CEPS consortium, NSF model, and university sites

1.       What is the Center for Solid-State Electric Power Generation and Storage (CEPS)?

CEPS is a collaborative consortium of many industries and universities for fast, cost-effective, and efficient commercialization of the next generation solid-state energy storage technologies.

2.       What is the NSF IUCRC CEPS model and how it works? 

The model is established to promote adoption of the new solid-state battery technology by offering all industry participants access to patents at a low cost.

3.       How the NSF IUCRC model benefit the CEPS members?

The CEPS Consortium offers a license to a portfolio of patents essential to the CEPS solid-state energy storage technology. This licensing model provides significant benefits to manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.

4.       What is the NSF role in CEPS activities?

All activities, projects, operation, and interchange are monitored by NSF through evaluators employed by NSF.  These evaluators attend all IAB meetings, monitor the voting process.

5.       Who plays the leading role within CEPS?

South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT) in collaboration with other major US universities.

6.       Why has SDSMT been chosen as a lead university site?  

Excellence in new materials architectural design and deposition at SDSMT (e.g. using PVD, supersonic cold spray, additive manufacturing, 3D printing etc.) is beneficial for creating an intellectual hub in SD the center of the nation.

7.       How do the university sites interact?

University sites are in constant communication with each other and through annual NSF meetings held in Washington, D.C.  Often, faculty and students from different sites in CEPS will share technical information with each other.


CEPS structure and management; “leveraging” concept

8.       Who can join CEPS

Any industry or government agency can join CEPS by becoming a member.  An industry can have up to two memberships which gives them greater voting power during the selection process. (see the section membership for clarification) 

9.       How can a government agency join a center?

Government agencies can join CEPS through Interagency Transfer Agreements by allocating  funds through the NSF; See an example:  and share the IP with the companies.

10.   Is the SDSMT prepared to take the leading role in CEPS management and supervision?

SDSMT involves highly qualified faculty at every academic level and includes collaboration across the state, the nation, and the globe focused on nanomaterials, additive manufacturing, and sustainable energy.

11.   What is the IAB?

The IAB is an acronym for Industrial Advisory Board

12.   What is the selection process for proposals submitted to CEPS IAB?

The projects proposed by the CEPS industrial members are reviewed, selected, and approved by IAB through a selection process. The proposals with the greatest number of votes are selected. 

13.   Do all the CEPS members share IP as a result of CEPS project

Yes, all members have an opportunity to share the results.

14.   Why does a company or organization need to join CEPS?

CEPS is an intellectual hub that provides a license to a portfolio of patents essential to the CEPS solid-state energy storage.

15.   What is this ‘leveraging’ concept?

CEPS members can leverage funds through jointly supported projects and with NSF financial support.  Projects are often funded at high levels through this leveraging concept.  NSF supports each university site with $150K annually thus multiplying a member’s contribution several times.  Access to IP is shared by all members.  Often, ‘back burner’ projects are done by the center; that is, projects that are too costly or simply not done at the industry research division.


Return on Investment (ROI)

16.   How the ROI calculation can be broken down?

CEPS ROI has a combined value comprised of money directly invested into the technology plus high leverage of funds reaching 5X due to combined efforts from the CEPS participants.

17.   How the revenue and ROI will benefit from joining CEPS?

Sale of the product will define the companies’ revenue and ROI. Investment from the NSF and IP fees should be considered.


CEPS membership

18.   What are the benefits of becoming a CEPS member?

There are many both direct and intrinsic benefits.  CEPS can do projects at a fraction of the cost of an industry because of the university setting and the availability of students.  Industrial members have access to facilities, faculty knowledge, instrumentation, and the academic setting to accomplish tasks that otherwise might be impossible.  Industrial members have access to students for recruitment and employment.   Industrial members meet and exchange ideas within the university environment.  Industrial members have access to students that do research in relevant areas, view performance, and recruit future employees. 

19.   How much does CEPS membership cost?

The membership fee is $50K per year;

20.   Is an associate membership available?

Yes, there is an associate membership in the amount of $25K per year available for small businesses of under 50 employees.  An associate member does not have the same IP access nor the same ‘voting power’ when decisions are made regarding selection of the projects. The access to IP for an associate member is defined by IAB.

21.   How long does a membership last?

A membership is for a one-year period with an annual renewal at the beginning of the year. It can be renewed as many times as necessary to benefit the company.

22.   Can an industry join CEPS for one year?

Yes, the industry can join CEPS for a one year only.

23.   Does the Company contribute a membership fee for a specific university site or to the center? 

In the first few years following the launch of the Center, the membership fee is paid to the specific university. In the following years, the membership fees are acquired by the Center and distributed among the university sites, defined by the projects.

24.   Does the CEPS membership provide access to the technology that will be commercialized in future?

Yes. A significant advantage of the NSF IUCRC CEPS model is its feasibility to commercialize the applied technologies developed over time.

25.   What are the time expectations for commercialization of a new technology?

It depends on the technology. As an example, it takes about 10 years for a new ceramic material to be fully commercialized.

26.   How can a new company join CEPS?

There is a possibility that the company will be asked to pay-in the previous years in the amount of $50K per year that will be decided by IAB.

27.   What happens to the IP discovered during membership if and when a member withdraws from the Center?

Members leaving the center may have access to IP discovered during their membership, but they do not have access to IP discovered after the member leaves the center.

28.   Can money from a membership be directed to a particular university site?

Funds can be directed, if a member wishes to do this after this pooling has occurred; however, the purpose of the center is to bring together ideas and projects that are of benefit to the overall mission of the center rather than a particular site.

29.   What do we have for the money paid ($50K/year membership)? What are the benefits in spending this money? What can I get out of it?

Technology development + High leverage of funds + Non-exclusive licenses + Relationships + Workforce development + Faster progress in solid state energy storage. 

30.   Are there any tax breaks for the membership fee?

In general, this investment is taxable, but the % depends on the category defined by the company.

31.   What is the benefit of additional money, if contributed by the company?

It will be used to have another vote.


CEPS intellectual property (IP)

32.   Who owns the IP generated by CEPS?

IP generated within CEPS is owned by the universities; however, all CEPS members have access to IP through a nonexclusive royalty-free license.

33.   What does non-exclusivity mean?

It means the other party is free to contract with others for the same benefits or rights that that is being granted. The kind of exclusivity that the parties want to create could, in some situations, could breach competition law principles.

34.   What is better: one exclusive or multiple non-exclusive licenses?

There is a likelihood that more will be earned from the multiple non-exclusive licenses than from one exclusive. However, there is also a probability that the “territory” could me smaller in the second case.

35.   Give an example of exclusive vs. non-exclusive license.

If you manufacture batteries, you can sell them exclusively to the US Navy, or enter into a non-exclusive agreement and also sell them to NASA.

36.   Is there a chance to have an exclusive license from CEPS?

Yes, if the IP is produced within a specific company-university R&D project, the company can have exclusive rights.

37.   Can industry use any IP from CEPS?

Yes, IP is accessible through a royalty-free license agreement.  Access is granted to current members only.

38.   Is IP from CEPS is transferrable?

It is not transferrable unless prior arrangement is made by the IAB. 

39.   Do the CEPS members leaving the center have access to IP generated during their membership?

Yes, but they may not have access to new IP after their membership is cancelled.

40.   Does the Company have the right to sublicense to its subsidiaries and affiliates?

Yes, it does.

41.   Does the company have access to all IP generated by CEPS?

The company has access to all IP generated by CEPS. The patents are non-exclusive and royalty-free.

42.   How the patent costs are distributed among the CEPS members?

They are distributed in equal amounts.

43.   Can the university take the money from the outside company in a form of bilateral agreement?

Yes, but this research will not be leveraged and will be exposed to full indirect charges (~40-50%).

44.   Do the IP negotiations have to be conducted with each company separately? 

No, unless it is an exclusive license.

45.   If multiple companies want to obtain a license, is it a royalty-free license?  

Yes, it is.

46.   Do companies that take the royalty-free license share the patent costs?

Yes, they pay the patent costs collectively. 

47.   How is the IP protection from the outside entities handled?

It will be protected through an agreement signed by the CEPS members.


CEPS membership vs. bilateral agreements

48.   Can the company pay the university directly using a form of a bilateral agreement?

Yes, it can.

49.   Is the bilateral agreement better deal than participation in CEPS?

No, since the company loses its rights and access to the IP from the center.

50.   How does the CEPS membership allow to do more work compared to bilateral agreement?

Due to the high leverage of the funds and very low (≤10%) indirect charges.

51.   How does the NSF CEPS model support non-competitive research in the agreement signed by the industry members?

If only one company requests the license, then it pays the royalty associated with the exclusivity.  This is different from regular practices in bilateral agreements, since exclusivity usually is a desirable trait with multiple companies.


CEPS meetings

52.   What do the CEPS meeting agendas look like?

The agenda is created to report the progress with regard to the on-going research and discuss new members and new projects in line with the overall CEPS mission. 

53.   What is the length of the CEPS meetings?

Length of the CEPS meetings is about one day.  Meetings can be held through video conferencing facilities for those that cannot physically attend the meetings.

54.   Can outside companies or faculty attend the CEPS meetings?

No, outside companies or faculty cannot attend the CEPS meetings. However, a permission can be granted upon the agreement of all CEPS members that also includes signed NDA.

55.   How often and where the CEPS meetings?

Semi-annual involving all the participants are held at a university site or at a site selected by the IAB (e.g. major conference locations) Locations are decided by the IAB. 


56.   How are the publications handled?

The manuscripts are reviewed and approved by the Industry Advisory Board (IAB) prior to submission. In this case the company does not lose the IP rights that it has already paid for.

57.   How much time does it usually take to examine the disclosed technology?

From 6 to 12 months delay period is expected before its appearance in the public domain.


Unanswered questions

Please feel free to ask any of the site directors, or coordinators any questions that you may have.

We will include them in this synopsis of Frequently Asked Questions.