Energy I-Corps for SBIR/STTR

Energy I Corps

Apply Now to Energy I-Corps for SBIR/STTR

Program Description

In collaboration with the Office of Technology Transitions, the Office of SBIR/STTR Programs has developed a version of Energy I-Corps training aimed specifically at DOE SBIR/STTR Phase I awardees.

The Energy I-Corps for SBIR/STTR program was originally piloted in October 2020 and has grown to support over 80 Phase I awardees each year. All awardees are eligible to apply and are highly encouraged to sign up for this unique opportunity. Teams must complete negotiations and finalize awards before they can apply for the program.  

Energy I-Corps for SBIR/STTR is designed to help you evaluate fundamental business assumptions, develop a robust go-to-market strategy, and reduce operational risks in your business. The program prioritizes customer (stakeholder) development, paired with strategic curriculum to help solidify key commercialization concepts. These concepts, paired with active coaching and customer engagements, enable participants to draw valuable insights about their proposed business model.

The program is 100% optional and 100% funded by DOE, with no direct cost to participant companies.

Program Outcomes: Strengthen the Phase II Commercialization Plan

  • Validate initial market applications and customer needs/expectations
  • Clarify competitive advantage and customer priorities
  • Expose channels to access your customers
  • Identify how you will make money (i.e., direct sales, services, licensing)
  • Assess alternative approaches to improve viability of your business model
  • Establish partnerships to support commercialization activities
  • Increase your chances for Phase II funding and beyond
The methods of the lean startup were really enlightening and an excellent tool for examining and developing our business. The instructors were fantastic, they knew the subject matter very well and were very clear in their communications and very approachable in their methods. Can't say enough good about them.

Program Commitment:

Selected applicants will participate in an engaging 2-month training program, facilitated by world-class coaches in innovation management. Average weekly time commitment is 6-8 hours.  

Training includes a series of interactive workshops and webinars focusing on learning and applying the process of customer development. During the training, participants are asked to conduct a minimum of 30 customer discovery interviews and share lessons learned with each other and the coaches. The training will end with final lessons-learned presentations by participant teams to an audience of instructors and DOE program managers.

Full engagement from the participating companies includes:

  • 6 virtual workshops
  • Planning and conducting > 30 customer discovery interviews
  • 1:1 coaching sessions, with your assigned coach

Here is the schedule for the FY 2022 Phase I Release 2 Program:

All Online Workshops will be held from 1pm - 4pm ET / 10am - 1pm PT

AUG 19 : Online Workshop 1 [Customer Development]
AUG 26 : Online Workshop 2 [Customer Discovery]
SEP 01-02 [30 mins each]: Instructor 1:1 Lessons Learned
SEP 09 : Online Workshop 3 [Small Group Lessons Learned]
SEP 16 : Online Workshop 4 [Go-To-Market Strategy]
SEP 22-23 [30 mins each]: Instructor 1:1 Lessons Learned
SEP 30 : Online Workshop 5 [Small Group Lessons Learned]
OCT 07 : Online Workshop 6 [Final Presentations]

Remember, you are evaluating assumptions and hypotheses, not trying to confirm them. You are expected to remain open to

  • Customer (stakeholder) feedback
  • Intellectual honesty
  • New uses of your technology – “Pivot”
  • Alternative commercialization pathways

All activities will be conducted virtually until further notice.

How to apply

Interested applicants should apply using the linked Application Form before the application deadline of August 5, 2022. The application form requires each application to include the following information:

  • DOE award number
  • DOE program office funding the award (e.g., EERE, FE, NE, FES, BES, etc.)
  • Personnel that will be participating in the training. Please include the role (e.g., PI, business development manager, etc.) as well as name of personnel that will be taking the training. Each awardee may submit one to three participants, with three being the recommended number. Personnel must come from the small business awardee or a sub-awardee.
  • Commitment statement. In your commitment statement, please state that participants agree to attend all the required workshops and final presentation, commit to complete the scheduled assignments, and state why they believe program participation will improve their commercialization efforts. The statement should be 250 words or fewer.

Selection Criteria

This cohort will be limited to 50 companies. Participants will be selected based on their commitment statement. In addition, selection officials will aim at obtaining a fair distribution of participants across the participating DOE program offices.

Because training sessions are costly and highly sought, we urge awardees to apply only if they can commit the necessary time and effort. Dropping off after the beginning of the program leaves resources unused and prevents others from taking advantage of this opportunity.

Expense Reimbursement

Please note that time spent by the participants for the Energy I-Corps training cannot be directly billed to an SBIR/STTR award because these are not research and development expenses.

Informational Webinars:

Be on the lookout for communications regarding our upcoming informational webinars with Q&A. SBIR/STTR Programs Office staff and Energy I-Corps facilitators will be available to answer any questions you and your team may have.

Read what your peers are saying about their program participation:

I would only say, for startup leaders, this class is a must, make or break. Don’t do a start-up without it!
I'd highly encourage SBIR teams to apply if they can commit to the I-Corp schedule and deliverables. Going through the customer discovery process proved invaluable to accelerate our understanding of the potential non-DOE market.
It does not matter whether what you build is cool – it matters whether there are sufficient numbers of customers who will pay enough for your product so that you can make sufficient money.
When I started the program, I saw a confused mass of possible markets for our technology and a simplistic idea of what the customer needs were and I felt discouraged.  By the time we finished, we had built a complex network of information from which a simple - and implementable - business plan emerged...
I have run a successful 20-person business for 34 years and learned more in six weeks about venturing into a new space than I could ever have imagined.
The single best thing you can do for commercialization. My approach to commercialization has completely changed (and for the better).


For further questions contact Dave McCarthy at