Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is making California tech companies and startups a unique offer: cut rate access to its cache of pricey, one-of-a-kind battery equipment.
The goal? Accelerating commercialization of emerging technology in the estimated $40 billion energy storage industry.
In a new public-private partnership known as CalCharge, the federal laboratory is joining forces with cleantech advocacy group CalCEF, Stanford’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and San Jose State University with the goal of creating a “center of gravity” for the emerging industry in the Bay Area. We met with the researchers, academics and organizers behind the new program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory last Friday.
Their new partnership aims to attract a $1,500-$25,000 buy-in from companies and startups working in the battery and energy storage fields. Academics, nonprofits and other investors can also pay to join.
For their money, members will get access to the laboratory and industry experts, which organizers say should save time and money in the process of bringing new battery technology to the market.
The type of batteries used in electric cars, for example, remain three to five times too expensive for most consumers, saidVenkat Srinivasan, a staff scientist atLawrence Berkeley lab spearheading the new battery program.
“California is unique in actually thinking about the cost of pulling gasoline from the ground,” Srinivasan said, explaining how the Golden State is positioned to help accelerate the adoption of new clean technologies.
CalCharge has yet to name companies that will be participating in the public-private partnership, but Srinivasan expects both large consumer brands as well as smaller companies in the electric vehicle, consumer electronics and smart grid industries to sign on.
One central challenge they must keep in mind while they hone their new products: finding talent trained in battery technology to help them execute.
That’s where San Jose State University comes in, said the school’s president, Mohammad Quayoumi. Starting soon, the university known for churning out engineers will have its own “battery university” (read more about that here) combining engineering, chemistry, business and other high tech and science fields.
From smartphones and tablets to electric cars to clean energy generators, Quayoumi said market demand already exists for expertise in batteries.
“The technology that needs to develop to meet those needs is going to be tremendous,” he said.