The FLOW business plan competition is on hiatus for 2019.

Check back in fall for updates.


FLOW's DOE Cleantech UP business plan competition is for university students and recent graduates focused on cleantech and sustainability. In addition to cleantech and clean energy, FLOW supports a broad spectrum of sustainability-related innovations including those related to natural resource management and agricultural technologies.

The competition has two tracks: the Ready to Commercialize (for ventures closer to launch) and the Transformational Idea Award (for pre-commercial research). Both tracks receive the same top judging and mentoring guidance. However, only the Ready to Commercialize category requires preparing a business plan for the final competition.

This year FLOW is offering a new track for military technologies, supported by the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy at the Department of Defense. The DoD is offering a single $35,000 prize at the DOE’s Cleantech Up National Competition to one winning team with a prototype. For this prize track, the DoD is focused on operational energy defined as the “energy required for training, moving, and sustaining military forces and weapons platforms for military operations,” and includes energy used by ships, aircraft, combat vehicles, and tactical power generators. Some supported projects include:

  • Waste to energy
  • Thermal management
  • Renewables, such as solar
  • Reducing the amount of fuel a fuel supply convoy uses
  • Lightweight materials

Details are available through the FLOW application website once you set up an account or at the FLOW office.

Also new this year, LACI’s state-supported Energize California initiative is sponsoring a new track for the for energy technologies focused on solving California’s grid issues. The winning team will receive the $20,000 California Energy Innovation Prize. The basic eligibility requirements for this track are:

  • Applicant must show path of technology progress – at or beyond proof of concept stage
  • The technology must be energy related, falling under one of three general categories:
    • Energy Generation Technologies: Technologies that generate clean energy (Examples: solar PV, wind, biogas, energy harvesting, solar thermal)
    • Transmission & Distribution Technologies: Technologies that facilitate the transmission and/or distribution of clean energy to consumers throughout the energy grid. (Examples: Microgrid controllers, superconductors, Electric Vehicle chargers, grid-scale energy storage, forecasting technologies, sensors)
    • End-Use Technologies: B2B or B2C clean energy technologies (Examples: customer side energy storage, energy efficiency, water energy technology nexus, demand response & demand control technologies).

The FLOW DOE Cleantech UP competition serves as a regional gateway for entry into the DOE's Cleantech UP national competition. FLoW's winner will represent the Western region of the U.S. at Cleantech UP in pursuit of the national prize.

FLOW candidates are eligible to apply for the Rocket Fund. This operates as a separate program from the business plan competition. Learn more about applying for a Rocket Fund grant here.

For more information about FLOW and details about other grant programs offered by the Department of Energy’s EERE to startup companies see our webinar.

Why You Should Apply

2018 FLOW DOE Cleantech UP Competition Timeline

  • Jan
  • Feb
  • Mar
  • Apr
  • May
  • Jun
  • Jul
  • Aug

  • Statement of Intent Due
    Feb. 1, 2018
  • Submission Close
    Feb. 28, 2018
  • Semi-Final Rounds
    To be announced
  • FLOW Final Judging
    Los Angeles, CA
    May 24, 2018
  • DOE Cleantech UP National Competition
    To be announced

Steps to Apply

Eligibility for all FLOW Prizes

Eligibility for the DOE $50,000 Prize

Competition Tracks

Procedural Details

Participation in the FLOW DOE Cleantech UP Competition

All teams intending to apply are asked to submit a brief Statement of Intent by February 1, 2018. The SOI is in no way binding on your intention and you can change your topic and focus. However, submitting an SOI helps FLOW organizers identify early on the resources and mentors that might help you.

Statement of Intent Form (online)

Round 1: Screening submissions

All applications must be made online on YouNoodle, either at the Ready to Commercialize or Transformational sites.

Teams may create a YouNoodle account and submit and rework drafts of their entries up to the submission deadline. Your application is secure: only the website administrator and your assigned judges will see it. Both Ready to Commercialize and Transformational Idea Award applicants MUST provide signed IP Declaration and IP Disclosure forms where you show that you have contacted the university tech transfer office or government lab who own the technology.

Keep the presentation itself at a high level, containing the important points you would like the judges to remember. For submission, you will not be expected to provide details about potential customers, or financial projections. However, a well-constructed overview of the business opportunity and considered strategic thinking, based on research, and working with the other team members and your advisors will strengthen your application considerably. Use the notes function to add needed detail. Graphics help. Videos are recommended where a visual demonstration would help explain the technology. Cell phone videos will do, as long as they are uploaded as a link embedded in the presentation.

Round 2: The Regional Semi-Finals

At the semifinals, teams will present their ten slide deck before a panel of judges including investors, the utilities and cleantech corporations. The presentation should summarize the strategic and tactical thinking about how to create a business, based on close work with mentors.

The top 15 of the Ready to Commercialize and the top 10 of the Transformational Idea Award contenders, identified by these two events, will proceed to the Round 3 Finals in Los Angeles. By this round teams should be well along in preparing their business strategic vision and plan for implementation. This should be reasoned, energetic and professional. Rehearsals before friendly investors and your mentors are strongly encouraged.

All contestants from Round 2 will receive the judging feedback to help you focus and refine your business thinking. Teams are expected to take the initiative in seeking out and working with their mentors (See Mentoring Guidelines) throughout the Round 2 process. As additional mentors are needed, the team can fill out the mentor application form or contact the FLOW office.

Round 3: The Regional Finals

Teams will be required to submit a ten-slide, investor presentation deck online in advance of the FLOW DOE Cleantech UP Finals Judging Event, May 24, 2018. The format will be identical to Round 2 but there will be new panels of judges assessing contestants.