Carnegie Mellon University

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January 29, 2018

CMU, Northwestern Win Wells Fargo Award To Launch Cleantech Entrepreneurship Center

By Emily Giedzinski

& Amanda King

Amanda King
  • Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation
  • 412-268-6741

Carnegie Mellon University is partnering with Northwestern University to establish a new center for Cleantech Entrepreneurial Excellence (C2E2).

The center, administered by Carnegie Mellon's Wilton E. Scott Institute for Energy Innovation and Northwestern's Institute for Sustainability and Energy, is being funded by The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2). The incubator is supported by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

The goals of the center are to better understand how clean technology, energy innovation and entrepreneurship differ from other technology sectors, what the key success factors are in early-stage company development at a regional level, and how societal outcomes can be enhanced as a result.

"Often the models for how to advance innovation come from the information technology (IT) sector and from California and Cambridge," said Deborah Stine, associate director for Policy Outreach for CMU's Scott Institute, an IN2 Channel Partner. "The plan for our study is to identify how energy innovation differs from other sectors, like IT, and then to hold workshops with energy entrepreneurs and experts from outside these regions — in this case, Pittsburgh representing the Mid-Atlantic and Chicago representing the Midwest — to account for those differences."

In the same week the award was announced, Pittsburgh was recognized as a Top 20 Amazon HQ2 finalist — a testament to the cutting-edge innovation and world-class research happening at CMU and in the region. In December, VentureBeat named Pittsburgh one of four U.S. tech hubs to watch in 2018.

"The ultimate goal is to develop a primer that emerging energy innovators and entrepreneurs might use to enhance their potential for success in each step of the innovation process," Stine said.

The first round of workshops will be held this spring. If these are successful, Stine said the next goal would be to hold workshops in other regions. All of the information gathered as part of this effort, including the primer, videos and other background material will be available for free on the C2E2's forthcoming website. Stine said she hopes they can be used as resources for classes, startup weekends, energy hackathons and training sessions.

Carnegie Mellon and Northwestern are among eight recipients — 19 total organizations — of the IN2 Channel Partner Awards that total $1 million to help address gaps in clean energy technology development and commercialization. The awards program is designed to promote the development of robust clean energy innovation and a network of collaborative knowledge sharing.

"The Channel Partner Awards Program supports IN2's ultimate goal of building resilient, smart and connected communities by encouraging the development of strong, multi-stakeholder cleantech ecosystems that will collectively support and drive innovation to enable greater urban sustainability," said Mary Wenzel, head of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability at Wells Fargo. "Each of the recipients of the 2017 IN2 Channel Partner Awards Program has displayed a talent for innovation, disruption and a commitment to clean technology."

IN2 is a $30 million clean-technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation. Its mission is to speed the path to market for early-stage, clean-technology entrepreneurs. Companies selected for participation in the program receive up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding from Wells Fargo, technical support and validation from experts at NREL's facilities, and the opportunity to beta-test at a Wells Fargo facility or with a strategic program partner.

Learn more about the Scott Institute's work in spurring clean energy innovations.