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10. Bioenergy

Maximum Phase I Award Amount: $200,000

Maximum Phase II Award Amount: $1,100,000

Accepting SBIR Phase I Applications: YES

Accepting STTR Phase I Applications: YES


The Bioenergy Technologies Office (BETO) has a mission to help transform the Nation's renewable and abundant biomass resources into cost-competitive, high-performance biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. BETO is focused on forming partnerships with key stakeholders to develop technologies for advanced biofuels production from lignocellulosic and algal biomass as well as waste resources. In FY 2021, BETO is focusing on broadening participation-related topics (see below).


All applications to this topic must:

·         Include projections for price and/or performance improvements that are tied to a baseline (i.e. MYPP and/or state of the art products or practices);

·         Propose a tightly structured program which includes technical milestones that demonstrate clear progress, are aggressive but achievable, and are quantitative;

·         Explicitly and thoroughly differentiate the proposed innovation with respect to existing commercially available products or solutions;

·         Include a preliminary cost analysis;

·         Provide a path to scale up in potential Phase II follow on work;

·         Fully justify all performance claims with thoughtful theoretical predictions or experimental data; and

·         Be based on sound scientific principles (i.e. abides by the law of thermodynamics).


Grant applications are sought only in the following subtopics. Please note that while proposals are being requested in these subtopics, distribution of awards across these subtopics will be based on the quantity and quality of proposals received.


Assistance with Teaming

Applications that include representation from diverse entities such as, but not limited to: Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)/Other Minority Institutions (OMIs) [1], or through linkages with Opportunity Zones [2], are encouraged. In addition to bioenergy small businesses, local-level organizations and STEM and R&D consultancies that qualify as for-profit small businesses may also be able to apply or benefit from participation in either of these topics. Proposals can include teams with other than small businesses like universities and non-profits, please review eligibility requirements for further guidance [3].


BETO is compiling a Partners List to facilitate the widest possible national participation in the formation of teams for this topic. The list allows organizations who may wish to participate in an application to express their interest to potential applicants and to explore potential partners.


The Partners List will be available on the BETO’s website at during the time of the FOA release through its closing. The Partners List will be updated at least weekly until the close of the Full Application period, to reflect new Partners who have provided their information. Any organization that would like to be included on this list should submit the following information to, with the subject line “SBIR Partnering Information”:


Topic Area(s) of Interest (10A or 10B), Organization Name, Organization Location (City, State), Contact Name, Contact Email, Organization Type, Area of Technical Expertise (bulleted list, no more than 25 words), and Brief Description of Capabilities (no more than 100 words).


An organization that would like to be listed as an interested partner for both 10a and 10b should submit separate Partners List entries. By submitting a request to be included on the Partners List, the requesting organization consents to the publication of the above-referenced information. By facilitating this Partners List, the Department of Energy does not endorse or evaluate the qualifications of the entities that self-identify themselves for placement on the Partners List. The Department of Energy will neither pay for the provision of any of the above-referenced information, nor will it compensate any applicants or requesting organizations for the development of such information. The nature of any possible partner relationship: (1) is determined by the parties of the relationship, not DOE, and (2) may be terminated at any time, subject to any terms and conditions of a SBIR or STTR award.


Note: In addition to the subtopics below, BETO is considering proposals in response to Topic 11 - Joint Topic: Polymers Upcycling and Recycling.


a.      Small Business Bioenergy Technologies Increasing Community Partnerships

This subtopic encourages submission of innovative research proposals from bioenergy small businesses to develop a community-scale preliminary design package of their products and/or processes and engage community stakeholders to assess desirability and feasibility of the small business’ proposed design.


Bioenergy feedstock development and deployment can strengthen economic growth, national energy security, and environmental benefits through optimizing domestic biomass resources to produce biofuels, bioproducts, and biopower. Public perception and knowledge of bioenergy is highly variable [1], so despite the benefits, local communities may be unaware or uncertain about the available opportunities. Bioenergy small businesses are uniquely positioned to develop community-scale technologies and technological processes. Examples include small-scale solutions to recover nutrients and energy from waste, such as urban food waste; use of energy crops on marginal lands to manage fertilizer runoff; or use of algae to abate costs of wastewater treatment.


The preliminary design package should include identification and siting of appropriate feedstock(s), lab-scale testing of potential feedstock(s), relevant products (biofuel, bioproducts, and/or biopower), outreach to potential community stakeholder partner(s), and an education and outreach plan for the community, based on the bioenergy project.


Proposers are strongly encouraged to develop partnerships with local stakeholders in underserved communities such as those within Federally-designated Opportunity Zones [2]. Community stakeholders could include schools, hospitals, local restaurants and other businesses, non-profits, local government, or other local organizations. Applicants that propose partnerships with entities that operate at higher levels, like state or regional, should emphasize how their project will deliver measurable impact at the community level.


Appropriate projects could include, but are not limited to, a preliminary design package proposing:

·         A conversion process treating local sources of biomass.

·         Opportunities for use of the resulting product or products within the community.

·         Cultivating energy crops to reduce fertilizer runoff to improve local water quality.

·         Integration of the small business’ technologies into complementary, existing local infrastructure.

·         Small business’ processes’ ability to meet local regulatory needs (e.g., recycling rates or waste diversion goals).

·         Replicability of the process in other communities.


Applications must:

·         meaningfully include plans/methodology for local stakeholders’ input in the development of their preliminary design package.

·         include an education and outreach plan to demonstrate the planned benefits for the community.


Applications that propose the following will not be considered for award under this subtopic:

·         Use versions of technologies that already exist at the community scale.


The main objective of a Phase I award is developing a preliminary design package of their technology, product, or process deployed at the community scale and derived from stakeholder input. In Phase I the majority of research emphasis is placed on evaluating and testing unknowns of integrating the technology at the community scale with their specific stakeholder group(s) rather than on developing a new technology. Some unknowns include technology performance parameters to better support the local economy and public acceptance of the technology.


Phase II of this topic involves deployment of the proposed technology into the community at a pilot scale.


Questions – Contact: Devinn Lambert,


b.      Cultivating a More Competitive Bioeconomy Through Strengthening Small Business Workforces

This subtopic solicits proposals that pilot a research-driven workforce development program or tool that can be widely applicable for the bioeconomy, establishing a partnership with business experts in bioenergy and/or inclusive workforce development.


Because biomass exists across geographically diverse regions (i.e., agricultural crops, forestry residues, Municipal Solid Waste, algae), people living in urban, suburban, and rural areas across the country could all benefit from careers and opportunities in the bioenergy industry. Increasing representation and inclusivity within the bioenergy industry will support a more competitive domestic science and engineering workforce to lead the way on innovation in the global economy [1].


The research project should investigate questions related to the representation and inclusivity within the business’ workplace in relation to technical and operational challenges that could be inhibiting its commercial objectives in the bioeconomy. The overall outcome is to create a workforce development program or tool through this research that improves the commercialization potential of the business partner. Ideally outcomes of this R&D are scalable mechanisms, platforms, and technologies for increasing and improving diverse representation and equality within the bioeconomy’s workforce. This could include, but is not limited to, demonstrated success in increasing recruitment of trained professionals with parallel skills from job sectors that have declined domestically, improving workplace retention from underrepresented backgrounds in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) and/or leadership positions; and correlating their project with these improvements.


Specific areas of interest under this subtopic include, but are not limited to:

·         Development of software to foster experiential learning mediated by employer-educator partnerships that will ensure the alignment of bioenergy curriculum with workplace demands. This software or technology should address barriers associated with urban and rural areas as well as engaging people with underrepresented backgrounds within bioenergy R&D and deployment.

·         Research to identify gaps in workforce development, recruitment, and retention within bioenergy fields of future workers/employees from underrepresented backgrounds and implementation of a multi-year data-driven program to address these gaps at the small business. The multi-year data-driven program will provide a roadmap for other small businesses.

·         Development of artificial intelligence or other data-driven platforms that identify the impact of lacking or underdeveloped inclusive operational and/or commercial practices on workforce development that, if addressed, can improve business success and expansion.


Applications must include a robust evaluation plan to track and demonstrate the success of the workforce development program proposed.


Applications that propose the following will not be considered for award under this subtopic:

·         Development of traditional curricula or courses on bioenergy topics.

·         Conventional internship and training programs.


Phase I of this topic includes completion of research and beta-testing of the workforce development program or tool. Phase II includes the deployment of this technology at the bioeconomy business and scaling the tool to other businesses.


Questions – Contact: Devinn Lambert,


References: Assistance with Teaming:

1.      Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), including HBCUs/OMIs as educational entities recognized by the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), U.S. Department of Education, and identified on the OCR's Department of Education U.S. accredited postsecondary minorities’ institution list. See


2.      Opportunity Zones were added to the Internal Revenue Code by section 13823 of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, codified at 26 U.S.C. 1400Z-1. The list of designated Qualified Opportunity Zones can be found in IRS Notices 2018-48 (PDF) and 2019-42 (PDF). Further, a visual map of the census tracts designated as Qualified Opportunity Zones may also be found at Opportunity Zones Resources. Also see, frequently asked questions about Qualified Opportunity Zones.  


References: Subtopic a:

1.      Radics, R., Dasmohapatra, S., and Kelley, S.S. “Systematic Review of Bioenergy Perception Studies.” BioResource Vol. 10, Article 4, p. 8770-8794,


2.      U.S. Economic Development Administration. “Opportunity Zones.” US Department of Commerce, 2020,


3.      “Frequently Asked Questions | SBIR.Gov.” Accessed December 4, 2020.


References: Subtopic b:

1.      Harkavy, I., Cantor, N., and Burnett, M. “Realizing STEM Equity and Diversity through Higher Education- Community Engagement.” White paper from NSF-funded grant, January, 2015,

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