Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator announces $1 million in awards to accelerate innovation in clean energy and agriculture technologies
The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a $30 million technology incubator and platform funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation, today announced $1 million grant awards to support 13 projects that address gaps in the development and commercialization of clean energy (cleantech) and agriculture technology (agtech). The awards are competitive grants to fund efforts to advance sustainable technology solutions that lead to partnerships, capital flow, job creation and sharing of best practices across the ecosystem. Since inception, IN2 has provided 25 portfolio companies of up to $250,000 each, for technical assistance and project related support. IN2 portfolio companies have also gone on to raise $122 million in follow-on funding from external sources.
Launched in 2014, the IN2 facilitates the commercialization and adoption of clean energy technologies. With resources from Wells Fargo and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, IN2 provides funding, technical assistance and real-world beta testing opportunities that help companies uniquely understand their customers. As an invitation-only program, IN2 finds and selects companies through its Channel Partners, a curated network of incubators, accelerators and universities across the U.S. that refer startups to the program. Once referred, companies participate in a highly competitive application and selection process to determine which will be invited into the next round of participants.
IN2 is co-administered by and housed at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. It’s mission is to speed the path to market for early-stage, clean-technology entrepreneurs. Launched in 2014 with an initial focus on supporting scalable solutions to reduce the energy impact of commercial buildings, IN2 expanded its focus in 2018 to advance technologies that address the interconnection of food, water and energy. Companies selected for participation in the program receive up to $250,000 in non-dilutive funding from Wells Fargo, technical support and validation from experts at NREL and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and ongoing connections to organizations across value chains.
“Ultimately, the goal with our Channel Partner Awards program is to create a strong, collaborative ecosystem of support across the U.S.,” said Trish Cozart, IN2 program manager at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. “We are funding these partners to continue their support of early-stage entrepreneurs and each other, as they create partnerships and share knowledge and learnings.”
All 13 projects are affiliated with IN2 Channel Partners, a network of incubators, accelerators and university programs that refer start-up companies to IN2 and are critical players in IN2’s efforts to advance a robust cleantech ecosystem. Below is a list of IN2 Channel Partner Awards recipients and their projects:
AgLaunch (Memphis) to create a common framework for connecting startups within its incubation program to historical and real-time farm data.
BioSTL (St. Louis) to build a network and convene a strong community of Missouri growers who will provide the “voice of the customer” and test, validate and provide feedback on innovation solutions that meet their needs on their land.
Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh) with several partners, to build a mature, supportive network and differentiate, elevate and amplify the energy, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Southwest Pennsylvania.
Cleantech Open (Los Angeles) to seed its accelerator model in partner metropolitan areas and scale early-stage startup support resources, curricula and tools.
Cyclotron Road (Berkeley, Calif.) to pilot and identify knowledge gaps with its “Founders Playbook,” an online repository of resources for technology and energy entrepreneurs looking to grow a company from early concept to market impact.
Helix Center (St. Louis) to expand its co-working office and lab space and accelerate the commercialization of research innovations and new business formation in ag-related industries.
Innosphere (Fort Collins, Colo.) to research and address challenges related to artificial intelligence and Colorado’s transportation and energy industries, and to research future artificial intelligence applications to agriculture.
MaRS Discovery District (Toronto) in partnership with ACRE (Brooklyn, N.Y.), to optimize the NewtonX Access Knowledge search engine tool that connects startup ventures with appropriate subject matter experts to help them quickly and efficiently find answers to complex questions.
Powerhouse (Oakland, Calif.) to develop a platform to formalize a process that would allow for a broader network of investors to share deal flow, co-investment opportunities and follow-on funding opportunities.
Rice University (Houston) to conduct an eight-month accelerator program for university-based cleantech startups and early-stage ventures to prepare them for future incubation programs and successfully launching their businesses.
The Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center (Warren, Ohio) to build out the Appalachia regional cluster to develop a yearly event focused on energy storage and IoT.
Austin Technology Incubator at University of Texas–Austin (Austin, Texas) to develop a sustainable food system cluster in Central Texas that provides a proving ground for technologies driving greater efficiency; access and affordability in production, distribution and logistics; and point-of-sale and waste elimination.
VertueLab (Portland, Oregon) to launch its Impact Fund that is focused on filling a critical capital gap for seed-stage cleantech startups in the Northwest.
“The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator is proud to provide additional support for the IN2 Channel Partners in their efforts to accelerate the development and commercialization of clean technology and support of early-stage entrepreneurs,” said Ramsay Huntley, Clean Technology and Innovation Philanthropy program officer with Wells Fargo. “These are the leaders who are really disrupting the industry and driving innovation.”
The IN2 Channel Partner Awards program was established in 2017 with $5 million of committed funding from Wells Fargo to be distributed over four years. Since inception, $2.1 million in competitive and non-competitive grants has supported more than 74 events, strategic meetings and trainings, and 21 larger strategic initiatives involving 23 organizations. In the pilot year of the awards program, funded projects have engaged more than 1,800 participants (entrepreneurs, industry and academic representatives and others), created nearly 200 jobs, led to more than $18.3 million in follow-on funding for startups involved and earned $812,000 in matching funds from outside organizations.
Below is video overview of IN2.