Incubatenergy Labs FAQ


What is Incubatenergy Labs?

Open innovation program linking startups in the network with electric utilities to demonstrate and scale innovations in decarbonization, electrification, grid modernization and resilience. All project outcomes are share on our past project page.

What organizations are involved in Incubatenergy Labs?

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) is a non-profit institute driving R&D on behalf of about 500 utilities worldwide. For 2022, American Electric Power (AEP), Ameren, Consolidated Edison (Con Edison), Enel, Entergy, FirstEnergy, Fortis Inc., Grupo Energía Bogotá (GEB), National Grid Partners, New York Power Authority (NYPA), Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Portland General Electric (PGE), Salt River Project (SRP), Southern California Edison (SCE), Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Vermont Electric Power Company (VELCO), and Xcel Energy are involved. 

Are there cash prizes?

We are looking for companies whose innovations are past the cash prizes phase of development, are ready for demonstration in real-world environments, and are nearing the point of market scale. While we don’t have cash prizes, EPRI and our member utilities are ready to work with you on paid demonstrations. Revenue is the best cash prize, right?

How were the 2022 challenge areas selected?

The Incubatenergy Labs process starts with ensuring there is customer demand for your solutions. The participating utilities and EPRI review our strategic innovation imperatives and identify the innovation challenge areas that are common across the group. Doing so maximizes the value to both the utilities trying to solve these challenges and the startups working to scale their solutions across a large customer base.

Have you run similar challenges?

Yes. It started in 2019 when EPRI and seven utilities collaborated on the Illumination LAB and ran paid demonstration projects with six startups. In 2020, the program rebranded as Incubatenergy Labs, included eleven utilities and ran 10 demonstrations. In 2021, EPRI and fifteen utilities ran 20 demonstrations. This year, we are gearing up for a cohort of similar size to 2021. See the Past Projects page for an overview of the program and the companies selected.


What is the deadline to apply?

Every year our portal is accepting application from December to mid-January. For 2022, the application window was open from Dec 2nd to Jan 14th. 

Is there a cost to apply?

There’s no charge to apply online. We know your time is valuable, so we’ve kept the information we’re asking for to a minimum.

Do you ask for equity?

No. We are seeking paid pilot demonstrations in a number of innovation areas. However, if you are actively raising, you will have the opportunity to engage the venture arms of participating utilities and other venture groups in our network. We
facilitate connections but we don’t participate in the investment discussions.

Does EPRI or the utilities ask for equity for participation?

No. We are seeking paid pilot demonstrations in a number of innovation areas. However, if you are actively raising, you will have the opportunity to engage the venture arms of participating utilities and other venture groups in our network. We facilitate connections but we don’t participate in the investment discussions.

What information do I need to provide?

Along with the questions included in the application, we’ll ask you to upload an overview deck of your company and innovation, information on third-party validation, market traction, a short (nothing fancy required) video, and a one-page overview of a concept demonstration project.

Will you sign an NDA?

For the application phase, we don’t enter into NDAs, and don’t expect you to share information that would require an NDA. If you are selected to join us for Pitch Day, we’ll execute a Startup Participation Agreement that articulates our privacy policy and sets the terms of how we’ll share confidential information between your company, the participating utilities, and EPRI.

Who will see my application?

Applications are reviewed by technology scouts and subject matter experts from EPRI and the participating utilities. At least three experts will review each complete application. Your application materials will not be distributed outside of that audience unless we ask you first.

On what criteria are applications judged?

Applications are rated on their fit with the challenge areas, technical innovation, integration readiness, proposed demonstration scope and fit with the utilities current market needs. The top applicants may be asked to participate in a follow up interview.

How many companies will be selected?

While there’s no set number of finalist companies, we expect to select 20 to 30 companies to present to the group of utilities and R&D experts at Pitch Day. From the companies invited to Pitch Day, we expect to select 12 to 18 companies to engage in demonstration projects.


What types of solutions are you looking for?

Please take a look at our current innovation challenge topics. While they are generally focused on the modernization of our grid, decarbonization, the electrification of sectors of our economy, improving utility customer experience, and reducing O&M costs, the specific challenge topics change each cycle. Those listed for the current cycle represent areas in which the participating utilities are actively seeking solutions.

Is there a particular stage of market readiness you are looking for?

In general, we’re looking for demonstration-ready solutions which would normally be around TRL 6-8. If we see something earlier that really excites us, we can change up the approach a bit and test your solution in the lab.

Do I need to be a US company?

Definitely Not! Great innovations come from all over the world. Previous years’ cohorts included  Canadian, Australian, European, and U.S. companies. The Discovery portion of our program happens virtually. If you’re selected for a demonstration, you’ll be working closely with EPRI and one or more utilities to demonstrate your solution. You should be prepared to visit the hosting utility if required or consider how the demonstration can be executed remotely. Since 2022, the demonstrations also can be hosted in Europe.

What about Covid-19 travel precautions and restrictions?

We take health and safety very seriously. In 2020 we pivoted the entire program to run virtually and still executed 10 demonstrations. We’re resilient, we’re creative, and we’ll make sure that any engagement is run with a “safety first” mindset.

Is there a specific location for the Lab?

No. Since COVID-19, Pitch Day has been taking place virtually. We’re hoping we’ll hold our Demo Day as a face-to-face event but we’re playing that one a bit by ear. Hopefully we’ll be in a position where the project teams can meet in person for the demonstrations. That didn’t happen last year but the teams were still very productive.

What is the timeline for the Lab?

Key dates for the Lab in 2023 include:

  • Jan 14: Application deadline
  • Feb: Finalists selected
  • March 9-10: Pitch Day Window
  • Apr / May: Demonstration Scoping and Contracting
  • Jun – Sept: Demonstration Projects Execution
  • Fall: Demo Day and (hopefully) Demonstration Site Visits to build awareness