Two Startups Win DOE Follow-On Funding to Develop Software for Building Efficiency

July 26, 2016

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Catalyst Energy Innovation Prize Winners Move Products Closer to Commercialization

The Energy Department’s Building Technologies Office (BTO) announced follow-on funding for the two Buildings topic winners of the Catalyst Energy Innovation Prize. The two startup companies, Kinetic Buildings and Livable Analytics, are developing cost-effective software solutions to diagnose faulty building operations and better understand building occupant satisfaction.

Catalyst, a partnership between BTO and DOE’s SunShot Initiative, is designed to accelerate solar energy and building energy efficiency technologies into the market by connecting American innovators to the Energy Department’s tools, capabilities, data sets, and resources. Catalyst awards cash prizes and software development resources across four phases of competition, with prizes totaling more than $1.8 million, including $970,000 in cash prizes.

“The Catalyst competition has proved a successful avenue for drastically accelerating the pace at which small companies move products closer to the market,” said Karma Sawyer, acting Emerging Technologies program manager at BTO. “We are extremely impressed with these teams’ progress over the past six months, and we can’t wait to see what they accomplish moving forward.”

Here’s how the competition works: first, the public submits problem statements describing challenges in the building efficiency space; then, entrepreneurs respond to those challenges by submitting a video pitch with a solution. The winning entrepreneurs then have 60 days to complete a prototype, or minimum viable product, which they present at Demo Day to a diverse panel of judges and an audience of local and regional innovators, entrepreneurs, and investors. Kinetic Buildings and Livable Analytics each won $30,000 awards at Demo Day in December 2015.

Following Demo Day, both teams entered the final phase of the competition – Incubation – a six-month period intended to help teams refine and further develop their prototypes. The teams are required to meet a series of milestones with the goal of introducing their fully developed products to the marketplace in the coming months. The Energy Department recognized both teams for their progress by awarding follow-on funding.

  • Kinetic Buildings (Philadelphia, PA) is awarded $70,000 in follow-on funding for their low-cost automated diagnostics tool for commercial buildings. Using machine-learning algorithms, the software can automatically identify inefficient and faulty operations in commercial building HVAC systems, wasted energy that can account for 20-30% of HVAC energy use. Kinetic Buildings’ technology gathers data from the building automation system, uses an algorithm to diagnose issues (replacing a typically time consuming, costly manual task), and provides actionable information to the building operator to fix problems found. Since the Demo Day award six months ago, Kinetic Buildings has evolved its algorithms into a functioning software application, almost ready for commercialization. Funding from the Incubation award will help make the product commercially viable.
     
  • Livable Analytics (Berkeley, CA) is awarded $20,000 in follow-on funding for its Occupant Feedback Toolkit, which allows building owners and design professionals to quickly and cost-effectively understand how energy-saving technologies and building performance affect occupant satisfaction. Commercial building stakeholders can then use this information to evaluate energy efficiency systems and technologies, inform building operations, and create improved building designs—ultimately creating a more productive environment for employees. Since the Demo Day award six months ago, Livable Analytics has expanded their toolkit to multi-site projects and new building types, and upgraded their survey platform. With the help of the Incubation award, the team hopes to take the product off the UC Berkeley campus, where it is currently being developed, and into its own organization, which will allow the company to scale and become profitable.

Learn more about the Catalyst Energy Innovation Prize.