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Research & Development
Explore federal grant funding sources for research and development of climate tech.
There are a variety of federal programs specifically funded to support research and development of climate related technologies. The programs outlined here are the main jumping off points when it comes to basic or primary climate research and demonstrations or proof of concept work. This is funding for the most nascent ideas, concepts sketched out on paper, and really early, science based work.
It is important to understand that there are also dedicated organizations like LabStart which support the commercialization of federally funded research. For those of you who may be considering spinning a startup out of a lab or academia, we highly recommend this playbook from venture capital firm Fifty Years.
This is a list of some of the more notable programs, including links to current opportunities and past funded projects. For specific guidance and direction you are invited to use an OpenGrants Pro subscription, free for a year with this discount code.
The Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs are highly competitive programs that encourage domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development (R/R&D) with the potential for commercialization.
Each year, Federal agencies with extramural research and development (R&D) budgets that exceed $100 million are required to allocate 3.2% (since FY2017) of this extramural R&D budget to fund small businesses through the SBIR program. Federal agencies with extramural R&D budgets that exceed $1 billion are required to reserve 0.45% (since FY2016) of this extramural R&D budget for the STTR program. Currently, eleven Federal agencies participate in the SBIR program and five of those agencies also participate in the STTR program.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1950 "to promote the progress of science; to advance the national health, prosperity, and welfare; to secure the national defense..." NSF is vital because they support basic research and people to create knowledge that transforms the future.
With an annual budget of $9.5 billion (FY 2023), they are the funding source for approximately 25% of all federally supported basic research conducted by America's colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing. NSF provides considerable research funding outside of their SBIR program.
NOAA’s mission to better understand our natural world and help protect its precious resources extends beyond national borders to monitor global weather and climate, and work with partners around the world. When conducting research, they are an incredible funding resource and host a robust collection of climate related data.
Check out this resource for climate related videos, stories, images, and data visualizations. NOAA makes common data products and services easy to access and use; and they provide tools and resources that help people make informed decisions about climate risks, vulnerability, and resilience.
The National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) host and provide access to one of the most significant archives on earth, with comprehensive oceanic, atmospheric, and geophysical data. From the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun and from million-year-old tree rings to near-real-time satellite images, NCEI is the nation’s leading authority for environmental information.
The Energy Department supports research and innovation that makes fossil energy technologies cleaner and less harmful to the people and the environment. They focus on carbon pollution, domestic renewable energy production and clean energy innovation.
While the Energy Department is more focused on development and deployment, they do have some research focused funding. However, the bulk of their funding opportunities are focused on the development and deployment phase, when compared to other research focused agencies.
ARPA-E empowers America's energy researchers with funding, technical assistance, and market readiness. The rigorous program design, competitive project selection process, and active program management ensure thoughtful expenditures.
EPA funds climate change research grants to improve knowledge of the health and environment effects of climate change, and provide sustainable solutions for communities to effectively manage and reduce the impacts of a changing climate.
EPA’s supports research focusing on a few important aspects of how climate change affects air, water, the environment and human health:
- Investigating the impact of climate change on air pollution gases and particles, water quality and ecosystems
- Understanding the underlying factors contributing to changes air pollution and water quality
- Using modeling tools to better understand the impacts of extreme events on air and water quality as well as provide better modeling tools to predict air, water and ecosystem characteristics under a changing climate.