DOE Selects VC Pilots

The U.S. Department of Energy has chosen three venture capital firms to participate in the Department's new entrepreneur-in-residence pilot program, which aims to accelerate deployment and commercialization of advanced clean energy technologies from three DOE National Laboratories into the global marketplace. The three firms are: Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, ARCH Venture Partners and Foundation Capital.



U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Alexander Karsner today announced the competitive selection of three venture capital firms to participate in DOE's newly established Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) pilot program, which aims to accelerate deployment and commercialization of advanced clean energy technologies from three DOE National Laboratories into the global marketplace. The EIR pilot program furthers President Bush's comprehensive strategy to reduce our nation's dependence on foreign oil and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by empowering researchers and entrepreneurs to pioneer a new generation of clean energy technology.


“The Entrepreneur in Residence pilot program provides venture capital-sponsored entrepreneurs with access into three Energy Department's world-class national labs to accelerate adoption of advanced renewable energy and energy efficient technologies to fundamentally transform how we power this nation,” Assistant Secretary Karsner said. “In an effort to further the President's comprehensive strategy to diversify our nation's energy sources, and reduce emissions, the Department is leveraging private-sector expertise in new ways to capitalize on cutting-edge technologies that are ripe for commercialization.”


The EIR pilot program involves placing venture capital-sponsored and selected entrepreneurs in three of DOE's world-class National Laboratories to identify laboratory-developed technologies funded by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, and to develop business cases for their commercialization. Following evaluation of responses to DOE's October 2007 competitive Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA), DOE has selected Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield & Byers (Menlo Park, CA) to work with DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory; ARCH Venture Partners (Chicago, IL) to work with DOE's Sandia National Laboratory; and Foundation Capital (Menlo Park, CA) to work with DOE's Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Selections are subject to negotiation of final terms and execution of a Cooperative Agreement with each selected recipient.


The FOA proposed that each laboratory would host one entrepreneur in residence at a given time, and DOE would support this work by providing up to $100,000 for each entrepreneur to help defray salary and other expenses. Each firm will match DOE funding and may contribute additional funds to support its entrepreneur's work.


Using their vast business expertise, the selected firms will be permitted to give proven start-up entrepreneurs the opportunity to work directly with laboratory staff for a hands-on look at various, commercially viable technologies. Entrepreneurs will conduct technology assessments, evaluate market opportunities, formulate preliminary business cases, and propose business structures in an effort to bring cutting-edge technologies to market.


Upon selecting a technology for commercialization, entrepreneurs in residence and their venture capital sponsors would negotiate a license to use the laboratory-developed technology. Working with their respective entrepreneur, the venture capital sponsors will form and finance a start-up business based on the licensed technology. The foundation of each start-up's business plan would be the commercialization of licensed clean energy technologies.


To further accelerate the commercialization process, the EIR pilot program seeks to utilize a Standard License Agreement, tailored for entrepreneurs and small businesses. The Standard License Agreement includes a provision that would permit the EIR to offer partial ownership of the start-up company as full or partial payment for the license. This provides the opportunity for a start-up company to use its initial resources to grow the company rather than to make substantial up-front cash royalty payments. Built off of the structure of successful university licenses, the Standard License Agreement was attached to the FOA.