Some of the biggest clean tech innovations and success stories come from small beginnings like start-up companies who see a market opening but struggle to move from concept to commercialization. With the proper support, entrepreneurs can help grow the clean energy economy.
Looks like the US Department of Energy agrees. This week DOE announced the National Incubator Initiative for Clean Energy (NIICE), an effort designed to support clean tech start-ups reach market.
While the program’s acronym may recall the “very niice” quote made famous by comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat character, the DOE’s NIICE initiative is serious business that could be a make-or-break difference for the future of clean tech.
NIICE will launch with a $3 million funding stream to help clean energy incubators across the country provide business services and mentorship to entrepreneurs and start-up businesses working on new clean tech innovations.
DOE intends for NIICE to create a national network of clean energy incubators through two approaches. From a national level, the funding will create an organization responsible for coordinating incubator activity across the country by centralizing best practices, business services, and connections with established industry players.
At a regional level, NIICE will help fund up to five incubators to identify and develop these clean energy entrepreneur best practices while supporting local early-stage and high-risk start-up companies with business services as they scale up from concept to commercialization.
Turning Seed Money Into Returns On Investment
$3 million dollars may not be a massive influx of funding, but it’s part of a larger effort by DOE’s Technology-to-Market program and could create ripple effects for the clean tech community by leveraging initial funding into a bigger pool of cash, not to mention business guidance and support to keep companies growing.
This approach has worked in the past. DOE has specifically targeted solar energy companies for incubator help through the SunShot Initiative, and the $92 million invested in more than 50 companies has been leveraged into nearly $1.7 billion in private investment – roughly a 20-to-1 return on investment.
So if you’re in the clean energy incubator business, make sure to apply for funding before the March 21, 2014 deadline. Who knows – you may hold the key to unlocking America’s next great clean tech innovation…and great success.
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