NextEnergy, a Detroit, Michigan nonprofit technology accelerator focused on smart mobility and smart grid solutions, and Prospect Silicon Valley (ProspectSV), a nonprofit, cleantech innovation hub in San Jose, California, and their respective cities, are working to ensure that the potential of automated, connected, electrified, and shared vehicles is fully realized. They are working together with the support of a Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) Channel Partner Strategic Award.
Sustainable Transportation: A Critical Goal
Transportation consumes 29% of energy in the United States and contributes 27% to greenhouse gas production, making the need for cleantech innovations in sustainable transportation a critical goal in the transition to a low-carbon economy.
With long lead times to market, highly regulated and concentrated supply chains, and complex public transit and private vehicle networks, the transportation industry is a particularly challenging environment for introducing new mobility solutions. Additionally, it’s important that these solutions meet the needs of low- to moderate-income communities and customers.
A Tale of Two Cities
In 2017, NextEnergy and ProspectSV applied for an IN2 Channel Partner Strategic Award to address the gaps and opportunities in the sustainable transportation market. They proposed a partnership with the goals of connecting the cleantech innovation pipeline to industry players and market opportunities and bringing private sector/industry partners together with government and NGO services to focus on serving low-to moderate-income market segments.
The proposal stood out and theirs was one of eight projects encompassing 19 organizations selected for an IN2 Channel Partner Strategic Award in 2017. That year, more than $1 million in funding was awarded to address gaps in clean-energy technology development and commercialization.
Throughout 2018, the project partners held discussions with local community stakeholders and institutions, government, industry, and startups to seek information and understand the costs to address unmet mobility needs of those who live, work, and visit. Ultimately, while the two regions differ in their demographics and the scope of current mobility options, there are similar challenges including affordable transit services, gaps in transit services, mobility options for senior citizens, and insufficient first/last mile options, high cost of electric vehicles (EVs) and lack of EV infrastructure.
Despite, and because of the similar challenges, the companies were able to not only develop potential pilot opportunities in each city, but they have compiled a valuable set of lessons to share with the greater IN2 ecosystem. And both partners will continue to convene stakeholders within each city in order to break down barriers and ensure equitable, responsible deployment of automated, connected, electrified, and/or shared mobility solutions.
The Channel Partner Awards at Work
The IN2 Channel Partner Strategic Awards Program is designed to foster the development of a robust cleantech and agtech ecosystem by funding innovative accelerators, incubators, and universities that play a critical role in the program model. IN2 in an invitation-only program, and these partners serve as the pipeline of innovation by referring companies to the program. Each application round, the program relies on these organizations to act as ambassadors to the program and help their portfolio companies, or startups within their network, determine if IN2 is a good fit for their current needs.
The Channel Partner Awards Program operates as a competitive and non-competitive source of grants for IN2 channel partners and, since inception, $2.1 million in funds has supported more than 74 events, strategic meetings and trainings, as well as 21 larger strategic initiatives between 23 unique organizations. NextEnergy and ProspectSV are among the success stories.
“NextEnergy and ProspectSV identified an unmet mobility need and are working to move these solutions out of the lab and into the market, thus strengthening the entire cleantech ecosystem,” said Ramsay Huntley, Clean Technology and Innovation Philanthropy program officer with Wells Fargo. “Our program is proud to further support these organizations who are committed to clean technology and early-stage entrepreneurs.”
The companies, themselves, value the opportunity for partnership provided by IN2.
“Our Channel Partner Strategic Award has deepened our partner relationship with ProspectSV, allowed us to gain a richer understanding of the unique challenges and opportunities facing one another’s regions, and led to new collaborations or evolved existing collaborations across corporate and government sectors,” says NextEnergy’s President and CEO, Jim Saber. “We look forward to further sharing our knowledge of challenges and opportunities for delivering sustainable transportation solutions.”