DOE Launches IMPEL+ Building-Technology Accelerator for 2022

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by | Nov 9, 2021

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(Credit: Pixabay)

Leaders from the worlds of investing, technology, the public sector, and business are lending their expertise to the Department of Energy’s 2022 IMPEL+ accelerator, with a mission to speed commercialization of technologies that slash buildings’ carbon footprint.

“In the US, buildings are responsible for 40% of greenhouse gas emissions – more than any other sector,” said Dr. Carolyn Snyder, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency at DOE, in a press release. “President Biden has set a goal of cutting US emissions in half by 2030 compared to a 2005 baseline, and meeting that target will require dramatic improvements in building energy efficiency and rapid deployment of grid-integration and clean-energy technologies for buildings. IMPEL+ is helping some of the most exciting, advanced building technologies get into the marketplace, where they can help slash emissions.”

IMPEL+, which stands for Incubating Market-Propelled Entrepreneurial Mindset at the Labs and Beyond, is funded by DOE’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) and implemented by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL).

New for IMPEL+ in 2022:

  • A “Reverse Pitch” event. National laboratory system officials will present licensable intellectual property related to building energy use. Innovators will also hear from private investors, incubators, and public-sector grant programs on what they are looking for.
  • Business seminars. These offer intensive expert coaching on initial business plan framework and customized strategies.
  • Mentors including investors representing a range of potential funding, from boutique and impact funds to financial giants like SoftBank; potential demonstration partners from major universities, state energy offices, and federal entities including the General Services Administration and the Department of Defense; and potential venture innovation partners, including national labs and major corporations such as Carrier.

For the third year in a row, IMPEL+ will provide innovators with pitch coaching from practitioners including serial entrepreneur J.J. Singh, co-president of Stanford Angels and Entrepreneurs; tech entrepreneur, scientist, and marketing veteran Christina Ellwood of Moreland Associates; and Whitney Hischier, lecturer at the Haas School of Business, College of Natural Resources, and School of Engineering at UC Berkeley in strategy and entrepreneurship. Coaches will lead workshops organized along three tracks:

  • Decarbonize: For projects that radically reduce emissions for a zero-carbon built environment
  • Democratize: For projects that provide equitable wellness in a resilient, living environment
  • Digitalize: For projects that connect buildings, distributed energy resources, people, and organizations to smart analytics and critical energy information

IMPEL+ offers on-ramps to public and private pipelines offering funding and access that can lead to commercialization. To date, over half of IMPEL+ innovators have been women or people of color, and applications come from across the country. Every year, IMPEL+ innovators make connections that lead to grants, awards, and invitations to participate in next-step accelerators.

These are a few of the game-changing innovations from the 2021 cohort that IMPEL+ has helped springboard toward commercialization:

  • Josh Cable’s Inventwood was a part of a three-member team that received a $1.6 million award under the BTO BENEFIT FOA this August. Inventwood also received $500,000 from the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) to make lightweight 3D wood honeycomb structures that can be manufactured at one-fourteenth the cost and 10% of the CO2 emissions of their aluminum equivalents.
  • Tanya Barham received a $206,000 DOE SBIR Phase I grant to develop machine-learning-based interface design and workflow automation that enables dramatic energy savings in commercial buildings. Tanya and her team received additional funding under a BTO CRADA award to work with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the company to develop an affordable control solution for grid responsiveness, reducing greenhouse gas and utility cost, and rapid adoption in the marketplace.
  • Bilal Sher of New York University EASEEbot team won $200,000 in Phase 1 of the American-Made Challenges’ E-ROBOT Prize. EASEEbot can fly around buildings and auto-generate a 3D model using advanced reconstruction as a non-invasive solution to locate and document moisture intrusion, thermal bridges, and air leaks in buildings.
  • Natalia Mykhaylova’s WeavAir won a Hype Sports Innovation Award for their sensor-enabled technology, which helps fitness centers and stadiums improve air quality while saving energy and operating costs.

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