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SunShot Catalyst Program

SunShot Catalyst is an open innovation program that aims to catalyze the rapid creation and development of products and solutions that address near-term challenges in the U.S. solar marketplace. Through a series of prize challenges, SunShot Catalyst makes it faster and easier for American innovators to launch cutting-edge solar companies, while tackling time-sensitive market challenges.

Since its inception, SunShot has helped hundreds of innovators bring mature solar solutions to the marketplace. Catalyst’s prize challenge framework introduces the business community to the vast array of tools, capabilities, data assets and additional resources developed by Energy Department and the national laboratories. Catalyst’s open, fast-paced innovation cycle allows crowd-sourced engagement and frequent partnerships with the nation’s growing networks of technology mentors, incubators, and accelerators.

The Catalyst Process

The Catalyst program consists of four steps with value awarded to all winning contestants totaling $1,000,000, including about $500,000 in cash prizes.

    Winners Awards Timeline
Step 1 Ideation Up to 5 $1,000 cash per winner May 21 – August 25 at 11:59pm ET
Step 2 Business Innovation Up to 20 $25,000 in services per winner September 8 – December 19 at 11:59pm ET
Step 3 Prototype Up to 20 finalists All finalists advance to Incubation January 19 – April 17 at 11:59pm ET
Step 4      Incubation Up to 5 Up to $100,000 prize package per winner First cash prizes announced May 14, 2015. See detailed timeline below.
Step 1: Ideation

The ideation contest focuses on generating and aggregating pressing U.S. solar market needs and problem statements that can be solved through automation, algorithms, data, and software, especially by leveraging available data assets, tools, capabilities, and resources. Anyone can participate by submitting problem statements online or by voting on problem statements submissions from others. A contestant with a problem statement may win $1,000 in cash prizes when a team, who adopted this problem statement in their business solution, has been selected among top five winners by a panel of judges in accordance with the rules of the incubation contest.

Step 2: Business Innovation

The business innovation contest is designed to help teams form and explore business solutions to the most compelling problems identified during ideation. Anyone can participate by submitting a business plan package online, including a five-minute video describing the proposed business plan. Up to 20 winners will be given the opportunity to move forward in the Catalyst process and work directly with a crowd-centric performance-based software development platform to develop the product proposed in their business plan and to create minimum viable products (MVPs).

Step 3: Prototype

The prototype phase is designed to help business plan contest winners rapidly develop MVPs using a crowd-centric performance-based software development platform. During the contest, teams will be provided with $25,000 worth of support from a DOE-provided software developer over a 60-day period. Each team will formulate their requirements and scope of work for one MPV, working closely with the software developer.  

Step 4: Incubation

The Incubation contest is designed to help teams with MPVs start their businesses and accelerate offering new products and services in the solar marketplace. To win cash awards, teams will participate in a DOE-hosted Demo Day to showcase their MPVs, market entry execution strategy, and six-month growth plan. During Demo Day, teams will be evaluated by judges according to pre-established criteria. The top five winning teams will receive up to $100,000 in cash prizes.

Incubation timeline:

  • Demo Day in San Francisco: May 14, 2015
  • 6-month assessment period ends: November 9, 2015 at 11:59 PM ET
  • Progress round awards & 2nd tranche cash prizes announced: December 14-20, 2015

SunShot Catalyst Demo Day

Check out the finalists from the first round of Catalyst at Demo Day on May 14, 2015 in San Francisco, and vote live for your favorite solar solution as 17 companies compete for $500,000 in cash prizes. Winners will be announced live. Space is limited - register today!  

Find media resources for Catalyst Demo Day here.


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