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NREL Growth Forum Brings Together Clean Energy Innovators

November 5, 2015

The Industry Growth Forum, hosted by the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), this week attracted more than 400 investors, entrepreneurs, technologists and thought leaders to Denver. At the conclusion of the event three companies were honored with Best Venture and Outstanding Venture Awards.

The two-day forum highlighted clean energy technology and business developments. In addition to hearing business case presentations from 30 clean energy companies, participants were engaged by a comprehensive lineup of speakers, in-depth panel discussions and facilitated networking opportunities.

"The convergence of R&D success, entrepreneurial innovation and a receptive investment community will accelerate renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies into the marketplace," said Bill Farris, NREL Associate Laboratory Director for Innovation, Partnering and Outreach. "Relationships built and information shared at the Industry Growth Forum are vital to the advancement of these technologies. We are pleased to be able to leverage the convening power of the laboratory to facilitate this essential discourse."

Since 2003, the presenting early stage, pre-commercial, and expanding cleantech companies that have presented have collectively raised more than $5 billion in growth financing.

Three entrepreneurial companies were singled out from the 30 competitively-selected presenters to win the 2015 Clean Energy Venture Awards. Award winners will receive in-kind commercialization support to help increase their chances of becoming commercially successful.

Lightning Hybrids received the top prize, the Best Venture award. This Loveland, Colorado-based company can equip trucks and buses with a technology that takes energy generated by braking and uses it for acceleration.

"It's always fun to get validation," said Tim Reeser, president and co-founder of Lightning Hybrids. He has attended the Industry Growth Forum for the past seven years, but this was the first year he was picked to be among the entrepreneurs chosen to make presentations.

An Outstanding Venture award went to Stone Mountain Technologies Inc. This Johnson City, Tennessee, company is focused on gas absorption heat pumps that harness renewable energy and reduce heating costs by 30%-50%.

An Outstanding Venture award also went to Sun Number LLC. This Denver company has developed an online tool that allows owners of commercial and residential buildings to determine how much energy can potentially be generated by the addition of solar panels.

Also announced at this year's event was the Dan E. Arvizu Industry Growth Forum Student Scholarship.  The longest-serving director and chief executive in NREL's history, Arvizu is retiring after 10 years at its helm. The newly announced scholarship will sponsor a two-person university student startup team to attend and participate in the Industry Growth Forum each year.

The forum is managed by NREL's Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (IEC), whose mission is to foster an ongoing and extensive connection with the early-stage business community. Next year, the IEC is launching the NREL Innovation Showcase to highlight entrepreneurs participating in IEC programs. Building on the momentum from the fall showcase, the next Industry Growth Forum will be held in the spring of 2017 in Denver.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for DOE by The Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

For a list of participating companies and sponsors, please visit the Industry Growth Forum online at www.industrygrowthforum.org

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—Wayne Hicks