FAQ

Breakthrough Energy is a network of entities and initiatives, including investment funds, nonprofit and philanthropic programs, and policy efforts linked by a common commitment to scale the technologies we need to achieve a path to net-zero emissions by 2050. We’re building on the proven model of public-private partnerships that Bill Gates has already used to transform health, education, and public welfare around the world. Breakthrough Energy encourages the development of new net-zero energy technologies, champions policies that speed innovation from lab to market, and brings together governments, research institutions, private companies, and investors to expand and enhance clean energy investment.
The Breakthrough Energy Fellows program supports amazing individuals and teams as they develop, scale, and commercialize climate technologies with the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by 500 million tons per year by 2050, to decarbonize the global economy.

Each year, the program will select and fund two types of Breakthrough Energy Fellows: Innovator Fellows - the world’s most promising innovators – and Business Fellows – visionary builders, industry experts, and entrepreneurs – to commercialize breakthrough decarbonization technology.

The program is designed to bridge the gap between lab and market. Fellows will spend two years in the program beginning the process of commercializing their climate innovations. The program will provide funding, curriculum, and the opportunity to connect with industry.

The program is also offering Explorer Grants to those who have a climate technology innovation but aren’t quite ready to commit to the program full time.
Critical decarbonization technologies face challenges unlike those in software or biotech innovation. These technologies often face long development times, expensive research and development, and high technological risk. Decarbonization technologies and innovators need additional support after they leave the traditional research lab or university setting but before they are ready for adoption in the market.

The Breakthrough Energy Fellows program is designed to bridge “the valley of death” for these innovations, ensuring that they have the resources needed to reach a path to commercialization without straying from their climate goals. In some cases, this may mean supporting ideas until they are ready for venture capital investment. For others, it may mean enabling other pathways including technology acquisition, non-traditional financing, partnerships with national or local governments, or public/private partnerships.
To express interest in participating as a nominator, applicant, technical reviewer, mentor, and other roles, please use the form found here.
The number of Fellowships offered each year will vary depending on the strength of the applications and the types of technologies sought.
The application process will begin late 2021, and Fellows will be selected in Q2 of 2022. The Fellowship will begin in September 2022.
An Innovator Fellow has a breakthrough climate innovation with the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 500 million tons per year by 2050. Innovator Fellows are bold thinkers, some of the best and brightest scientists in the world that are ready to take the leap from lab to a commercialization-focused environment. We expect many will have PhDs in their field. More importantly, we’re looking for people who want to create global impact outside the lab. Business Fellows, on the other hand, may or may not have technical backgrounds but have deep expertise and experience in markets, economics, business models, rapid scale-up of technologies, and overall industry expertise across our identified focus areas. They are, above all, passionate leaders who are excited about the power of science and engineering to transform the world's biggest industries. Most likely, they will fall into one of three sample categories:
  • Early career and recent MBA graduates,
  • Experienced startup leaders focused in the climate sector, or
  • Senior industry executives within our technology categories
Applications to become an Innovator Fellow will be reviewed and scored by technical experts on the following criteria:
  • Technical innovation and approach
  • Breakthrough potential
  • Applicant merit and approach
  • Overall score
During the selection period, applicants may be asked to participate in a virtual or in person meeting.

Business Fellow applications will also be reviewed on a history of significant accomplishments, fit with current program needs, and potential for impact in the program. Applicants may be asked to participate in a series of virtual or in person meetings.

All applications will undergo a business and legal diligence process, and applicants should be prepared to answer additional inquiries from evaluators or provide additional information, as may be requested.
Breakthrough Energy values the privacy of applicants to the Fellows Program, and commits to protect the privacy of your personal information and your application materials per the terms of our Privacy Policy. We will share your application with third parties only as necessary to process and review your application. We will retain your personal information and one copy of your application. Any additional copies of your application made as part of the evaluation process will be destroyed. If your application is not selected for funding, we will retain the information to help us process and evaluate your application if you apply again. You may request deletion of your full application at any time, and we will retain your personal information and a short summary of your proposal for our records and to confirm deletion. We may use your personal information to provide you updates on the program and share other information related to Breakthrough Energy. Neither you nor Breakthrough Energy will make any public statements about your application without the written approval of the other. Please do not include any trade secrets or other sensitive or confidential information (“Trade Secrets”) with your application materials. If you do include Trade Secrets with your application, we retain the right to delete this information from your application prior to its evaluation, and you agree to waive any potential future claims against us related to your rights in any of the submitted Trade Secrets.
The Breakthrough Energy Fellows program provides:
  • A highly competitive yearly living stipend, depending on experience, plus a health stipend and an annual travel allowance.
  • Approximately $1-2.5 million per year in research and development funding for lab space, office space, equipment, supplies, technical consultants, and staff.
  • Freedom to work anywhere within the regions where we operate.
  • A curriculum program of intensive entrepreneurial training, mentorship, and networking opportunities.
  • Access to a robust network of industry partners to develop, validate, and demonstrate their technology as well as access to Breakthrough Energy’s ecosystem of mentors, policy experts, investors, technologists, and government entities.
This Fellowship is full-time and Fellows should not have extensive external commitments, such as employment obligations, consulting services, or enrollment in academic programs. We expect Fellowships to be two years, depending upon your technology, stage of development, and support required.

If you are not prepared to spend full-time efforts on the Fellowship, you should consider applying for an Explorer Grant.
Yes, Breakthrough Energy Fellows is a global program. For Cohort 2, we are seeking applications from: North America, Central America, the Caribbean, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Europe, Turkey, Israel, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. Applications from other locations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Currently, all communication and curriculum will be in English.
Breakthrough Energy Fellows must commit full-time to the program. This is not a sabbatical or a part-time position and will require you to leave your current position. Bringing a technology from the lab into widespread adoption is challenging. The Fellowship will provide resources that will accelerate this process and Fellows should be excited about spending the next decade bringing their technology to market.

If you are not prepared to spend full-time efforts on the Fellowship, you should consider applying for an Explorer Grant.
Currently, you will not be required to relocate for your fellowship. However, we may ask you to meet others in your cohort for collaboration on a semi-regular basis. Fellows will receive financial resources to offset the costs of travel expenses related to the program.
The Fellows program targets very early-stage technologies but is not designed to be a substitute for basic scientific research. Before applying, we expect that innovators have reduced their innovation to practice and that they have supporting data to share. We seek technologies in the Technology Readiness Level from 1 to 4.
The Fellows program is designed to support individuals. However, we may consider teams of co-inventors on a case-by-case basis. Please submit only one application per team. You should not form a team solely for the purpose of applying for the Fellowship.
Yes, you may apply if you have formed a company.
Yes, you may apply if you have not formed a company. It is not a requirement of the Fellowship at the application stage.
Yes, there is no limit to the amount of prior grant funding raised to be eligible to participate in the Breakthrough Energy Fellows program. However, to be eligible for the program, teams must not have raised more than $2,000,000 of investment (including equity, notes, and SAFEs) at program start.
We expect our Fellows to engage with each other as a cohort of innovators working collaboratively to help commercialize critical climate technology. Fellows are expected to participate in Fellowship events, provide regular updates to program staff, and contribute positively and professionally to the larger cohort. After finishing the program, we expect Fellows to serve as engaged alumni and to support future cohorts.


Fellows who receive grant funding through Breakthrough Energy Foundation (BEF) are required to contribute to the field by sharing learnings and publishing information regarding the results of their research, independently or in collaboration with BEF, to increase the body of knowledge available to the public regarding climate change mitigation technologies. These learnings and publications do not require you to share any proprietary technology.
We will work with you throughout the Fellowship to help define the best path for your venture and develop the relationships needed to be successful at the end of the Fellowship.

As the Fellowship concludes, we anticipate that Fellows will pursue a commercialization pathway which may include:
  • A public/private partnership
  • An acquisition of their technology or a direct hire to a corporate partner
  • An independent spin out to continue technology development
Breakthrough Energy is focused on technologies, processes, or materials that can reduce CO2 emissions by at least 500 million tons per year by 2050. For our 2022 cohort, our emphasis is on innovations within cement, steel, hydrogen, electrofuels, food and agriculture, long duration (seasonal) energy storage, and carbon dioxide capture, storage, and sequestration. We also invite high impact innovations that meet the emissions threshold within other technology categories.
The Breakthrough Energy Fellows program will provide Fellows with a highly competitive yearly living stipend, depending on experience, plus a health stipend and travel allowance. Innovator Fellows will also be eligible for direct R&D funding. R&D funding is anticipated to be $1-2.5 million per year/per project.
The program is designed so that each cohort of Fellows begins at the same time, as you will be part of a distinct cohort and participate in shared learning as a group. We will consider other schedules on a case-by-case basis, or it may be more appropriate to apply for a future cohort.
Explorer Grants are intended to seed breakthrough climate innovation with the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by at least 500 million tons per year by 2050, within a university or laboratory environment.
An Explorer Grant is designed to support earlier stage ideas as compared to the Fellowship. Grantees will be allowed to keep their current position and will not have to relocate. Ideally, the grant will allow an innovator to achieve milestones that would make the technology eligible for the Fellowship.
The number of Explorer Grants issued is dependent upon the quality and number of applications.
The application process will begin late 2021, and Grantees will be selected in Q2 of 2022.
Explorer Grant applications will be reviewed and scored by technical experts on the following criteria:
  • Technical innovation and approach
  • Breakthrough potential
  • Applicant merit and approach
  • Overall score
During the selection period, applicants may be asked to participate in a virtual or in person meeting.
Breakthrough Energy values the privacy of applicants to the Fellows Program, and commits to protect the privacy of your personal information and your application materials per the terms of our Privacy Policy. We will share your application with third parties only as necessary to process and review your application. We will retain your personal information and one copy of your application. Any additional copies of your application made as part of the evaluation process will be destroyed. If your application is not selected for funding, we will retain the information to help us process and evaluate your application if you apply again. You may request deletion of your full application at any time, and we will retain your personal information and a short summary of your proposal for our records and to confirm deletion. We may use your personal information to provide you updates on the program and share other information related to Breakthrough Energy. Neither you nor Breakthrough Energy will make any public statements about your application without the written approval of the other. Please do not include any trade secrets or other sensitive or confidential information (“Trade Secrets”) with your application materials. If you do include Trade Secrets with your application, we retain the right to delete this information from your application prior to its evaluation, and you agree to waive any potential future claims against us related to your rights in any of the submitted Trade Secrets.
  • Approximately $250,000 - $500,000 in research and development funding for lab space, office space, equipment, supplies, technical consultants, and staff to achieve pre-determined milestones.
  • Freedom to work anywhere within the regions where we operate.
  • Ability to remain employed at your current organization.
  • Access to the Breakthrough Energy network of mentors, policy experts, investors, technologists, and governmental entities.
  • Access to attend select Breakthrough Energy events.
An Explorer Grantee will work in accordance with his or her milestones. The individual and the Breakthrough Energy Fellows team will collaborate on establishing milestones and timeframes before the grant is issued. It is then up to the Grantee to achieve those milestones by agreed upon due dates.

The Grant period is expected to last approximately 1 year.
The Breakthrough Energy Foundation limits overhead/indirect costs to 10%.
Yes. We are seeking applications from: North America, Central America, the Caribbean, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Europe, Turkey, Israel, United Arab Emirates, South Africa, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. Applications from other locations will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Currently, all communication and curriculum will be in English.
Yes. The Explorer Grants are designed so that you may keep your current position while still working on your technological innovation.
No, Grantees will not be required to relocate.
We seek technologies in the Technology Readiness Level from 0 to 2.
Explorer Grants may be distributed to individuals or teams. You may apply as an individual or a team.
Grant funding may be used for research-related activities, including lab space, office space, equipment, supplies, technical consultants, and personnel.
Explorer Grantees are expected to meet technological milestones and deadlines agreed upon before the Grant has been issued. Funding requires that recipients contribute to the field by sharing learnings and publishing information regarding the results of their research, independently or in collaboration with the Breakthrough Energy Foundation, to increase the body of knowledge available to the public regarding climate change mitigation technologies. These learnings and publications do not require you to share any proprietary technology.

We expect our Grantees to engage and utilize the Breakthrough Energy network to further their technology. Grantees are expected to participate in selected events and contribute positively and professionally to the Breakthrough Energy ecosystem.
While it is not required, we expect that innovators may be well suited to join the full time Fellowship, following completion of the Explorer Grant. We also encourage innovators to pursue their technology development through other means such as a startup or IP licensing.
Breakthrough Energy is focused on technologies, processes, or materials that can reduce CO2 emissions by at least 500 million tons per year by 2050. For our 2022 cohort, our emphasis is on innovations within cement, steel, hydrogen, electrofuels, food and agriculture, long duration (seasonal) energy storage, and carbon dioxide capture, storage, and sequestration. We also invite high impact innovations that meet the emissions threshold within other technology categories.
Explorer Grant funding is approximately $250,000 - $500,000.
The grant period will begin in September 2022.