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Wells Fargo launches “Innovation Incubator” program

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Sunrise at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado.  (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

Sunrise at the Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

Wells Fargo last week launched an “Innovation Incubator” program (IN2), a $10 million environmental grant program for clean technology startups.

IN2 was announced 28 October at the NREL Industry Growth Forum in Denver and is the first of its kind in the banking industry, according to Wells Fargo. Under the program, clean-tech startups will be identified and recommended by Wells Fargo’s network of technical, financial and industry advisers at laboratories and research facilities across the country.

The first of three rounds of selected companies will be announced early next year, and will receive up to $250,000 for business development needs, research and testing support at NREL’s Golden, CO facility, along with “coaching and mentorship” from Wells Fargo. An independent advisory board of nearly a dozen industry leaders representing the commercial building sector, academia, community organizations, successful entrepreneurs and technical experts will select the final companies to be included in the IN2 program.

The IN2 program will source candidates from universities and regional accelerators “providing a pipeline of early stage technology companies to apply,” a release from Wells Fargo said. Selected technology companies will reach specific technology milestones in the NREL lab with an opportunity to deploy and field test in Wells Fargo buildings.

“The IN2 platform is designed to fill a gap that exists from early stage concept to production for emerging clean technologies,” said Ashley Grosh, vice president, Wells Fargo Environmental Affairs. “Through our collaboration with NREL, we want to give opportunities to national labs, universities and regional accelerator programs, and entrepreneurs with great ideas for lighting, sensors and controls, space heating and cooling, windows, energy modeling, plug loads, and building envelope.”

The first year of the IN2 program will focus on sustainable buildings technologies designed to provide cost savings and reduce their negative impact on human health and the natural environment. Qualifying technologies may include: lighting solutions, net zero-energy, water efficiency, indoor environmental quality enhancement, waste reduction, materials efficiency, operations and maintenance optimization, datacenter facilities management. Over time, the program will expand its portfolio of selected companies and the scope of clean technology sectors.

“Due to pervasive market barriers, private sector financing is typically limited or unavailable to bring new energy innovations from early-stage laboratory research to proof-of concept prototype and on to full commercial scale,” said Richard Adams, NREL’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center director. “This leads to market ‘gaps’ that prove too difficult for many early stage companies to overcome, which often ultimately results in promising technologies falling to the wayside. We are hoping to address these barriers to benefit small companies, our communities and the economy.

The IN2 program is funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation as part of its 2020 Environmental Commitment to provide $100 million to environmentally-focused nonprofits and universities by 2020. Grants support innovative projects and programs led by nonprofits and universities aimed at promoting clean technology and breaking down barriers to accelerate the transition to a “greener” economy.

The “external channel partners” include:

  • Clean Energy Trust | Chicago, IL
  • Cleantech Group | San Francisco, CA
  • Cleantech Open | Palo Alto, CA
  • Coachella Valley Economic Partnership | Palm Springs, CA
  • Imagine H20 | San Francisco, CA
  • Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator | Los Angeles, CA
  • MA Clean Energy Council | Boston, MA
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology | Cambridge, MA
  • New England Clean Energy Council | Boston, MA
  • Portland State University | Portland, OR
  • Prospect Silicon Valley | San Jose, CA
  • Innosphere | Ft. Collins, Golden | CO
  • Rice University | Houston, TX
  • Telluride Venture Partners | Telluride, CO
  • University of California Davis: EE Center | Davis, CA
  • University of California Berkeley | Berkeley, CA
  • University of North Carolina | Charlotte, NC
  • University of Texas: Texas Venture Labs | Austin, TX

The entire list of 2014 program participants will be announced in February 2015 on the Wells Fargo blog.

 

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Written by William DiBenedetto

3 November, 2014 at 6:37 am

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