American-Made Challenges

Accelerator for U.S. Domestic Energy and Global Business Opportunities

The American-Made Challenges incentivize the nation's entrepreneurs to reassert American leadership in the energy marketplace. These new challenges seek to lower the barriers U.S.-based innovators face in reaching manufacturing scale by accelerating the cycles of learning from years to weeks, while helping to create partnerships that connect entrepreneurs to the private sector and the network of DOE's National Laboratories across the nation.


Why a prize model?


The American-Made Challenges prize model supports the Administration’s work to spur manufacturing, develop innovative solutions and products, and create new domestic jobs and opportunities through public-private partnerships. It will demonstrate a new way government can foster R&D to empower American ingenuity and reassert national leadership in the marketplace.


The prize and challenge model will help to disrupt traditional thinking in this sector, and introduce, expand, and evolve what’s possible. They can enable Federal agencies to:

  • Inspire the next generation of scientists, engineers, and entrepreneurs to solve difficult and important problems
  • Establish ambitious goals without having to predict which team or approach is most likely to succeed
  • Reach beyond the usual stakeholders to increase the number of perspectives working to develop solutions for a specific problem
  • Foster interdisciplinary collaboration and perspectives, reflective of the modern research environment.
  • Prizes and challenges make it easy for anyone to participate bringing people together from private sector and government to leverage resources.
  • Make innovation easy, fast, and agile. Rapid innovation cycles will help boost competitiveness and accelerate the transition of inventions to industry.


Who's behind the prizes?


The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is the Prize Administrator for the American-Made Challenges. In this capacity NREL works closely with the U.S. Department of Energy to administer the challenges, maintain the website platform, assist in building the network, and pay prize money to the winning teams.


NREL, other national laboratories, and members of the American-Made Network serve as key technical partners working directly with teams to validate, build, and test competitor products and solutions.

image of a female researcher working with laboratory equipment

The DOE can leverage Secretary Perry’s authorization of Agreements for Commercializing Technology (ACT) for national laboratories (announced on November 13, 2017) which enables flexible and facile financial arrangements between industry and national labs.


The American-Made Network


The American-Made Challenges prize model will reenergize American energy innovation by tapping the nation’s unparalleled innovation ecosystem and America’s competitive spirit by leveraging national labs, incubators, facilities and more.


The American-Made Network expands throughout the competition and increasingly generates more connections for entrepreneurs and supports their success

Direct access to world-class resources and expertise.


The American-Made Network is designed to strengthen and scale critical connections to accelerate and sustain innovation.

Select challenges utilize this Network – which consists of the national labs, industry experts, and fabrication and manufacturing facilities – that are willing to help teams turn ideas into real-world products. These specific challenges will provide details about how to tap into the Network.



* The Lithium-Ion Battery Recycling Prize does not utilize the American-Made Network.

Solutions that help shape the future

Are you a thinker, entrepreneur, facility or potential partner? Anyone with an innovative idea can help promote transformation by participating in the American-Made Challenges.


Ready for a Challenge?

What is HeroX?

NREL is working with HeroX, an online platform to crowdsource knowledge and facilitate the submission of industry-relevant problems and potential solutions. Through HeroX, anyone can participate by submitting problem and/or opportunity statements. The community can share feedback by commenting on postings and sharing resources. Open communication will connect stakeholders and bring new ideas to light in ways that were not previously available.


HeroX also serves as the hub for registration, idea and competition submissions, building teams, official judging, etc.