American-Made Challenges


Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize Round 3

The Office of Technology Transitions EPIC Round 3 incentivizes incubators that implement high-impact ideas to support energy startups.

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Phase 1 Winners Announced

This challenge is closed



EPIC Round 3 

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Technology Transitions (OTT), EPIC Round 3 is a $4 million competitive funding program for the nation’s most innovative incubators supporting energy startups. EPIC Round 3 awards cash prizes and a three-year cooperative agreement to regional incubator teams that submit the most creative and impactful plans, then implement those plans to develop strong programming, connections, and support for energy startups and entrepreneurs. 

Technology startups require more than capital to launch, grow, and scale their innovations. Incubators provide the mentorship, technology validation, business development, connections to manufacturers, and other resources that are critical to a startup’s success. The prize seeks to address a capital gap in supporting these incubators by providing both short-term financial gains through a prize competition and a multi-year, stable funding program to be applied where domestic incubators need it most. 

The new approach to EPIC—combining a prize competition with a cooperative agreement negotiation with OTT—encourages bold and impactful ideas, while providing incubators with the long-term funding needed to scale those ideas. Together with OTT and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, who manages EPIC Round 3, these incubators will strengthen the small business ecosystem in the United States and advance our clean energy future.  

Program Structure

EPIC Round 3 is composed of three phases to support energy incubators and accelerators: 

Phase 1: Competitors will create a plan to support energy startups and entrepreneurs and define their metrics for success. Up to 20 competitors will win $150,000 each. 

Phase 2: Phase 1 finalists will begin to implement their novel programming and create a continuation plan worthy of selection for a cooperative agreement. Select Phase 2 winners will then be invited to negotiate a cooperative agreement with OTT worth up to $1 million. 

Phase 3: Winning teams will negotiate their three-year cooperative agreement with OTT. 

Phase 2 will include two pitch competitions in which all past and present EPIC incubators can nominate energy startups for a chance to win the $100,000 grand prize. 

Competitor Eligibility

OTT welcomes incubator organizations that aid in the development of new business ventures, including incubators, accelerators, co-working startup communities, or any other organizations that self-identify as advocates for innovation and entrepreneurship. We encourage these organizations, including organizations that have competed in prior rounds of the EPIC Prize, to compete in EPIC Round 3. 

This funding program is open to private entities (for-profits and nonprofits) and academic institutions that meet all eligibility requirements.  

  • Private entities must be incorporated in and maintain a primary place of business in the United States. 
  • Programming proposed by incubators must have an emphasis on supporting startups with a hard-tech focus.  
  • While National Laboratories are not eligible to compete, they may support teams in the competition if they are engaging the teams in compliance with lab partnership requirements.  

For more eligibility information, review the official prize rules.


Please review the official rules for the complete application process and instructions for competing. 

If you want to receive updates on the prize or have any questions, please subscribe by using the contact feature on the HeroX platform, or message us directly at


Challenge Updates

EPIC Prize Official Rules - Now Updated!

April 12, 2024, 1:58 p.m. PDT by NREL Prize Moderator

The EPIC Pitch events are so impactful and fun that the official prize rules have been updated to include a 3rd EPIC pitch competition!

  • ONLY EPIC Round 1 FOA awardees will be able to nominate startups for pitch competition #3.
  • The pitch event will be held at the Office of Technology Transitions EPIC FOA event in Washington, DC on May 9, 2024.
  • Additional nomination details will be sent out shortly from DOE OTT to EPIC Round 1 FOA awardees!

You can access the updated rules under the EPIC Prize Resources tab.

Announcing EPIC Round 3 Phase 1 Winners

April 2, 2024, 11:20 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

Congratulations to the 23 EPIC Round 3 Phase 1 winners who will now advance to compete in the next round of the funding program!  

These incubators and accelerators demonstrated a dedication to clean energy entrepreneurship, and each received $150,000 for their efforts to support energy startups and entrepreneurs in their communities.  


Phase 1 Winners  

Phase 1 winners come from across the U.S. and its territories, representing a wide range of regions and energy tech industries.  


The EPIC Round 3 Phase 1 winners are:  

  •    AirMiners (San Francisco, CA)  
  •    Alpha-X (Alpharetta, GA)  
  •    Arrowhead Center and New Mexico State University (Las Cruces, NM)  
  •    Black & Veatch IgniteX Accelerator (Overland Park, KS)  
  •    BRITE Energy Innovators (Warren, OH)  
  •    Carbon and Hydrogen Innovation and Learning Incubator (Houston, TX)  
  •    Cascadia Cleantech Accelerator (Portland, OR)  
  •    Centrepolis Accelerator and NexCorps Accelerator (Southfield, MI & Rochester, NY)  
  •    ClimateHaven (New Haven, CT)  
  •    Dominion Energy Innovation Center (Ashland, VA)  
  • (Pittsburg, PA)
  •    Elemental Excelerator (Honolulu, HI)  
  •    FusionForge (Fort Collins, CO)  
  •    Home Energy Efficiency Team (Boston, MA)  
  •    Launch Alaska (Anchorage, AK)
  •    mHUB (Chicago, IL)  
  •    Missouri Innovation Center (Columbia, MO)  
  •    Newlab (Brooklyn, NY)  
  •    Parallel18 (San Juan, Puerto Rico)  
  •    Spark Innovation Center (Knoxville, TN)  
  •    Terra EPIC (Tulsa, OK)  
  •    U.S. Research Impact Alliance Corp (Morgantown, WV)  
  •    Urban Future Lab (Brooklyn, NY)  

You can find more information about the prize, teams, and the U.S. Department of Energy Office of Technology Transitions on

Read the full announcement on

EPIC Prize Official Rules Now Updated!

March 22, 2024, 11:15 a.m. PDT by NREL Prize Administrator

 The official rules now include:

  •  Number of Phase 1 winners changed from 20 to 23
  •  Eligibility and nomination details for the next EPIC Startup Pitch Competition  
  •  Awards and cash prize details for the next EPIC Startup Pitch Competition 

    Access the updated rules here and in the resources tab! 

You’re Invited to the EPIC Prize Round 3 Pitch Competition!

Feb. 27, 2024, 12:30 p.m. PST by NREL Prize Administrator

The next EPIC Pitch Competition has been announced! The first startup pitch competition for EPIC Round 3 will happen Jun. 4-6, 2024 in Minneapolis, Minnesota at the DOE Small Business Forum and Expo. 

Through the Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize, the DOE Office of Technology Transitions (OTT), in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and the DOE Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization (OSDBU), will invite nominated startups to Minneapolis to compete for cash prizes.  


Who can nominate a startup to compete? Any incubator that has won an award in the EPIC Program (EPIC Round 1, EPIC FOA, EPIC Round 2, or EPIC Round 3) can nominate one startup to compete in this pitch competition. 

When are nominations due? Nominations are due by April 3, 2024. Startups that are selected to compete as finalists will be notified in early May 2024. Finalists will receive a $1,000 finalist award.

How do incubators nominate a startup? Please fill out this form to nominate a startup. 

Where do I find more information? The Official Rules document has more information about the startup pitch competitions. 

Reminder: Today is the submission deadline!

Feb. 9, 2024, 9:50 a.m. PST by NREL Prize Administrator

Phase 1 of EPIC Round 3 is closing today, Friday, Feb. 9 at 5 p.m. ET! Be sure to submit all of your materials by then if you want to compete. 


Remember – You can find templates to help you craft your submission under the "Resources" tab. 

Check the "FAQ" tab, post a question under the "Forum" tab, or email with any questions. 

We can’t wait to see your submissions!