Public Funding for Cleantech Startups

Cleantech Navigate Northeast’s first Investor and Corporate Sponsor Readiness webinar of 2018, held on May 17, examined the topic of  “Public Funding for Cleantech Startups.” The panelists included leaders in innovation and investment in the cleantech sector, representing the public funding landscape for companies both nationally and those specific to the Northeast: Nicholas Querques from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), Dr. Manny Oliver from the Department of Energy’s Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer program (STTR), Nikhil Gargeya from Cyclotron Road, and Tibor Toth from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) represented.

Querques kicked of the discussion with a look at NYSERDA’s funding program for Technology and Business Innovation that seeks to deploy roughly $800 million in grants over a 10 year period in pre-Series B companies. The program primarily invests in companies that are based in New York, but also considers those from out-of-state that can demonstrate a strong connection to or presence in New York. Querques then discussed the assets and resources that NYSERDA can connect startups with, including incubators, proof-of-concept centers, as well as up front funding opportunities for customer discovery and market validation work. As stated by Querques, all of this is “working to make New York State the best place for a clean energy entrepreneur startup company to start and scale their business”.

On the national level, Dr. Oliver works as Director of SBIR and STTR to provide phased grant opportunities for a wide variety of energy technologies. The grant applications are open to those who fit into one of the approximately 70 topics per year. Dr. Oliver provided some helpful tips for success, recommending that applicants research any organization they apply to so they understand their goals and programs.

Focusing more on the technical side, Gargeya overviewed Cyclone Road, a two-year entrepreneurial research fellowship helping scientists and researchers take their idea through the prototype phase and into a working product. The fellowship enables entrepreneurs to make rapid progress on their product and position it on a path to market.

Toth brought the discussion back to the Northeast, highlighting several funding opportunities available through MassCEC. MassCEC provides both investments and grants to companies in development stages from early work programs to technology readiness levels of eight or nine.

To wrap up, the panelists answered questions submitted by the audience throughout the webinar. They then each provided final recommendations to everyone in attendance.

To view recordings of all the webinars in the series, check out our playlist here.

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Dylan d'Souza

Dylan is NECEC's summer 2018 Cleantech Navigate Northeast Intern.