Wells Fargo (WFC) today launched the Innovation Incubator (IN2) program, a $10 million environmental grant for clean technology startups funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered by the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to foster the development of early stage clean technologies for commercial buildings. The program is the first of its kind within the banking industry.
Announced today at the NREL Industry Growth Forum in Denver, clean technology startups will be identified and recommended by Wells Fargo's network of technical, financial and industry advisors at laboratories and research facilities across the country. The first of three rounds of selected companies will be announced in early 2015, and will receive up to $250,000 for business development needs, research and testing support at NREL's world-class facility in Golden, Colo., 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. 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. "The program leverages Wells Fargo's geographic diversity and expertise in clean energy in commercial buildings, to provide early stage entrepreneurs an alternative pathway towards commercialization. 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."
In 2013, 40 percent of all energy used in the U.S. was consumed by commercial and residential buildings at an estimated cost of $413 billion (source:Department of Energy). The first year of the IN2 program will focus on sustainable buildings technologies that will provide cost savings and reduce the overall negative impact of the built environment on human health and the natural environment. Qualifying technologies may include the following: energy efficiency, 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.
External channel partners list:
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