As the clean energy industry continues to grow, entrepreneurs require more funding than ever to transform their groundbreaking ideas into reality. Though initial seed investment from private investors is commonly sought after, unproven technologies and startups at an early stage are often deemed too risky by these investors. This lack of funding has hindered the progress of clean tech innovation, prompting the California Energy Commission (CEC) to establish the Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) program. With EPIC funds, the CEC has created an energy innovation pipeline that includes funding and programming to minimize the risks associated with new technologies and to bring clean energy solutions from the laboratory to the market.
Michael Burz, the Founder and CEO of Enzinc, a battery startup based in the Bay Area, never thought that an ARPA-E award to work with the U.S. Naval Research Laboratories (USNRL) would set him on a journey through EPIC’s burgeoning energy innovation pipeline. Several years later, Enzinc has received four out of five of California Energy Commission’s (CEC) Energy Program Investment Charge (EPIC) grants. These include the CalSEED Concept Award for $150,000, the CalSEED Prototype Award for $450,000, a CalTestBed voucher worth $292,000, and $1.8 million from the CEC’s BRIDGE program to build its pilot line. Enzinc is now ready to apply for the final grant, RAMP, which will enable them to achieve low-rate initial production.
Enzinc’s remarkable success in leveraging the CEC’s public funding pipeline to develop their zinc-based batteries can serve as a blueprint for other startups looking to follow in their footsteps. During an interview last month, we spoke with Burz to learn how Enzinc navigated the public funding sphere, and we’ve distilled his valuable insights into 5 essential pieces of advice for early-stage cleantech entrepreneurs embarking on their own journey through EPIC’s pipeline of funding.