.

    A key element that NREL uses in working with its industry and other partners, is one that is highly interactive, partnership based (with industry groups), and focused on key stakeholders. This is done in a way which takes advantage the congruence of NREL’s mission with that of its industry partners, in their effort to commercialize their technologies. This technology transfer approach also takes advantage NREL’s program based, subcontracting process which provides resources to these industry program partners (i.e. about 50% of NREL funding is allocated to our industry and university partners). The essence of the NREL approach is captured pictorially in the bottom of Figure1., and compared to the more traditional "arms length" approach in the upper part of the figure. The key element of NREL’s process, as depicted in Figure 1, is


embodied in what we call Collaborative R&D and Know-How Diffusion. This allows NREL to apply its R&D talents to a wide range of deployment limiting technology issues in partnership with industry. This is a two way process; NREL gains knowledge from our industry partners that allow us to better understand their R&D needs and thus focus and target our R&D more appropriately. Moreover, this framework also allows one to shorten the time to, and reduce the overall cost of, commercialization as a result of the synergies gained through the collaborative R&D and Know-How diffusion process.

    Over the last several years, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has developed a triad of strategic activities in support of energy entrepreneurs, as they transition their R&D companies in to robust market focused businesses. These three strategic activities that are designed to provide access and linkages to the needed business advice as well as new business forums and platforms to support the emerging industry, include:

  1. Industry Growth Forums to provide access to venture financing, business advice, and networking. These venture forums foster understanding and the development of relationships between clean energy entrepreneurs and the financial community. In addition the relationships, the financial community gets information on clean energy technology developments and opportunities in the energy sector, as well as the opportunity to invest. And the entrepreneurs get valuable feedback on the status of their enterprise, as well as on financing requirements. See the Website at: http://www.nrel.gov/technologytransfer/entrepreneurs/ce_growth.html
  2. The National Alliance of Clean Energy Business Incubators provides world class incubation and business services tailored to the needs of clean energy entrepreneurs and start-up companies. This initiative makes eight of the countries top business incubators accessible to the clean energy community.
  3. See: http://www.nrel.gov/technologytransfer/entrepreneurs/inc.html

  4. The Clean Energy Network that pulls together the national network of energy executives, venture financiers, investment banks, public and private sector organizations and non-profits interested in clean energy technology. As part of this effort an Investor Directory is now available the Website: <http://www.nrel.gov/technologytransfer/entrepreneurs/directory.html>

Additional information on NREL’s entrepreneurial support efforts can be found at:



Headlines from the January/February edition of Technology Community 

Page 1       NREL Efforts 

Page 2       NASA Flight Control Tools

Page 3       Colorado Gets an "A"

Page 4       Fuel Efficient Cars

Page 5       Rockies Venture Club 

Page 6       Technology Transfer Society 

Page 7       News & CUBAC
Page 8       News & Colorado Photonics Industry

Page 9       News & Colorado Environment Business Alliance

Page 10     Environmental Protection

Page 11     Top R&D Funding




Any technology organization or company is invited to submit brief articles via fax or e-mail to:
CU Business Advancement Center,
5353 Manhattan Cir., Suite 202, Boulder, CO 80303.
Phone (303) 554-9493 ext. 13 Fax (303) 554-9605
Kimberly Croll

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