World-Class Technical Support Coupled With Top-Notch Business Mentorship

Chain Reaction Innovations (CRI) offers a two-year fellowship for innovators focusing on clean energy and science technologies. Through an annual call for innovators, four to six individuals will be selected to join CRI. Program participants will receive the financial and technical support needed to perform early-stage research and development (R&D) that may launch energy or manufacturing businesses in the future.

The 2-year program teaches the best and brightest from across the nation the entrepreneurship skills needed to develop transformative cleantech and innovations in advanced manufacturing.

CRI will give teams of innovators a two-year runway to develop and scale their technologies while being supported through fellowship funding that covers salary, benefits, and use of laboratory equipment and office space. Through a partnership with mentor organizations, CRI participants will get assistance developing business strategies, conducting market research, and finding long-term financing and potential commercial partners. If you’d like to apply to the program, please read the CRI FAQs for applicants.

Innovator Support to Get Started

  • Funding for up to two years
  • Dedicated laboratory and office space
  • Support obtaining additional project funds
  • Assistance conducting R&D

World-Class R&D Support at
Argonne National Laboratory

  • $1.1 billion annual budget
  • 3,532 employees
  • 1,400+ scientists and engineers
  • 16 research divisions
  • 6 national scientific user facilities with 6,700 users
  • A suite of research centers and joint institutes

Unparalleled Access to an
Innovation Ecosystem

  • Advisory network of business mentors
  • Connections to commercial partners and investors
  • A vibrant network of area innovation and accelerator resources

Benefits That Accelerate Your Startup

CRI’s ability to embed innovators at Argonne National Laboratory and provide multi-faceted support sets it apart from other programs. This unique structure provides key benefits usually out of reach to startups.

  • Reduced development time and cost
    Innovation focused on energy and the science requires development work done in high-tech laboratories. For innovators, this can mean spending the first year purchasing costly equipment, setting up safety protocols, and learning how to use the equipment. Because CRI innovators are embedded at Argonne, they have access to laboratory equipment almost immediately. Development timelines are further compressed due to access to world-class imaging that quickly pinpoints material failures and chemical reactions, as well as high-performance computing for developing simulations and predictive modeling that reduce costly trial-and-error prototype development.
  • De-risking technologies to improve performance and market acceptance
    Fast access to R&D tools and expert technical guidance enables innovators to quickly pivot development tracks based on early results to produce a better product that goes to market more quickly. Additionally, access to Argonne’s suite of testing and validation tools, as well as fabrication and scale-up facilities for commercial-grade testing of pre-commercial prototypes, instills investors and consumers with increased confidence in product claims about lifespan, durability, and energy efficiency in real-world conditions.
  • A chance to go “all-in” and focus solely on your technology
    The fellowship funding provided by CRI gives you enough seed money to focus full-time on developing your technology for two years. You can also leverage your connection with a national laboratory to seek additional federal research grants that require cost-sharing or public-private partnerships.

CRI startups are located not only in the Midwest but throughout the U.S. Their economic impact grows as their technologies mature. The current portfolio of CRI companies includes quantum, nanotechnology, advanced manufacturing, energy storage, heavy metal reclamation, and more.

A Place for Transformative Technologies to Thrive

CRI is open to all innovators creating U.S.-based startups that focus on developing technology that will further advance the development of clean energy and advanced manufacturing products and processes. It is expected that these products or processes must overcome complex scientific challenges that require a lengthy development cycle of about two years to reach the pre-commercial prototype stage. The innovation must also focus to solve, at least in part, a large societal need that hinders American competitiveness or energy efficiency.

Innovations supported by this program fall into two broad categories: technologies that drive energy efficiency in the manufacturing of products across the economy and technologies for the manufacturing of clean energy products. Examples of technologies that would fit the CRI program are:

  • Advanced manufacturing materials and processes
  • Energy Efficient Building Technologies
  • Renewable energy sources
  • Energy storage systems
  • Energy efficiency improvements
  • Fuels that reduce emissions and waste
  • Water filtration and desalination processes
  • Carbon and toxic waste sequestration materials

A Fertile Ecosystem to Seed Complex Science

CRI innovators can leverage the Chicago business and research ecosystem and that of the surrounding states for manufacturing hubs, Fortune 500 companies, research universities, investors, and innovation incubators and accelerators, many of which focus on long development cycle science and energy technologies.

Argonne and Chicago sit at the heart of one of our nation’s greatest concentrations of research institutions, an industrial base that is driving clean tech and advanced manufacturing, and a population that embraces innovation. This is a fertile environment in which to grow the nation’s next game-changing energy- or science-based technology.

Illinois also has attracted venture capitalists and private equity investors eager to seed innovation. Chicago ranks No. 7 in the US on the list of “U.S. Venture Capital Ecosystems,” and had the highest rate of returns for investors from 2006 to 2020, according to PitchBook.

This intersection of innovation will accelerate breakthrough technologies that leverage the Midwest’s expertise in energy, materials science, manufacturing, and nanotechnology. It will provide this generation of innovators with the resources they need to make discoveries that launch new industries and change the world.