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Thank you for your interest. Innovation Crossroads will accept applications for its ninth cohort September 4–November 8, 2024.

About Innovation Crossroads

Innovation Crossroads, a Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Program, at Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is the Southeast’s only entrepreneurial research and development program based at a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratory. Innovation Crossroads was founded to address the critical need to accelerate the applied research, development, and deployment of technologies based in the physical sciences, such as materials and manufacturing, that are capable of transforming the nation’s energy systems. Driving these technologies from laboratory to commercialization requires both collaborative research and development and the entrepreneurial development of the innovators working on these technologies.

Innovation Crossroads supports and mentors entrepreneurial researchers whose early-stage innovations are presently too challenging or technically uncertain to pursue in a venture capital-financed startup. Innovators are selected for the program through an annual competition. Innovation Crossroads embeds innovators at ORNL for up to two years for entrepreneurial mentorship and to conduct cooperative research and development with the intention of incubating and translating innovations from proof-of-concept to proof-of-product. This unique fellowship opportunity allows selected innovators to leverage the ORNL’s world-leading scientific facilities, equipment, capabilities, and experts to advance their early-stage scientific discoveries into potential commercial opportunities within a relatively short period of time.

The program is supported by ORNL, DOE Advanced Materials and Manufacturing Technologies Office (AMMTO), Building Technologies Office (BTO), Office of Electricity (OE), Office of Science (SC) Advanced Scientific Computing Research (ASCR) program, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

Accelerating Your Innovation at Oak Ridge National Laboratory

By embedding the next generation of top technical talent within ORNL, Innovation Crossroads positions entrepreneurial research fellows to address fundamental challenges identified by industry. Learn more about the unique scientific resources, facilities, equipment, capabilities, and experts available at ORNL in these science and technology areas:


Innovation Crossroads will help selected innovators in the physical sciences and energy technologies to mature their early-stage innovations. DOE and TVA will provide funding to ORNL to support selected innovators in developing their technology. Additionally, program sponsors will provide an Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE) fellowship to the selected innovators for the first year with the possibility of renewal, subject to a one-year review, for support of up to two years through this program. ORNL is presently searching for innovators for cohort 2025. Benefits to selected innovators may include up to 24 months of Innovation Crossroads resources, subject to performance and availability of funding, including:

  • A two-year fellowship – Innovators receive a yearly living stipend of $115,000, along with a health insurance stipend and professional development allowance for travel funding, educational training and development, and customer discovery activities.
  • World-class lab access and research funding – In addition to unparalleled access to facilities, research tools, equipment, and expertise at ORNL, innovators receive R&D funding to support collaboration opportunities with researchers across the lab.
  • Business mentors, entrepreneurial training, and networking – Innovators receive access to experienced business mentors, entrepreneurial training programs, and exclusive networking opportunities. Innovators are also connected to a wide range of leaders from academia, industry, government, and finance that can serve as advisors and partners.

Application Timeline

  • Applications open: 8 a.m. ET September 4, 2024
  • Applications close: 8 p.m. ET November 8, 2024
  • Written application review: November–December 2024
    Applications are reviewed by the Innovation Crossroads team, as well as scientific and industry subject matter experts.
  • Internal pre-screening interview: December 2024
    Candidates who meet all required eligibility criteria will be invited to conduct an informal virtual pre-screen interview with the Innovation Crossroads team to learn more about the candidate, their technology/company, and address any questions that they have about the program or process.
  • Market opportunity assessment: December 2024
    The ORNL Technology Transfer Division will perform a market opportunity assessment on potential semifinal technologies/companies to identify a value proposition, target market, competitive landscape, competitive differentiators, and risk/threats.
  • Virtual semifinal interviews: January 2025
    Semifinalists are invited to present to a review panel of representatives from the local entrepreneurial ecosystem and internal program champions.
  • In-person final interviews: March 2025
    Finalists are invited to visit ORNL to tour facilities; connect with potential collaborators, principal investigators, and mentors; and present to a talented team of investors, business executives, and experienced entrepreneurs from across the country.
  • Cohort 2025 selected: May–June 2025
  • Cohort 2025 starts at Innovation Crossroads: August 2025

Eligibility Criteria

For acceptance into the program, applicants must:

  • Apply as an individual, not as a company or organization (if you are part of a team, each member of your team can apply as an individual) 
  • Have doctoral degree or equivalent experience
  • Leverage ORNL R&D capabilities and have alignment with DOE’s and/or TVA’s mission 
  • Be willing to relocate to the Knoxville-Oak Ridge area for two years
  • Be a US citizen or lawful permanent resident at time of application
  • Have raised no more the $2 million USD in debt or equity funding from non-government sources within three years prior to program application
  • Successfully execute a cooperative research and development agreement (CRADA) with ORNL
  • Disclose background intellectual property rights, if necessary, that may be needed to freely operate on R&D-related tasks as outlined within the CRADA

Technology Areas of Interest

Innovators must focus on an emerging technology that will advance the development of clean energy, advanced manufacturing, a shared integrated grid, and/or smart buildings. Innovation Crossroads seeks entrepreneurs advancing technologies to overcome complex scientific challenges that require a lengthy development cycle of about two years to reach the pre-commercial prototype stage. 

Technology areas of interest, as identified by our sponsors:

  • Advanced materials
    Scientific breakthroughs in basic and applied materials using materials synthesis, characterization, and theory to produce cutting-edge materials for energy generation, storage, and use.
  • Carbon capture, utilization, and sequestration
    Scientific breakthroughs that develop, demonstrate, and deploy approaches to advance technologies to reduce and recycle carbon emissions and other environmental impacts of fossil fuel production and use, while working towards net-zero emissions.
  • Circular economy technologies and systems
    Scientific breakthroughs that provide opportunities to re-manufacture and reuse end-of-life consumer products instead of having them end up in a landfill.
  • Data and networking systems and technology
    Scientific breakthroughs that provide opportunities to optimize functionality and drive insight from the internet of things, 5G telecommunications, and electric vehicle telematics.
  • Energy storage and grid optimization
    Scientific breakthroughs in power and energy systems, vehicle and buildings science, power electronics, energy storage, sensors and controls, data science and modeling, and cybersecurity enabling breakthroughs to support a resilient and secure power grid. Specific energy storage technologies of interest include pumped storage hydropower, nickel-hydrogen batteries, iron salt water batteries, and organic aqueous flow batteries. Grid technologies of interest include voltage optimization, automatic switching and reclosing, line sensors, hosting capacity tools, transmission and distribution integrated planning tools, utility managed EV charging, and charging stations for multiuse dwellings.
  • Improving manufacturing efficiency
    Scientific breakthroughs in next-generation materials, software, and systems to improve energy and materials efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness of American manufactures.
  • Industrial decarbonization
    Scientific breakthroughs in direct air capture, low-carbon generation and manufacturing, net-zero chemical processes, and the climate positive production of cement and steel.
  • Lowering building carbon and energy footprints
    Scientific breakthroughs accelerating the development and integration of innovative advanced building equipment and novel dynamic envelope materials and systems to enable affordable, efficient, and resilient buildings. Specific technologies of interest include variable speed and industrial heat pumps.
  • Negative emissions technologies and carbon dioxide removal (CDR)
    Scientific breakthroughs including direct air capture (DAC) coupled to durable storage, soil carbon sequestration, biomass carbon removal and storage, enhanced mineralization, ocean-based CDR, and afforestation/reforestation. Specific technologies of interest include carbon capture membranes, absorption, and adsorption.
  • Nexus of energy, water, and agriculture 
    Scientific breakthroughs that improves our national and community-level water and food security, improves water resiliency and water quality in our watersheds, reduces the energy and water intensity of the agricultural industry, and provides local economic development opportunities.
  • Quantum computing
    Scientific breakthroughs in quantum computing, quantum networks, and quantum sensing to address national priorities in energy, security, and scientific discovery.
  • Solar and wind energy
    Scientific breakthroughs across the solar and wind energy spectrum to drive innovation, lower costs, create shared community systems, and support the transition to a decarbonized power sector.
  • Other
    Scientific breakthroughs that can leverage unique scientific facilities, sophisticated equipment, capabilities, and experts in neutron science, high-performance computing, advanced materials, biology and environmental science, nuclear science and engineering, isotopes, and national security research to accelerate clean energy innovations to the marketplace.

Application Materials

Applications should consist of a single PDF document containing the following information:

  • Resume (one page)
    Provide a resume highlighting your education, experience, and skills.
  • Tell us about yourself (one page)
    Provide the back story on you and your project. Where did the idea originate? Why do you want to pursue this effort and what makes you qualified to do so? Explain why you have chosen to pursue an entrepreneurial career path.
  • Tell us about your technology (two pages)
    Describe the technology you want to develop, including the current status of the technology. Provide an adequate amount of technical detail for a subject matter expert to fully understand your technology, and the methodological next steps required to scale the technology. Use the Heilmeier catechism as a guide. Please include links or references to supporting documents that back technology proof-of-concept (i.e., patents, publications, presentations, diagrams, etc.).
  • Project abstract (one page)
    Briefly describe how you envision making your technology a market reality. Please describe the market you intend to reach, its customers, potential suppliers/distributors/manufacturers, relevant intellectual property (status of any licenses, etc.), barriers to entry, sophistication of market, market incumbents, etc.
  • Tell us about your team (one paragraph)
    List current members of your team (i.e., co-founders, chief executive officer, chief operations officer, chief technology officer, business development manager, engineers, etc.).
  • What is the potential impact on the DOE, TVA, and/or ORNL mission? (one paragraph)
    Comment on the potential for impact on US energy and manufacturing competitiveness. More specifically, comment on the potential for impact on the sponsor’s mission area for your primary application track.
  • Why ORNL and Innovation Crossroads? (one page)
    What most attracts you to Innovation Crossroads? Why is ORNL the ideal home for you and your project (vs. alternative paths)? Name the people, facilities, and/or equipment at ORNL that will be most valuable in supporting your work.
  • What else? (one page)
    An extra page for anything else that you feel we should know.

Render and submit a single PDF that precisely follows the page guidance above.  For example, “one page” precisely means a single page with no spillover (maximum page limit of 8).

Learn More

Are you an entrepreneur interested in learning more about Innovation Crossroads qualifications, benefits, and the application process? 

Make plans to join us for a program overview and the opportunity to ask questions of the Innovation Crossroads Team: 

  • Thursday, September 12 at 2:00 p.m. Eastern Time
  • Tuesday, October 8 at 10:00 a.m. Eastern Time
  • Wednesday, October 30 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time

Register now for an upcoming informational webinar!

Note: Your registration confirmation email from Innovation Crossroads will contain Microsoft Teams connection information and instructions. 

Apply Now

Thank you for your interest. Innovation Crossroads will accept applications for its ninth cohort September 4–November 8, 2024. Check back on September 4, 2024 for a link to the application. 


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