DOE announces new $2.5M prize to support diversity in innovation

Oct. 1, 2021
DOE’s first-ever Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize provides cash awards to organizations prioritizing climate solutions for underrepresented communities.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today launched the new Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize that will award up to $2.5 million in cash prizes to groups and organizations that support entrepreneurship and innovation in communities historically underserved in climate and energy technology funding. The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize supports the Biden-Harris Administration’s Justice40 initiative to put environmental and economic justice at the center of America’s transition to a net-zero economy by 2050.

“Structural barriers are still stifling the ability for innovators who are Black, Indigenous, and people of color – some of the people most impacted by climate change – to access clean energy funding,” said Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “DOE’s new Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize aims to bridge that gap and build an inclusive community of innovators who have a seat at the table as we map out a comprehensive, equitable clean energy transition.”

A recent study found that out of approximately one billion dollars in philanthropic funding provided to a dozen national environmental grantees, just over 1% of the funding was awarded to energy justice-focused organizations. The study also revealed that inadequate access to funding, information about proper procedures during the request for applications process were all barriers that prevented the organizations from being considered for funding opportunities. A recent roundtable hosted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory additionally confirmed these findings.

DOE’s Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize aims to create an inclusive and just innovation ecosystem in climate and energy technologies. Funds will support underrepresented groups and organizations with ongoing or proposed incubation, acceleration, and other community-based innovation services. The prize will also help lower barriers to entry to DOE funding opportunities and other forms of assistance for first-time applicants, people and organizations from underrepresented communities, underserved and frontline communities, and individuals from other nontraditional backgrounds.

Through the Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize, DOE will deliver resources to ensure applicants from all backgrounds have an equal opportunity to apply for and receive DOE funding. Up to 10 organizations will share a total prize pool of up to $2.5 million.

The prize will:

  • Fund organizations for activities that support, build trust and strengthen relationships and partnerships with underrepresented, underserved communities.
  • Enable and enhance business and technology incubation, acceleration, and other community-based and university-based entrepreneurship and innovation in climate and clean energy technologies.
  • Enable clean energy and climate research, commercialization, and entrepreneurship programming and capabilities at colleges and universities that serve large populations of students underrepresented in STEM, Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), community colleges, and undergraduate institutions.
  • Foster grassroots innovation related to just and equitable clean energy deployment through activities focusing on community-centric networks and bottom-up solutions for sustainable development, based on the needs of the communities involved.
  • Identify and fund activities that will help traditionally underrepresented groups become aware of, apply into and receive DOE funding, in support of DOE’s Justice40 goals.
  • Support community-serving organizations to develop replicable clean energy transitions based on renewable energy and associated opportunities.
  • Organizations eligible to participate in the prize include non-profit and non-governmental organizations; state, local, and tribal governments and government entities; for-profit companies; academic institutions with experience in supporting environmental, climate, and energy justice.

The Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize will be distributed in two phases. In Phase One, up to 10 winners will receive an initial cash prize of $200,000 each, with the opportunity to receive additional awards.  Phase One awardees will also receive in-kind mentorship and other support services and be eligible to participate in Phase Two of the prize. In Phase Two, up to three teams will be awarded cash prizes from a prize pool of $500,000. The prize is open for submissions for Phase One for the next 150 days, closing Friday February 25, 2022.

Learn more about DOE’s Innovation Energy Prize and how to get involved:

For more information about how DOE is working to support underrepresented groups to pursue innovative research in climate and clean energy technologies visit the DOE Office of Economic Impact and Diversity’s website:


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