Frequently Asked Questions

Disclaimer

All details necessary to compete in the SunShot Catalyst program are provided in the official rules document. The information provided in this page is not intended to amend, modify or substitute details provided in the SunShot Catalyst official rules. Information presented should be used in conjunction with the official rules. In addition, any reference in this website to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or preference by the Department of Energy.


What types of ideas can I submit?

The Ideation contest (Step 1) is designed so you can share U.S. solar market needs, challenges, and problem statements, in particular, issues that can be solved through highly scalable business processes, automation, algorithms, data, and software. As a general reference, existing submissions are already submitted online. In addition, on page 13 of the official rules document we have provided an illustrative list of non-compliant submissions. Please review this list if you are uncertain whether your submission is in compliance with official rules.

If you want to compete in the Business Innovation Contest, you can either choose an eligible problem statement from the Catalyst website or you may submit your own problem statement with your Business Innovation Contest (Step 2) application.

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How can I participate if I don’t have new ideas for solar technology?

We encourage you to participate in a number of ways. First, you can view existing submissions online, post comments and provide feedback. We designed this program to be open and transparent to encourage as much participation from the public as possible. Second, the public can vote on favorite submissions. The voting period is open between June 25 and August 25, 2014. These dates are subject to change, so please check the official rules online. Third, share links to the SunShot Catalyst program with your friends and colleagues. We hope that the more people that are involved, the greater the conversation will be, which will make solar easier, faster and cheaper for all Americans.

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Can I submit solutions instead of problems or challenges?

Yes, we have designed the Business Innovation contest (Step 2) for this purpose. The Catalyst program is designed so that applicants can address at least one of the many problem statements submitted during the Ideation contest (Step 1). If your solution does not address one of the submitted or online problem statements from Step 1 then you must describe the challenge you are addressing as part of your complete submission to the Business Innovation contest.

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Does Catalyst fund hardware solutions?

In addition to the DOE SunShot Catalyst program, the Department remains committed to the best funding mechanism to build or prototype a new hardware solution in solar. The services provided during Prototyping (Step 3) are currently only suitable for algorithms, automation, simulations, data, and software. If your hardware solution pivots on simulations, data processing, or software for its success then you may compete during the Business Innovation contest (Step 2). You may want to explore existing funding opportunities that may be more suitable for your solution at EERE Funding Opportunity Exchange.

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How does public voting work?

You have to be a registered community member of Ideascale.com to vote. According to the official rules, you can vote on any submission, you have one vote per submission during the open voting period. The voting period is open between June 25th and August 25th, 2014. These dates are subject to change, so please check the official rules online.

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Can I compete in any step of the Catalyst program directly?

For Steps 1 and 2, you may compete directly. Only those individuals or teams that were selected as one of top 20 finalists at the end of Step 2 may compete in Steps 3 and/or 4.

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I have already developed a minimum viable product and I’m currently entering the market. Is it possible for my startup to apply to the Incubation contest in the Catalyst program?

According to the official rules of the Catalyst program, you may not compete in Step 4 (Incubation contest) without participating in Step 2 and Step 3. The SunShot Incubator program and DOE’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR)/Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) are possible funding options that you may wish to explore. Please check online at the EERE Funding Opportunity Exchange for applicable funding announcements.

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How will prizes be awarded for the Ideation contest?

The cash awards for Step 1 are determined based on the results of the Incubation contest (Step 4). Assume after you have submitted a challenge or a problem statement, Jane Innovator developed a business plan to address this problem. If Jane Innovator was successful in Step 2, Step 3 and was selected in Step 4 among the top five winners, then you will be awarded $1,000. DOE will need to independently validate that Jane Innovator developed a business plan to address the issue or problem that you submitted in Step 1.

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Can a submission win more than one prize?

One submission for the Ideation contest may win more than one cash prize of $1,000. For example, if two independent teams developed two business plans to address the same problem and both teams were successful in Step 2, Step 3, and were selected in Step 4 among the top five winners, then the person/entity who submitted this problem will be eligible to receive $2,000. The maximum prize any individual or team could win for a Step 1 submission(s) is $5,000.

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Can I maximize my odds for wining a prize by providing a highly abstract description of a challenge or a problem?

It is important to remember that DOE does not make any selections in the Ideation contest (Step 1) nor dictates which problems should be addressed with business plans. Members of the public choose which problems to solve with their business plan submissions during the Business Innovation contest (Step 2). If you can influence many interested contestants to submit complete business plan packages that solve the one problem you posted, then you may have an opportunity to maximize your odds. You may have a greater likelihood of selection if you submit several unique, specific, compelling, and well-articulated solar market challenges as separate submissions during the Ideation contest (Step 1). This way, your many problem statements may attract a large number of contestants who would, with their business plans, tackle the different problems you have posted.

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Do I retain intellectual property ownership?

Yes, however, be mindful that problem statements, ideas, solutions, and content submitted to Step 1 and Step 2 must be submitted and released to the public under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (see http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/). In addition to the rights under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, by making a submission and consenting to the official rules, a contestant is granting the following license to DOE, administrator, and any other third parties supporting DOE in this program: a royalty-free, non-exclusive, worldwide perpetual license to copy, display publicly and use the submission for Government purpose. Please review submission rights described in the official rules for each contest online or download the document here.

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What is the reason behind limiting the exclusivity rights commercialize a minimum viable product (MVP) that I co-developed during the Prototyping step to only 18 months?

In today’s environment of rapid innovation in data processing and software development, DOE seeks to support contestants who are willing to aggressively pursue the development of their products. DOE believes that 18 months is a reasonable amount of time for these contestants to significantly advance their MVPs after the beginning of Step 4. DOE will only have rights to the intellectual property (IP) developed by the beginning of Step 4. DOE will have no rights to any IP developed after the beginning of Step 4. DOE believes that the key to success is staying ahead with constant and rapid innovation. To ensure that ideas developed under this contest have the highest likelihood of reaching the market, DOE will make the intellectual property developed during Prototyping (Step 3) available to the public only after contestants have had 18 months, when applicable, to continue to develop their proposed products.

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What potential benefits do I get from submitting an idea to the Catalyst program?

One of the driving principles of the Catalyst program centers on reducing the time-to-market of compelling solutions. Given that the U.S. market economy is highly competitive, one of the best proven strategies for sustainable success against competition is faster and better innovation. Therefore, the rules in the Catalyst program are designed to help entities that embrace competition because these entities know that only competition makes them better.

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If I have a solution, should I submit it in the Ideation contest or the Business Innovation contest?

If you have a solution, then you have a well-thought problem or a challenge that you are trying to address. Share your problem statements during the Ideation contest and submit your business plans for solving these problems during the Business Innovation contest.

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How can I submit a business solution?

Submit your business solution as part of the Business Plan package required during the Business Innovation contest (Step 2). According to the official rules, a complete submission includes the following:

A reference to a voted problem statement or a new problem statement not exceeding 2,800 characters including spaces.

A link to a video presentation no longer than 5 minutes describing the proposed business plan, posted to any online video hosting website (e.g. YouTube) that include the following elements:

According to the official rules and at minimum the content should include the following:

   1. Who you are and why we should believe you can solve this problem;

   2. What problem you are trying to solve;

   3. Your proposed solution and how it will make money;

   4. Who are your customers and how you will involve them early and often.

Name and title of the top five members of the applying team including links to publicly accessible resumes or profiles on any online professional social media network (e.g. LinkedIn).

A short description of the business plan to share with the public not exceeding 1,400 characters including spaces.

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Where do I upload my video submission?

DOE will not provide any video hosting or upload capabilities, please choose an online video hosting website to upload your video and share the link with DOE as part of your Business Plan package for Step 2.

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What should I include in my business plan video?

According to the official rules and at minimum the content should include the following:

  • Who you are and why we should believe you can solve this problem.
  • What problem you are trying to solve.
  • Your proposed solution and how it will make money.
  • Who are your customers and how you will involve them early and often.
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    Can more than one person work on a submission and receive credit for it in the Business Innovation contest? And if the business plan wins, will the prize money be split among the creators?

    Yes, more than one person can work together and submit one Business Plan package during the Business Innovation contest. Team members are solely responsible for allocating the value of services, awards or prizes to be granted by DOE as described by the official rules of the Catalyst program. DOE will not arbitrate, intervene, advise on, or resolve any matters between entrant members. Unresolved conflicts among team members may impact the team’s ability to compete in following stages of the program. Please review provisions about teams described in the official rules for each contest online or downloadable here.

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    What is Demo Day? Is it open to the public?

    Demo Day will be a public event to showcase all the competing teams selected in Step 2 to rapidly develop their minimum viable product during Step 3. Demo Day will be held at the beginning of Step 4. During Demo Day, teams will compete for one of five cash prizes, $100,000 each. More details about Step 4 can be found starting on page 28 of the official rules document.

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    Who can I contact if I have questions?

    Please email SunShot.Catalyst@ee.doe.gov. We may not respond to your question by email directly. To be fair to all potential contestants, we will post the answer to your question online at our FAQ page, if necessary. Many questions can be easily answered by a careful review of the official rules posted online or downloadable here.

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    Disclaimer

    All details necessary to compete in the SunShot Catalyst program are provided in the official rules document. The information provided in this page is not intended to amend, modify or substitute details provided in the SunShot Catalyst official rules. Information presented should be used in conjunction with the official rules. In addition, any reference in this website to any specific commercial product, process, or service, or the use of any trade, firm or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public, and does not constitute endorsement, recommendation, or preference by the Department of Energy.