Incubating the Technologies of Tomorrow

Deck: 

An important conduit from entrepreneurship to commercialization.

An important conduit from entrepreneurship to commercialization.

Fortnightly Magazine - May 2016
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What if the coating on a power plant's condenser tubes was more durable and long-lasting? And what if a more durable coating also meant a reduction in CO 2 emissions? The industry may soon have a better grasp on this thanks to a state-of-the-art hydrophobic coating being developed by NBD Nanotechnologies.

Would offshore wind farms be more plentiful with technology that is less obvious and more scalable due to a turbine-less design? We may soon know the answer to this question as well. Accio Energy is redefining wind energy with advanced technology that generates energy from positively charged water droplets, with no moving parts or danger to wildlife.

Bringing innovative ideas such as these to life, or more importantly to market, can be a complex process for a budding entrepreneur attempting to navigate a world of business plans, marketing, branding and research and development. This is where clean energy incubators play a critical role, including with the aforementioned companies. As the power system continues to change at an unprecedented pace, providing the utility industry with innovative technologies such as these is becoming more and more imperative.

Figure 1 - The Incubator Network

Supporting this effort are regional incubators across the United States. The incubators provide entrepreneurs with access to mentorship, work space, funding opportunities, corporate partnerships and more. However, a need became apparent to bridge a gap between the excellent support provided by incubators and a successful product launch in what can be a crowded energy marketplace.

Now helping to fill that space is the Incubatenergy Network. Established in February 2015 by the Electric Power Research Institute, EPRI, together with the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, NREL, the Incubatenergy Network is a consortium of clean energy focused incubators.

The network connects these leading incubators so they can share best practices and learn from their peers about effective strategies for supporting entrepreneurs in driving innovation in the energy industry. It is also fostering the development of robust partnerships among members, while DOE, EPRI, NREL, and ultimately utilities and public stakeholders gain new insight on, and increased access to, clean energy innovators and innovations.

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Just over a dozen incubators currently in the network have supported upwards of 350 companies to date. The companies nurtured through this process provide a pre-vetted group of next-generation businesses with measurable success rates: over a billion dollars in follow-on funding, $330 million in revenue, and almost three thousand direct jobs are supported by these companies, with far larger regional economic impact overall. 

Take for example NBD Nanotechnologies. With support from the Greentown Labs incubator in Boston, NBD Nano has access to lower cost lab space. This has allowed the company to operate testing equipment to

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