DOE's $2.5 Million Prize Supports Diversity in Innovation


On February 25, submissions close for the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s new Inclusive Energy Innovation Prize, which 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.

Originally announced in September 2021, 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.

The 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 Need for Inclusion

A recent study found that out of approximately $1 billion in philanthropic funding provided to 12 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 and information about proper procedures during the request for applications process were barriers that prevented the organizations from being considered for funding opportunities. A roundtable hosted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 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 Details

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.

Learn more and complete your submission by February 25.