The Challenge: Advance Research-Stage Technologies to Commercial Viability
A key step in advancing a new technology beyond the research stage is to develop and demonstrate a prototype. Funding for prototyping is often difficult to obtain.
The Catalyst Program provides grants of up to $75,000 to researchers and early-stage companies looking to demonstrate initial prototypes of their clean energy technologies. Catalyst is jointly administered by MassCEC and MassVentures with a goal of stimulating the commercialization of clean energy technologies developed in the Commonwealth. Specifically, the program is designed to demonstrate the feasibility of transforming new ideas from the research stage to commercially viable technologies to increase industry and investor interest. All awardees gain access to a vast network of partners, expert local market and policy insights, and mentoring from MassCEC and MassVentures, while all finalists receive complimentary pitch coaching and business mentoring.
About "Diversity in Cleantech - Early Stage" (DICES)
In parallel with Catalyst, MassCEC and MassVentures will award up to two additional grants of up to $75,000 each for projects led by eligible (certified or certifiable) women-owned or minority-owned early-stage companies, to demonstrate initial prototypes of their clean energy technologies.
Proposals were due March 16, 2023 for the Spring 2023 round of Catalyst and DICES. The full timeline presented is subject to change, at MassCEC's discretion.
Application period opens
January 18, 2023
February 2, 2023
Deadline to submit questions
February 23, 2023
MassCEC posts responses to questions
February 28, 2023
March 16, 2023
Applicants notified of finalist status
April 13, 2023
Week of May 15, 2023
Finalists notified of award status
Catalyst and DICES are for technologies that are at Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 1-4, according to the TRL Calculator developed by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority.
Eligible applicants include principal investigators at Massachusetts-based nonprofit research institutions or Massachusetts-based early-stage clean energy companies.
For DICES, applicants must also verify that they are eligible as a woman- or minority-owned startup. More information about this process can be found in Section V of the Catalyst Request For Proposals (RFP).
For full Program details, please refer to the Catalyst RFP.
This Program invites participation in a two-part application process:
- Submit your application between January 18 and March 16, 2023 via our online platform.
- If selected, pitch to a panel of program judges.
For full Program details, please refer to the Catalyst RFP.
For any questions, please email email@example.com.
Request for Proposals
Learn About DICES and Catalyst
Missed the webinar? No problem! The recorded webinar includes a brief overview of MassCEC's and MassVentures' technology development and investment programs, followed by more detail about DICES and Catalyst. Presented by Leslie Nash, Senior Program Manager at MassCEC, Maddy Zeliff, Program Administrator at MassCEC, and Priya Yadav, Vice President of Investment at MassVentures.
Can I apply to both Catalyst/DICES
No, you must pick a program but there are no disadvantages to applying to one or the other
Is there an advantage to applying to DICES over Catalyst?
If you are eligible for DICES, then it is encouraged that you apply to DICES. Catalyst and DICES are treated equally and fairly across the program. There is no disadvantage to applying to DICES since we have the ability to award applicants across both DICES and Catalyst. We reserve certain grants for only DICES-eligible applicants.
Are some focus areas more successful than others when applying?
No, we do not have more interest in a specific focus area than another outside of basic eligibility. if it doesn’t fall within one of our focus areas (clean transportation, buildings, net-zero grid, offshore wind) you are still welcome to apply but there is an increased burden and emphasis on GHG impact
How should applicants quantify carbon reductions in the proposal?
Applicants are encouraged to use tools such as the CRANE tool, or other credible public data sources such as the United States Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s National Emissions Inventory (especially for greenhouse gases other than carbon dioxide), the EPA's Greenhouse Gases Equivalencies Calculator, and others. Internally at MassCEC, we do not use one specific tool to verify each person’s claims, we look at the proposal as a whole and look at the sources that the applicant used to generate their calculations.
Do collaborators, investors, or customers need to be located in Massachusetts?
No, none of these parties need to be located in Massachusetts.
Can a project have external collaborators who will provide materials or other technical support to build or test the prototype?
Yes, but MassCEC Catalyst funding will be used to support the work conducted by the applicant and not the external partners. External partners can contribute whatever they wish to the project.
Do I have to obtain the full SDO certification prior to application?
Section V. of the RFP states that interested applicants only need to submit the 30-second self-assessment at the time of application to the Catalyst and DICES programs.
If your application is selected for an award under the program, MassCEC reserves the right to require awardees achieve woman- or minority- owned certification (through the SDO or another certification body).
Would you like applicants to submit their certification from SDO Mass into their application?
Yes, you can include the SDO certification as an attachment in the application portal, but please note that is is not required. There is a place within the application portal that prompts you to upload the SDO documentation (whether that is the self-assessment or the full certification).
Can work be started as soon as the grant is received?
A contract must be executed before any work is started.
Would a technology that is working on upcycling food waste to high-value chemicals be eligible for Catalyst funding? Specifically, would this be considered a “clean energy technology”?
Section VI. of the RFP has the full definition of what is considered clean energy under the program. Please make the GHG impact very clear in the proposal.
Would a startup with a team of 2, one of which is a postdoc and one who is obtaining degree, both at Massachusetts Universities, be considered “a Massachusetts-based early-stage clean energy company"?
If a startup has an incorporated company and meets the MA-based definition in the RFP, then they are a MA-based early-stage clean energy company.
Would a startup that has incorporated the company but has not received any funding or grants and so does not have a business address be eligible? Can a personal address be used instead?
If a startup has an incorporated company and meets the MA-based definition in the RFP, then they are a MA-based early-stage clean energy company. They may use your personal address, but can also use an address at an incubator if they have space there.
If a company is planning on using data centers/computation technology and will need to use funds to create a prototype that will require a computer, will this be allowed?
Computers in this case are acceptable. Section X. of the RFP specifies that funding may not be spent on the “Purchase of computers or other unrelated equipment”. That distinction is intended to mean that we would not fund staff computers that would just be used as staff computers, not necessarily for the development of a software or other directly applicable technology development.
Can a group of students at a university formulate a company?
You would be eligible to apply as a company if you’ve actually formed and registered a company. The company must be a legally registered entity that can be the counterparty on a contract and receive payments, etc.
Will the fact that a new startup has no sales/prior funding/year working since it has just begun be a disadvantage to applying for this grant?
Prior sales are not required as part of this grant.
Since program inception, Catalyst has awarded nearly $8.5 million to 157 awardees, who have gone on to raise more than $449 million in follow-on funding and submit 159 patent applications. One out of every four university awardees has created a new company.
Environmentally Friendly Advanced Lithium Extraction
Lithios is developing an environmentally friendly, low-cost electrochemical process, Advanced Lithium Extraction (ALE), which aims to revolutionize global lithium production by enabling access to untapped, low-grade brine resources.
Aloft Systems Inc.
Wind Propulsion Unit for Ships
Aloft Systems Inc. is developing a self-contained Wind Propulsion Unit that will provide energy for ship propulsion without modifying the ship.
Cost-Saving Electromechanical Box
Stepwise is developing an electromechanical box that bypasses a costly electrical panel service upgrade via energy management, which will help enable residential electrification.
Advanced Photo-Bio Reactor
Carbix Corporation is developing an advanced photo-bio reactor, the Carbix X-2, that captures point source emitter CO2 and transforms those emissions into raw materials, which can be used in a wide range of products, specifically building materials.
Climate Risk Assessment
Prisere LLC is developing software to assess the reduction in insured risks to residential and commercial buildings caused by climate related events.
Glass-Sorting Artificial Intelligence
OptiSort LLC is developing a robot that uses AI to efficiently sort glass from debris and by color. High speed cameras are used along with high precision air jets to select glass a single piece at a time, as desired by the glass manufacturer customer.
University of Massachusetts Amherst (PI Lackner)
Autonomous Floating Wind Turbine
University of Massachusetts Amherst (PI Lackner) is developing the Wind Trawler, an autonomous, unmoored floating wind turbine.
Carbon Dioxide Sequestration Process
Arrakis Materials Inc. (DICES) is developing a geo-inspired carbon dioxide sequestration process to produce carbon-negative concrete aggregates with olivine, a cheap and abundant mineral
Florrent (DICES) is developing ultracapacitors that pair with batteries which will enable utilities to reliably deliver power from renewable sources.