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NREL's Industry Growth Forum

October 25, 2012

For two days every autumn, NREL’s focus on transferring cleantech innovations to the marketplace gels into an event that has, over the past decade, raised more than $4.4 billion in growth financing for the industry. Nearly 400 investors, entrepreneurs, scientists, and policymakers came together for this year’s event, which is hosted by the lab’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC).

Richard Adams, director of the IEC, said, “We put on a fantastic event, completely thanks to the collaboration from people who work across the lab. From our Technology Transfer team, to our researchers, to our Public Affairs and Communications teams, we were able to provide cleantech startups with a great opportunity to advance their technology as well as a clear view of how this lab impacts the industry.”

The Forum itself is much more than a showcase for NREL and its capabilities, however. Each year, the event kicks off with One-on-One meetings between attendees and industry professionals.

“We think of this as speed-dating for technology transfer deals,” explained Kate Cheesbrough, who chaired this year’s Forum. “We lined up more than 50 professionals for three hours’ worth of short, tightly organized meetings with attendees, resulting in more than 600 different opportunities for people to pitch their innovations and potentially secure deals.”

The real focus of the Forum begins later on that first day—a competition among 30 competitively-selected presenters, all of whom are vying to win the 2012 Clean Energy Venture Awards. While the selection process to choose these competitors from several hundred applicants starts months before the Forum, the competition itself moves quickly. Each competitor has 10 minutes to present his or her innovation or technology to a panel of 10 or more judges, who then conduct a short question-and-answer session. The judges individually score each presentation, and these scores determine the winner of the Best Venture Award and the two Outstanding Venture awards.

Colorado Cleantech Wins Two of the Three Top Awards

This year’s winning company, Colorado-based Silver Bullet Water Treatment, LLC., is in the process of deploying their proprietary cost-effective and environmentally responsible water treatment solution for cooling towers. The first of two Outstanding Venture Awards went to 7AC Technologies, Inc., a Massachusetts company that is commercializing a novel membrane-based liquid desiccant HVAC system. A second Outstanding Venture Award was presented to Carbo Analytics, another Colorado-based company, that uses a microchip with electrochemical detection to automate real-time sugar analysis.

“This Forum provides a window to how cleantech will impact our energy future,” Cheesbrough explained. “The presentations show us potential innovations, and the business meetings and networking take this potential to the next step. Who knows? The investors and innovators who launch collaborations at this event might impact what energy looks like in years to come.”