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Fiscal Year 2021 Delivering Cleantech Innovations to Market

Robot in corn field

We Mean Business

Connecting people and ideas. That's our business. From partners to researchers to entrepreneurs to investors to customers. We are the NREL Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC).

From our unique position as an externally focused center in a national laboratory, we bring economically viable cleantech innovations to market. We serve our public and private sector funding partners by leveraging the capabilities of NREL and other labs and activating and connecting our network of cleantech startups, investors, foundations, and industry partners.

Join us on a journey through our year.

The Highlights

$1.1B in external funding raised by IN² portfolio companies since the program began in 2014
$101B in managed funds from 185 investors represented at the 2021 NREL Industry Growth Forum
$52M+ raised by GCxN cohort companies since the program began in 2018
250 cleantech startups from 21 countries in attendance at the 2021 NREL Industry Growth Forum
825 new jobs added by GCxN and IN² cohort companies as of the end of FY 2021
3 fellowship programs completed by Carbon 180/LabStart teams at NREL in FY 2021

Startup Portfolio Highlights

As the front door to NREL, the IEC opens opportunities for startups and assists them in their journeys to commercialization. Whether connecting them with our world-class technology incubation programs funded by our partners or through matchmaking with investment opportunities, we are propelling innovation forward by unlocking the door to experts and lab facilities. Startups are our customers, our inspiration, and the key to getting clean energy solutions to market.

115 cleantech startups: IEC's tech incubation portfolio in FY 2021
18 teams—the largest number ever—in Energy I-Corps Cohort #12 in spring 2021
Two clear bottles labeled Air CO Vodka

Air Company

Air Company has patented a process to transform carbon dioxide into impurity-free alcohols. Today, it's producing vodka; it has the potential to create a carbon-negative fuel. It won the NASA Prize CO₂ Conversion Challenge.

Window installation


UbiQD, an advanced materials company that specializes in quantum dots, closed a $7 million Series A funding round. The company installed five of its energy-producing windows at the NREL Café for data-gathering analyses.

Antora Energy

Antora Energy demonstrated what is reported to be the world's most efficient solid state heat engine—a 30% conversion efficiency. It stores electricity as heat and uses a novel thermophotovoltaic process to convert that heat back to electricity.

Person working on metal box in manufacturing lab


7AC, an IN² portfolio company, was acquired by multinational powerhouse Emerson. The acquisition package included liquid desiccant heat exchanger technology developed with NREL. Learn more in the news story.

Team RouteE

To reduce transportation energy use and emissions and combat climate change, NREL partnered with Google to develop more eco-friendly routing in Google Maps. In the end, Google implemented mapping methodology developed by the Team RouteE Energy I-Corps team.

See the video text version.

Rendering of an electric motor

Turntide Technologies

Breakthrough Energy Ventures led an $80 million funding round for electric motor innovator Turntide Technologies. Its Smart Motor System combines with building controls and intelligence to drive down energy use and operating costs.

in funding to date from IEC programs to researcher projects in the lab

NREL Researchers


Meet the NREL researchers who led projects with startups in our portfolio in FY 2021.

NREL researchers
  • Shaun Alia, Ionomr, GCxN
  • Shaun Alia, Versogen, GCxN
  • Amy Allen, Darcy Solutions, IN²
  • Willy Bernal Heredia, Yotta Energy, IN²
  • Eric Bonnema, Feedback Solutions, CTAP
  • Chuck Booten, Cypris Materials, IN²
  • Chuck Booten, Radiator Labs, IN²
  • Tanushree Charan, Ladybug Tools, IN²
  • Dane Christensen, Altus Thermal, NCAP
  • Shuang Cui, EnKoat, IN²
  • Rawad El Kontar, Pivot Energy, IN²
  • Chaiwat Engtrakul, Aeroshield, IN²
  • Ramin Faramarzi, Turntide Technologies, IN²
  • Shibani Ghosh, Span, GCxN
  • Kevin Harrison, Air Company, GCxN
  • Rishabh Jain, Intertie, GCxN
  • Amanda Kirkeby, Open Solar, NCAP
  • Ravi Kishore, Techstyle Materials, IN²
  • Nikos Kopidakis, G2V Optics, CTAP
  • Eric Kozubal, Stash, IN²
  • Eric Kozubal, Blue Frontier, IN²
  • Parthiv Kurup, Solar Steam, CTAP
  • Parthiv Kurup, Solistra, CTAP
  • Nicholas Long, Audette, CTAP
  • Joey Luther, QD Solar, CTAP
  • Dan Macumber, Ladybug Tools, IN²
  • Allison Mahvi, Stash, IN²
  • Killian McKenna, Jolt Energy Storage Technologies, GCxN
  • Ryan Meyer, Darcy Solutions, IN²
  • Eric Miller, Microgrid Labs, GCxN
  • Matt Moniot, Microgrid Labs, GCxN
  • David Moore, BlueDot Photonics, GCxN
  • Wale Odukomaiya, EnKoat, IN²
  • Andrew Parker, Lumen Energy, NCAP
  • Shanti Pless, Blokable, IN²
  • Shanti Pless, STRATIS, IN²
  • Shanti Pless, Pre Framing Corp, IN²
  • Shanti Pless, Shadow Labs, NCAP
  • Ankur Podder, Pre Framing Corp, IN²
  • Stacey Rothgeb, Blokable, IN²
  • Aron Saxon, Feasible Inc, GCxN
  • Aron Saxon, Inergy, NCAP
  • Bethany Sparn, NeoCharge, IN²
  • Bethany Sparn, Shifted Energy, IN²
  • Bethany Sparn, Span, IN²
  • Myles Steiner, Antora Energy, GCxN
  • Rob Tenent, UbiQD, IN²
  • Jeroen van Dam, Biome Renewables, CTAP
  • Santosh Veda, Electrical Grid Monitoring, GCxN
  • Grant Wheeler, 75F, IN²
  • Grant Wheeler, Turntide Technologies, IN²
  • Korbaga Woldekidan, Pivot Energy, IN²
  • Korbaga Woldekidan, STRATIS, IN²
  • Jason Woods, Icarus RT Inc, GCxN
  • Chuanbo Yang, All Cell Technologies, GCxN

Our Programs Support NREL Research Areas

See how our IEC programs map to NREL's research and development.

Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN²)
  • Building Technologies and Science Center
  • Center for Energy Conversion & Storage Systems
  • Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences
  • Chemistry & Nanoscience
  • Computational Science
  • Energy Security and Resilience
  • Energy Systems Integration Facility
  • Integrated Applications Center
  • Materials Science
  • Power Systems Engineering
  • Site Operations
Shell Gamechanger Powered by NREL (GCXN)
  • Building Technologies and Science Center
  • Center for Energy Conversion & Storage Systems
  • Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences
  • Chemistry & Nanoscience
  • Computational Science
  • Energy Systems Integration
  • Energy Systems Integration Facility
  • Integrated Applications Center
  • Power Systems Engineering
Energy I-Corps by Office of Technology Transitions, U.S. Department of Energy
  • Building Technologies and Science Center
  • Catalytic Carbon Transformation & Scale-Up Center
  • Center for Energy Conversion & Storage Systems
  • Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences
  • Chemistry & Nanoscience
  • Computational Science
  • Integrated Applications Center
  • Materials Science
  • National Wind Technology Center
  • Power Systems Engineering
  • Renewable Resources and Enabling Sciences Center
  • Site Operations
  • Strategic Energy Analysis Center
Canadian Technology Accelerator
  • Building Technologies and Science Center
  • Center for Energy Conversion & Storage Systems
  • Center for Integrated Mobility Sciences
  • Chemistry & Nanoscience
  • Integrated Applications Center
  • Materials Science
  • National Wind Technology Center
  • Power Systems Engineering
NREL Commercialization Assistance Program
  • Building Technologies and Science Center
  • Center for Energy Conversion & Storage Systems
  • Energy Security and Resilience
  • Energy Systems Integration
  • Materials Science
  • Strategic Energy Analysis Center
16 Research Areas
supported by 5 IEC programs in FY 2021

Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center Programs


The programs and events housed in the IEC range from large to small. They are supported by private funding, public dollars, or a combination of the two. Their one commonality: They are focused on bringing cleantech to market where it can make an impact.

Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator logo

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator provides funding and technical assistance for clean technology and agricultural startup companies to help accelerate their paths to market. Funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation, IN² harnesses the world-class expertise and facilities of NREL and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center (Danforth Center).

IN²-selected companies receive $250,000 in nondilutive grants to validate their technologies at NREL or the Danforth Center and secure the benefit of business connections across the entire IN² network.

Since 2014, IN² has contributed 30,376 researcher hours to NREL; it contributed 8,410 researcher hours in FY 2021.

Shell GameChanger Accelerator logo

The Shell GameChanger Accelerator™ Powered by NREL

The Shell Gamechanger Accelerator™ Powered by NREL provides cleantech startups with access to NREL's world-class research and facilities, along with the incubation expertise of the Shell GameChanger program.

The multimillion-dollar, multiyear program focuses on discovering and advancing emerging clean technologies with the potential to dramatically alter the future energy landscape. GCxN identifies promising startup companies through our Channel Partners, an extensive ecosystem of cleantech business incubators, accelerators, and universities.

19 companies have participated in GCxN since it began in 2018.

Energy I-Corps logo

Energy I-Corps, a Program of the Office of Technology Transitions, U.S. Department of Energy

Energy I-Corps is a business training program for national lab researchers who have developed high-potential energy technologies that may be ready for commercialization.

The program, managed by NREL, partners researchers with industry mentors for a 2-month "boot camp" in which researchers learn to develop their technologies into a business. The curriculum allows researchers to define technology value propositions, conduct customer discovery interviews, and establish pathways to bring their technologies to market.

Energy I-Corps has trained 545 national lab researchers since the program began; it trained 119 lab researchers in FY 2021.

Canadian Technology Accelerator logo

Canadian Technology Accelerator Program

The Canadian Technology Accelerator Program is a cleantech program developed by the Government of Canada's Trade Commissioner Service, through which early-stage companies pitch their technologies to NREL experts.

Through this program, Canadian startups are awarded technical assistance hours with NREL scientists to help address their clean energy challenges and develop solutions for their technologies.

46 Canadian companies have worked with NREL through CTAP; Five companies did so in FY 2021.

LabStart Logo


In the summer of 2020, we kicked off the NREL LabStart program, designed to discover, build, and launch startup companies from the research centers at the lab. This pilot program was supported in partnership with MXV Ventures and Carbon180's Entrepreneurial-in-Residence Fellowship program. Carbon180/LabStart Fellows spent 3 months discovering market and startup potential for NREL technologies in the carbon-removal sector, culminating in a presentation to the NREL Investor Advisory Board. In 2021, one of the three LabStart teams signed a licensing agreement with NREL.

NREL Commercialization Assistance Program

The NREL Commercialization Assistance Program connects emerging cleantech companies with NREL's scientists, engineers, and facilities to overcome technical barriers to commercializing clean energy technology.

Developed to assist renewable energy and energy efficiency companies, the program provides expertise, capabilities, and equipment to help small businesses with specific technology problems, questions, or needs.

Small Business Program

The NREL Small Business Program supports companies by subcontracting, purchasing equipment and services, and through our award-winning Mentor Protégé Program, which helps small businesses enhance their subcontract performance capabilities for government agencies. Through this program, NREL collaborates with small, disadvantaged, women-owned, HUBZone, veteran-owned, and disabled veteran-owned businesses.

Our Cleantech Network


The IEC has convening power. We work with industry experts, investors, other national labs, U.S. Department of Energy, other federal agencies and research facilities, and corporates. They are crucial to our programs and to our startups. This is our network.

Industry Growth Forum logo

The Industry Growth Forum, held annually in the spring, convenes cleantech entrepreneurs, investors, and industry experts to build relationships, showcase innovative technologies, and explore disruptive business solutions. In addition to the cleantech innovation pitch competition, it features one-on-one meetings between entrepreneurs and investors.

2021 NREL Industry Growth Forum Highlights

600+ attendees
225+ startups attended
40 competitively selected startups pitched
110+ investors screened startup business plans
1,100 meetings scheduled between startups and investors
132 investors available for dedicated one-on-one meetings

Industry Growth Forum Presenting Companies Have Raised More Than $8 Billion in Growth Financing

$1.2 billion in 2007, $3.4 billion in 2010, $5 billion in 2015, $8 billion in 2021

Industry Growth Forum Pitch Competition Winners

Best Venture Award
  • Full Harvest Technologies
Outstanding Venture Awards
  • Mosaic Materials: Early Stage
  • Enpower: Commercialization Stage
  • Full Harvest Technologies: Growth Stage
  • Electro-Active Technologies: Emerging Markets
People's Choice Award
  • Twelve (formerly Opus 12)

Channel Partner Network Serves as Pipeline of Innovation

Our Channel Partners are an ecosystem of more than 60 cleantech and sustainability-focused business incubators, accelerators, and universities that serve as the pipeline of innovation by referring companies to our tech incubator programs.

Every year, the Wells Fargo Foundation provides grants to Channel Partners to strengthen the ecosystem of cleantech and agtech support for early-stage entrepreneurs. In May 2020, IN² awarded 18 Channel Partners $50,000 each to provide aid in response to the COVID pandemic. From the $900,000 that was dispersed, 371 startups received support, producing more than $19 million in revenue, 106 new employees, more than 1,500 new customers, and raising more than $78 in investments or other funding.

In February 2021, $350,000 of strategic award funding was distributed to four Channel Partners that are providing entrepreneurial opportunities for historically underrepresented groups in the cleantech industry.

U.S. map graphic indicating locations of partners

IN² Channel Partners are an ecosystem of more than 60 cleantech and sustainability-focused business incubators, accelerators and universities who serve as the pipeline of innovation by referring companies to the program. Each application round, the IN² program relies on these critical partners to send their best and brightest to apply.

  • ACRE, New York, New York
  • AgLaunch, Memphis, Tennessee
  • AgSprint, Las Cruces, New Mexico
  • AgStart, Woodland, California
  • Ann Arbor SPARK, Ann Arbor, Michigan
  • BioGenerator, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Browning the Green Space, Boston, Massachusetts
  • BRITE Energy Innovators, Warren, Ohio
  • Caltech, FLOW Program, Pasadena, California
  • Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
  • Clean Energy Trust (CET), Chicago, Illinois
  • Cleantech Group, San Francisco, California
  • Cleantech Open, Los Angeles, California
  • Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, Palm Springs, California
  • Colorado State University Energy Institute, Powerhouse, Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Cyclotron Road, Berkeley, California
  • Daugherty Water for Food Global Institute at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska
  • Elemental Excelerator, Honolulu, Hawaii
  • F3 Tech Accelerator, Easton, Maryland
  • Greentown Labs/FORGE, Somerville, Massachusetts
  • Helix Center, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Imagine H2O, Inc., San Francisco, California
  • Iowa State University, Ames, Iowa
  • Innosphere, Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Innovation Corridor Foundation, Denver, Colorado
  • Larta Institute, Los Angeles, California
  • Launch Alaska, Anchorage, Alaska
  • Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator, Los Angeles, California
  • MaRS, Toronto, California
  • Mass Challenge, Boston, Massachusetts
  • MIT Energy Club, Boston, Massachusetts
  • New Energy Nexus, San Francisco, California
  • NextEnergy Center, Detroit, Michigan
  • North Carolina Biotechnology Center (NCBiotech), RTP, North Carolina
  • Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) Institute, Boston, Massachusetts
  • Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois
  • Portland State University Business Accelerator, Portland, Oregon
  • Powerhouse, Oakland, California
  • Prospect SV, San Jose, California
  • Rice University, Houston, Texas
  • Stanford, TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy, Stanford, California
  • Sustainable Startups, Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Syracuse Center of Excellence, Syracuse, New York
  • TechAccel, St. Louis, Missouri
  • Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station Clean Energy Incubator (TAMCEI), College Station, Texas
  • Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas
  • The Water Council, Milwaukee, Wisconsin
  • The Yield Lab, St. Louis, Missouri
  • THRIVE, Los Gatos, California
  • University of Arizona Center for Innovation, Tucson, Arizona
  • University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, California
  • University of California, Davis Energy and Efficiency Institute (EEI), Davis, California
  • University of California, San Diego, San Diego, California
  • University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, Colorado
  • University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
  • University of Georgia, Innovation Gateway, Athens, Georgia
  • University of North Carolina, Institute for the Environment, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
  • University of Texas at Austin, Austin Technology Incubator (ATI), Austin, Texas
  • University of Texas at Austin, Texas Venture Labs, Austin, Texas
  • University of Washington, Seattle, Washington
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin Energy Institute, Madison, Wisconsin
  • VertueLab, Portland, Oregon

Investor Advisory Board

The NREL Investor Advisory Board comprises 45 members representing different sectors of the clean technologies investment community. They provide insights and expertise in sector trends, challenges and opportunities, and technical understanding of the cleantech industry. Working with NREL, entrepreneurs, and each other, they equip innovators with the capital and tools to be successful.

The firms on the NREL Investor Advisory Board represent a range in scope, size, and mission, from angel investors and family offices such as Zoma Capital or Ajax Strategies to the venture capital arms of Saudi Aramco, Shell, and BP.


Investor and NREL Investor Advisory Board Highlights

More than 200 investors participated in the Industry Growth Forum as:

  • Members of the selection committee
  • Mentors to the selected presenting companies
  • Judges at the pitch competition
  • Table hosts at the one-on-one networking session.

This year, the Investor Advisory Board held three board meetings hosted by NREL. Discussion topics were:

  • Policy for the Energy Transition
  • Electrons to Molecules
  • Carbon Economics.

Investors, including Investor Advisory Board members, attended an Industry Growth Forum Investor Town Hall co-hosted by Silicon Valley Bank, Wilson Sonsini, and NREL in April. The interactive discussion focused on the boom of cleantech special-purpose acquisition companies and the related impacts on investment strategies.

Our ecosystem of investment firms encompasses more than $300 billion in managed funds.

The Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center Team


In FY 2021, Shelly Curtiss was awarded the Cleantech Champion for 2020 from the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association.

Katie Woslager received the Duane Pearsall Entrepreneurial Award from the Rockies Venture Club—the first woman recipient. Past honorees include John Elway, Mayor John Hickenlooper, Bill Daniels, Governor Roy Romer, and many others.

IEC logo lock up with the NREL logo
Richard Adams
Richard Adams, Director
Trish Cozart
Trish Cozart, Group Manager, IN² Program Manager
J.A. Colantonio
J.A. Colantonio, Investor Engagement Lead
Shelly Curtiss
Shelly Curtiss, Energy I-Corps Program Manager
Rexann Dunn
Rexann Dunn, NREL Small Business Program Manager
Sheila Ebbitt
Sheila Ebbitt, Industry Growth Forum Event Coordinator
Kristin Field-Macumber
Kristin Field-Macumber, IN² Technical Project Manager
Kathryn Foster
Kathryn Foster, Industry Growth Forum Intern
Megan Gross
Megan Gross, Energy I-Corps Project Manager
Rhea Grover
Rhea Grover, Industry Growth Forum Intern
Wendy Gutcher
Wendy Gutcher, Administrative Associate
Rachelle Ihly
Rachelle Ihly, GCxN Technical Project Manager and Entrepreneurship Program Development
Johanna Jamison
Johanna Jamison, GCxN Program Manager
Lauren Magin
Lauren Magin, Project Manager
Tonya McCabe
Tonya McCabe, GCxN and IN² Project Controller
Monali Mujumdar
Monali Mujumdar, Startup Engagement Lead
Kimberlee Ott
Kimberlee Ott, Incubator, Accelerator, and University Partner Engagement Lead
Heather Proc
Heather Proc, Project Controller, New Programs
Katie Richardson
Katie Richardson, Deputy Director, NREL Government Relations
Kristi Theis
Kristi Theis, Communications Lead
Karin Wadsack
Karin Wadsack, Program Manager
Katie Woslager
Katie Woslager, Program Manager

Many Thanks

We would like to thank our funding partners, technical partners, cleantech incubator ecosystem, community of investors, dedicated researchers, NREL and U.S. Department of Energy leadership, and the incredible startups we serve. We're looking forward to a blockbuster 2022.

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November 2021