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Brownsville Startup Accelerator Expanding Frontiers Wins EPIC Prize from Department of Energy

Brownsville, Texas – A nonprofit accelerator devoted to developing commercial space and energy startups in South Texas has won one of the U.S. Department of Energy’s prestigious Energy Prize for Innovation Clusters (EPIC).

Expanding Frontiers, which was started in Brownsville in 2019, was one of 20 incubator/accelerators across the country to win the $50,000. The grant will support Expanding Frontiers’ Rockets & Rigs program, which brings together the commercial space and energy industries to identify common problems and launch companies to address them.

“This recognition from the U.S. Department of Energy validates our work to build a commercial space ecosystem in Brownsville,” said Fredrick Jenet, PhD, founder and executive director of Expanding Frontiers. “We have immediate plans to expand on our success with more hack-a-thons, launching more companies, and to continuing to attract capital, partners, entrepreneurs, and resources to South Texas.”

The EPIC prize is the $1 million debut effort in a two-part, $5 million program sponsored by DOE’s Office of Technology Transitions (OTT). The EPIC prize seeks to recognize the most innovative and impactful incubators focused on developing strong regional innovation clusters for energy-related technology and entrepreneurship.

This recognition from the U.S. Department of Energy validates our work to build a commercial space ecosystem in Brownsville

Fredrick Jenet, PhDExpanding Frontiers, Founder & Executive Director

“Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department of Energy has invigorated the technology commercialization process by taking deliberate steps to improve the maturation of promising energy technologies,” said Secretary of Energy Dan Brouillette. “The EPIC prize bolsters a critical component of the energy innovation ecosystem, supporting public-private partnerships that help America’s entrepreneurs make those first great steps toward a commercial product or service.”

For winners of the EPIC prize, “incubators” include accelerators, co-working start-up communities, or other models that accomplish similar goals. A subsequent EPIC funding opportunity announcement (FOA) is under development to complement the Prize. This FOA encompassing the remaining $4 million in funding will be released this fall.

“EPIC represents OTT’s first public funding opportunity designed to build local support for innovation and energize new conversations around promising energy technologies,” said Chief Commercialization Officer and OTT Director Conner Prochaska. “By supporting the greatest possible return on our R&D investment, we are driving outcomes that enhance our competitiveness and national security. We are delighted to highlight some of the impactful work happening in communities across the country.”

About Expanding Frontiers

Expanding Frontiers is a nonprofit organization based in Brownsville, Texas, devoted to developing the commercial space ecosystem in South Texas. Founded in 2019, Expanding Frontiers provides programs for students, veterans, and entrepreneurs intended to introduce them to the emerging commercial space industry. The organization is also an incubator for startup companies and offers training, mentorship, access to capital, exposure to industry experts, and shared office space. Expanding Frontiers is strategically partnered with the National Space Society and NASA.

About the Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize

The American-Made Challenges’ Energy Program for Innovation Clusters (EPIC) Prize recognizes the nation’s most innovative incubators. Sponsored by the Office of Technology Transitions (OTT) at the U.S. Department of Energy, EPIC awards prizes to competitors that submit the most creative and impactful plans to develop strong clusters, connections, and support for startups and entrepreneurs whose businesses focus on energy-related technologies. OTT advances the economic, energy, and national security interests of the United States by expanding the commercial impact of DOE’s research and development portfolio. OTT streamlines access to DOE’s 17 National Labs and sites and opens the door to the Department’s world-class scientific researchers and facilities—fostering strong internal and external partnerships that guide innovations from the lab toward the marketplace.

For media inquiries, contact fjenet@expandingfrontiers.org.

See the full list of recipients here.