On February 24, 2021, the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a $50 million collaboration between the Wells Fargo Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, announced the four newest winners of its Channel Partner Awards. Channel Partner Awards are presented twice annually to members of IN2’s network of cleantech accelerator and incubator programs across the United States to address gaps in the cleantech ecosystem and eliminate the barriers startups face on the road to commercialization. For the current awards round, $350,000 in total funding, IN2 called for proposals that would provide entrepreneurial opportunities for historically underrepresented individuals in the cleantech industry.
Cleantech consistently ranks as one of the fastest-growing employment categories in the United States, but its workforce has historically lacked diversity. According to a 2019 report from the Solar Foundation, the nation’s solar workforce at the time was 73% white, 17% Hispanic or Latino, 9% Asian and 8% Black. Minority entrepreneurship in cleantech is even lower, as only 10% of minority-owned businesses are in the Professional, Scientific and Technology sectors. A recent IN2 whitepaper assessing the current cleantech landscape found that 78% of the surveyed cleantech startups maintain a predominantly white workforce, and 93% have a majority of male employees, further emphasizing the need for initiatives focused on diversifying the industry.
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