New England Cleantech Landscape in 2021

By Talley Cain and Katie West

For many people new to the cleantech industry, seeing the words “cleantech landscape” next to one another may seem strange. Why do we call it a landscape? What makes up the landscape? And who is included in the landscape?

Similar to a landscape painting that focuses on the most notable aspects of an area, the third annual Cleantech Landscape event, hosted by the NECEC, focused on highlighting the leading cleantech innovation programs and entrepreneurs across New England. With New England full of hundreds of diverse startup accelerators, incubators, and programs, it can be hard to navigate through them all and find the one most suitable for your startup. Recognizing the region's potential and the interconnections among the various accelerators, incubators, and programs, this year the event expanded from just focusing on Massachusetts to include startup support organizations from across New England.

The event was held virtually, allowing for an impressive 20 innovation support organizations and 12 of their startup alumni to participate. It featured a keynote from Bhargavi Chevva of Breakthrough Energy Ventures, who spoke about the value of the overall ecosystem and highlighted the need to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion in cleantech. Kerry Bowie of Browning the Green Space (BGS) also presented at the event, and spoke about his work partnering with organizations like NECEC, Cleantech Open Northeast, and many more to bring diversity, equity and inclusion values into the cleantech and clean energy ecosystem.

Organized so that prospective startups could hear from the various organizations and their alumni's experiences, the event demonstrated how cleantech accelerators and incubators in the New England area work together. In this region, these organizations collaborate well together, often serving as feeder programs from one to another. Each program has unique strengths, ranging from helping a general group of startups with varying areas of focus to developing specific aspects of the cleantech sector. Greentown Labs, for example, brings together startups, corporates, investors, policymakers, and others from the ecosystem with a focus on scaling climate solutions. It also provides resources, knowledge, connections, equipment, lab and office space, software, and business resources, to its startups, in addition to an incredible network of partners and sponsors. DeltaClimeVT, on the other hand, offers a narrower focus by training climatetech startups to help Vermont's utilities increase the adoption of smart building and clean energy technologies.

Eight of the startups presenting were alumni of Cleantech Open Northeast, which is like a mini MBA for cleantech startups, empowering them with business skills, mentoring, and professional contacts. After listening to the startup alumni speak about their journeys, it was clear many of them have taken full advantage of the blossoming ecosystem. AeroShield, for example, is the perfect model for how startups in the cleantech ecosystem can capitalize on the resources at their disposal. The company creates transparent inserts for windows bringing thermal comfort and energy savings into buildings and is a graduate or partner of several of the innovation support programs that participated in the event, including Cleantech Open Northeast, Greentown Labs, MassChallenge Boston, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, and VentureWell. Mapping out the paths alumni like AeroShield took in their startup journey served as an inspiration for event attendees, and an encouraging sign that our innovation community can help our region and world achieve a better, more sustainable future. In the end, this is about how we as a community can best come together to support some of the world’s leading innovators in cleantech and solve our shared climate challenges.

NECEC is working to create a world-class clean energy hub delivering global impact with economic, energy and environmental solutions. With its innovation programs Cleantech Open Northeast and Navigate, they help clean energy companies start, scale and succeed with their unique business, innovation and policy leadership. Cleantech Open Northeast, the Northeast region of the national Cleantech Open accelerator, and Cleantech Navigate work with startups across the country to empower them with meaningful business strategies, tools and contacts to increase their scalability.

To learn more, watch the recording of the event, view slides from the event, and check out the New England Cleantech Landscape 2021 Roadmap for more information about the startup support organizations that participated in the event.

Talley Cain is Interim Program Manager, Cleantech Open Northeast. She holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from University of Colorado Boulder and an MBA from UMass Amherst.

Katie West is Program Coordinator, Cleantech Open Northeast. She is a Co-op from Northeastern University, where she is studying International Affairs and Cultural Anthropology.

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