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Cleantech At The Urban Future Lab — Cleantech Talk With Pat Sapinsley

In this episode of our Cleantech Talk podcast interview series, Zach Shahan sits down with Pat Sapinsley, Managing Director of Cleantech Initiatives at the Urban Future Lab / ACRE at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, to talk about her work.

In this episode of our Cleantech Talk podcast interview series, Zach Shahan sits down with Pat Sapinsley, Managing Director of Cleantech Initiatives at the Urban Future Lab / ACRE at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, to talk about her work. You can listen to the full conversation in the embedded player below. Below that embedded SoundCloud player is a brief summary of the topics covered, but tune into the podcast to follow the full discussion.

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It was after closing a successful architectural office to spend more time with her kids that Pat found herself spending her free hours studying online about climate change. When she came across studies about problems related to architectural contributing to climate change, she was surprised to realize just how much an architect’s choice of poor-quality insulation or building design could hinder energy efficiency efforts. It was then that she wanted to turn from being part of the architectural community that was partly responsible for climate change into part of the community fixing these problems.

Zach and Pat talk about Pat’s path from working in venture capital to fund clean technology to starting two startups of her own, until she finally ended up at New York University just five years ago. Her work now with the Urban Future Lab focuses on five programs, the largest of which is the ACRE incubator. The ACRE incubator has incubated 57 companies with market-ready solutions to climate change. According to Pat, 88% of the companies they have incubated since the start of the program in 2009 are still up and running today, have created hundreds of jobs in New York, and have raised approximately $500 million from the private sector. These companies are working on building energy efficiency, smart grids, smart city projects, electric vehicle technology, and battery storage technology, to name a few focuses. 

Urban Future Lab also runs several other programs, including one that teaches professionals who are changing their careers all they need to know to transition into the clean technology industry, and one that scales up young hydrogen companies. Zach and Pat explore some of the Urban Future Lab’s success stories. Pat emphasizes her and her team’s role as a channel to make valuable introductions, find market partners, identify sources of venture capital funding, and find grant dollars.

But while the work that Pat does is engaging and valuable, it is not without its challenges. She explains that the time it takes for the companies she works with to get into certain markets can be very long, especially when they are selling to industries that are risk averse and extremely liability conscious. Contracting requirements to work in industries like electricity generation can be onerous for small companies, and so Pat is hoping to put together tools that simplify these processes in order to reduce the “bureaucratic burden” that can be significant barriers to a clean technology startup’s success.

Pat and Zach discuss some of the Urban Future Lab’s newest endeavors and talk a bit about how the broader policy landscape interacts with and shapes the success of clean technology in New York. You can hear more about Pat’s stance on the policy side of clean technology through an article she wrote.

Pat talks about grappling with the problem of transmission, and her desire to see a price on carbon take effect on a federal level. You can visit to check out more of the work she does and the problems she cares about. Have a company working in this area? Apply to the incubator or participate in its annual competition. Details can be found at the same site. 

To hear more about these topics, as well as specific stories of companies that have come out of the Urban Future Lab, listen to the show!

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Written By

Winter is a Cutler Scholar and undergraduate student double majoring in Environmental Studies and Journalism at Ohio University's Honors Tutorial College, with a minor in French. Her academic interests include environmental communication, technology and social innovation, especially as they relate to international climate change mitigation and adaptation. Though Winter attends school in her hometown of Athens, Ohio, she takes advantage of her breaks to explore the world beyond. She spent her most recent break undertaking self-driven research on climate change and environmental justice in Southeast Asia. This year, she will be completing her dual thesis and supplementary documentary series on climate change communication. Winter is excited to contribute to and work with the team at CleanTechnica as a Summer Editorial Intern.


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