One important element of the American-Made Challenges is the American-Made Network. This network provides entrepreneurs with connections to help them succeed. The Network is a collective made up of more than 100 technology incubators and accelerators, venture capital firms, angel investors, and industry representatives. Energy entrepreneurs can tap in to the industry expertise and resources across the Network to help accelerate the development and commercialization of their new ideas and products.
One example is Phase3 Photovoltaics. During the competition, the team was focused on integrating solar into factory-built homes to help low- and middle-income customers. The team used its initial $50,000 to refine its idea, travel, and reach out to clients to identify their concerns. What they learned was that clients were most concerned about transporting the product. By working with the American-Made Network, the team developed a prototype of a solar home that they towed behind a truck over various road and weather conditions. This allowed them to collect experimental data for the home builders about how well the home with solar panels traveled, and enabled them to develop solutions, address additional concerns, and assign a value to their product. As a next step, the Phase3 Photovoltaics team will access the Network for help with stress testing and financial modeling. They hope to begin pilot-testing with major home-builder partners this year.
In the future, we hope to make the American-Made Network available to all EERE awardees in order to better connect our projects and support the growth of American industry.