The field of nanocrystal quantum dots (QDs) is already more than 30 years old, and yet continuing interest in these structures is driven by both the fascinating physics emerging from strong quantum confinement of electronic excitations, as well as a large number of prospective applications that could benefit from the tunable properties and amenability toward solution-based processing of these materials. The focus of this review is on recent advances in nanocrystal research related to applications of QD materials in lasing, light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and solar energy conversion. A specific underlying theme is innovative concepts for tuning the properties of QDs beyond what is possible via traditional size manipulation, particularly through heterostructuring. Examples of such advanced control of nanocrystal functionalities include the following: interface engineering for suppressing Auger recombination in the context of QD LEDs and lasers; Stokes-shift engineering for applications in large-area luminescent solar concentrators; and control of intraband relaxation for enhanced carrier multiplication in advanced QD photovoltaics. We examine the considerable recent progress on these multiple fronts of nanocrystal research, which has resulted in the first commercialized QD technologies. These successes explain the continuing appeal of this field to a broad community of scientists and engineers, which in turn ensures even more exciting results to come from future exploration of this fascinating class of materials.