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The 8 Top Cleantech Corporate Incubators and Accelerators

August 21, 2017

12:20 pm

Corporations need to stay competitive in their industries, and that cutting edge can be tough to keep up with, particularly for the most rapidly shifting industries out there. As a sector evolves, the source of a revolutionary new tech could pop up anywhere. What’s the best way a corporation can ensure they’ll have a hand in the revolution? By home-brewing it themselves, of course. Here’s a rundown of the corporate incubators dedicated to one industry, cleantech.

Each entry is interesting enough, but taken together, they create a snapshot of how a massive conglomerate bets on startups in order to keep their future looking bright.

AT&T Aspire Accelerator

This accelerator works with organizations that use technology to help students succeed, strengthen schools and communities, or prepare learners for employment. The Aspire Accelerator will connect you with the resources, services, expertise, and relationships you need to drive exponential change in how we learn. Startups can work remotely or in San Francisco.

Selected organizations will receive a $100,000 investment (or an Aspire investment of $100,000, as described below, in the case of non-profit companies) and an additional $25,000 to cover program expenses. For participating for-profit companies the $100,000 Aspire investment is in return for up to 5 percent equity. Non-profit participants will receive a general contribution in exchange for participating in the Aspire Accelerator and meeting certain requirements including submitting impact measurements.

Greentown Labs [Flickr/U.S. Department of Commerce]

Greentown Labs

As the largest cleantech startup incubator in the United States, Greentown Labs focuses on the hardware sector. They have incubated over 110 companies, raising more than $200 million in the process. At 85 percent, the rate of incubated startups that are currently operating is high. Greentown’s claim to be the largest in their industry is due to their corporate partner, the France-based global building materials corporation Saint-Gobain. The company operates within a shared Research and Development test facility at Greentown Labs.

Members gain access to Greentown’s networks, resources, amenities, and customized 33,000-square-foot facility. The incubator is currently accepting virtual members, who can enjoy digital benefits that stop short of the incubator’s limited desks and physical lab space.

Shell Foundation Incubator

This program is “focused on identifying potential game-changers: pioneers of brand new categories of products and services” aimed at helping low-income customers. The Shell incubator accepts partners on a limited basis: One example is Sangam Ventures, an India-based accelerator aimed at serving low-income communities. Since 480 million people in India lack electricity, the need is large.

The Shell incubator invests in early-stage ventures (Sangam typically offers equity investments between $100,000 and $2 million).

Enel CITRIS Foundry

Enel, a global renewable energy corporation, launched in March 2017 an innovation hub in partnership with CITRIS and Banatao Institute which is located at the CITRIS Foundry Accelerator on campus at UC Berkley. Though technically an accelerator rather than an incubator, the Foundry offers $5,000 in cash to each startup selected, along with over $30,000 worth of infrastructure and services. Located at the UC Berkeley campus, the hub offers great access to the heart of the techs startup community.

CITRIS Foundry is currently looking for highly-motivated teams with original and scalable ideas. Two caveats apply: Teams must include at least one member who is a student, post-doc, faculty, staff, or alumnus of less than five years, and must include at least one member who is affiliated with a UC campus.

Honolulu [Wikimedia]

Elemental Excelerator

Through its partnership with Emerson Collective, Elemental Excelerator is a leading energy and infrastructure accelerator based in sunny Honolulu. Hawaii’s a great location for the hub’s optimistic stance on renewable energy: It has already gone from 10 percent renewable energy in 2008 to over 25 percent today. The accelerator aims to kickstart collection action at a local level. It’s 53 portfolio companies have received $20 million.

Each year, Elemental Excelerator finds 12 to 15 promising companies in their sector and awards each up to $1 million, based on their needs. You can apply to the 2018 cohort today.

Urban-X

It makes sense that a smart cities accelerator would be based out of Brooklyn, as NYC’s one of the smarter cities around. Their investment sectors can be varied, bound only by the focus on city structure: Their portfolio includes transportation, utilities, and real estate.

Every six months, Urban-X invests $100,000 in up to ten selected companies. Each class receives services including software, hosting, and legal aid, and can network with mentors, customers and investors. Weekly meetings across five months will lead up to a demo day in which startups can nab investors.

LACI

The Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator is just what it says on the label: It’s a partnership among public, private, and educational sectors all invested in helping cleantech businesses in their city. The non-profit organization is funded by the CRA/LA and the LADWP for the City of Los Angeles, and is located at the Arts and Innovation District downtown. In it’s first five years, LACI incubated 67 companies which raised $134M in funds and sent over $335M in long-term economic benefits to the city.

The LACI defines cleantech loosely — any “products or services that advance sustainable or efficient use of resources” qualify — and they never invest cash. Instead, applicants can collaborate, get support, and work within an innovation hub to develop their company.

Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator

Initially launched in 2014 as a five-year, $10 million program, the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator announced an additional $20 million expansion in April 2017. Their stated aim is to reduce the energy impact of commercial buildings by aiding early-stage technologies with scalable models, and they work with over 30 accelerators and research institutions across the nation.

But don’t get too excited: It’s an invitation-only program. Those picked will receive $250,000 in funds and may ask for technical support for business-side development. Those who are market-ready can even beta test their product in real-world environments at select Wells Fargo locations.

Learn more about Corporate Accelerators in our series at Tech.Co.

Read more about accelerators around the world at TechCo

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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