The IN2 Channel Partner Awards Program is a $5 million initiative that supports an ecosystem of clean energy, cleantech and sustainability-focused business incubators, accelerators, and university programs all serving as a pipeline of innovation and critical stakeholders in the IN2 program. In addition to supporting this ecosystem financially, the program aims to further the cleantech community through promotion of a sustainable, robust network. The community will be convened and strengthened through additional activities and events that will provide opportunities for funded members to share learnings, discuss strategic objectives, and network throughout the year. The Channel Partner Awards Program aims to strategically address critical gaps and maximize impact toward enhancing clean energy technologies. IN2 currently has more than 40 channel partners in the program.

The program incorporates:

  • Localized events and research projects that engage local stakeholders and inform needs
  • Competitive and by invitation-only funding opportunities
  • Participation in signature annual events convening the cleantech community
  • Gap analysis exercises and brainstorming of potential solutions IN2 Channel Partner Awardees can incorporate into their programs
  • Knowledge sharing through community engagement
  • Strategic award funding in specific focus areas to maximize impact

In 2017, the program piloted the following process / program phases:

Community Engagement

Program participants engaged with their communities in order to identify gaps within their local, regional, and national ecosystem that hinder Cleantech development and commercialization.

The objective of this effort was to build a base of knowledge that is relevant to the partners (incubator, university, and accelerator grant awardees), their local communities and environments; and to build a base of support for future partnerships for execution and funding.

 

Summit / Ecosystem Engagement

A Summit was hosted at NREL to bring together IN2 Channel Partner Award partners, IN2 stakeholders, the investment community, and other key stakeholders such as industry and subject matter experts. This forum will allowed for knowledge sharing and in-depth discussions aimed at informing decisions on new technology areas for IN2 as well as strategic initiatives for the IN2 Channel Partner Award program.

During the event, the IN2 Channel Partner Award partners also came prepared to participate in the conversation and share their ideas, research, and findings from the community engagement phase. It also provided an opportunity for each partner to hear new ideas and concepts that they could utilize or incorporate, helping to lift the overall quality of the program.

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WF networking
IN2 Summit participants listen to Paul Hawken's keynote speech.

Strategic Award Funding

Following the Summit, IN2 Channel Partner Awards Program participants had the opportunity to apply for strategic funding awards ranging from $15,000-$500,000 to support initiatives that address gaps in clean-energy technology development and commercialization. Following a competitive selection process, eight projects and nineteen organizations were awarded:

The California Institute of Technology partnered with Clean Energy Trust to establish the Rocket Fund Mid-West (RFMW), an interstate partnership bringing together sustainability-focused accelerators, utilities and universities in a community consortium, to help guide vulnerable Very Early Stage (VES) ventures through critical early stages. Pioneered in California, the Rocket Fund will offer a solution for one of the most intractable problems preventing cleantech innovations from reaching the marketplace – the lack of funding and necessary commercial partners for building, demonstrating and validating ‘preproducts’ in the real world.

Carnegie Mellon University partnered with Northwestern to launch a new Center for Cleantech Entrepreneurial Excellence (C2E2). The goal of the center is to better understand how cleantech/energy innovation and entrepreneurship differ from other technology sectors. At a regional level, C2E2 will examine key success factors in early-stage company development and how societal outcomes can be enhanced as a result.

Cleantech Group will leverage its annual Cleantech Forum to capture key discussion points and identify themes to help further inform the direction of the IN2 program as it considers expanding into the food-systems space.

Activation Energy, in support of the Cyclotron Road program, will disrupt the current partnering and investment model for bringing new technologies to market – which relies heavily on human networking – by developing a network leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) to identify a comprehensive list of strategic partners for emerging clean energy technologies. Working in partnership with Moxley Holdings and Rho AI, their model will identify future partners based on current investments, partnering trends, and natural language analysis of public statements.

Innosphere, Colorado’s leading non-profit technology incubator, will embark on a multi-year plan called Scaleup Colorado to systematically address three specific problems holding back Colorado’s science and technology ecosystem from growing at a higher rate and creating greater economic impact.

Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) partnered with ACRE, Clean Energy Trust, Greentown Learn, and NextEnergy will establish a standard for measuring and reporting the economic, environmental and social impact of the portfolio companies within their network. The team will leverage LACI’s Just Impact 2016 report and framework, and conduct individual research within organizations to evolve a common framework for training their staff and portfolio companies, and measuring and reporting on their individual impact results.

NextEnergy partnered with Prospect Silicon Valley to ensure that the cleantech potential of CASE (Connected, Autonomous, Shared, Electrified) mobility solutions are fully realized, by entering into a sister city partnership between Detroit, MI and San Jose, CA, to address two main challenges – connecting a cleantech innovation pipeline to industry players and market opportunities, and bringing private sector/industry partners together with government and NGO service providers to encourage a focus on serving low- to moderate-income market segments.

Rice University, the Austin Technology Incubator at UT-Austin, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Clean Energy Incubator and Texas State University will collaborate on a series of programs and initiatives that will help catalyze the next generation of cleantech entrepreneurs and serve as a feeder to the IN2 program. Referred to as “The IN2Bound Cleantech Accelerator Program,” these programs will educate entrepreneurs and accelerate startups, and connect them to a network of experts to provide technical support and mentorship.

 

Eligibility

The IN2 Channel Partner Awards Program is limited to US NGO 501c3 organizations that participate as existing IN2 Program Channel Partners.

If you would like to learn more about the IN2 program or channel partner process, please contact IN2@nrel.gov.