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Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center Newsletter: Spring 2020

Welcome to the spring edition of the quarterly Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center (IEC) newsletter.

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Learn how we are advancing cleantech startups and building the ecosystem that supports them. Engage with us to transform the energy landscape.


The Industry Growth Forum

2020 IGF Attending Startups
Stage of Development

A pie  chart showing Early: 49%, Commercial: 28%, Growth: 20% and Other: 3%

Startups attending the 2020 IGF showed a range of maturity.

Industry Growth Forum logo.

This year's Industry Growth Forum (IGF) marked the 25th anniversary of NREL's hallmark event for the cleantech community. Although this year's event was held virtually, continued growth in investor interest and impact showed the event's vibrancy in the face of change.

The NREL Industry Growth Forum is a two-day annual event featuring pitches from 40 of the most promising startups in cleantech before a panel of industry experts and an awards ceremony. See the winners of the 2020 categories. Connections are also facilitated through one-on-one meetings between investors and startups.

Attendees at the IGF in April 2020 included 155 investors, representing over $310 billion in managed funds. They came to see the best and brightest in new startups: 250 companies were in attendance, and 75% of those were first-time attendees.

The attendance of motivated investors continues to make the IGF a highly productive space for useful conversations and connections. More than 79% of surveyed investors reported making 1–5 connections they feel could lead to increased financing.

Funding Sources for Presenting Companies
Following IGF 2003-2017

A pie chart showing VC/PE: 66%, Public Markets: 19%, Pre-institutional Funding: 7%, Other: 5%, and Mergers and Aquuisitions: 3%.

Investments in IGF presenting companies represent a range of investment types.

Although it is too early to know which deals will result from the conversations held this year, the startups stand to benefit from a powerful track record. Accumulated investment resulting from the IGF has now topped over $6.4 billion since tracking began in 2003.

The community is still proactive. Attendees at this year's virtual event maximized their time to actively connect innovation with investment. There were 1,211 meetings in one day (despite virtual circumstances) in which startups could get advice from investors and industry experts.

Overall attendance was also up, increasing from 469 attendees in 2019 to 558 in 2020. That universe includes startups, investors, advisors, corporates, and representatives of universities, research institutions, governments, and nonprofits. This year, 250 startups attended the IGF, far more than the 40 selected to present.

"This was a really great way to quickly meet a lot of investors. We spoke with 12, and all of them were very relevant with excellent follow-up conversations!" – Evan Erickson, CEO and founder of TexPower

Portfolio Updates

Read these articles for more on our partnerships.


The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2): CoverCress raises $5 million for crop development.
Read more in Biodiesel Magazine: "CoverCress Gets $5M in New Financing for Low CI Crop Development."

Energy Management

IN2J2 Innovations launches FIN Edge2Cloud, a software platform designed to allow easier access to building data.
Learn more in KNX Today: "J2 Innovations Launches FIN Edge2Cloud for Secure, Open, Scalable Connections to Building Automation and IoT Systems."

EV Charging

IN2EDF, which has acquired PowerFlex, moves into smaller-scale renewables.
Read the article on Greentech Media: "Can EDF Make Big Money in Small Scale Renewables?"


The Shell GameChanger AcceleratorTM Powered by NREL (GCxN), IN2: Span raises $10.2 million.
Learn more from Greentech Media: "Span Raises $10M to Scale up Deployments of Smart Electrical Panels."

Microgrid Labs has been selected to participate in the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade's (OEDIT) Advanced Industries Accelerator Grant Program. (GCxN)
Read more on the OEDIT website: "$7.3 Million Advanced Industries Awards Fuel 27 Colorado Start-Ups."


IN2EnKoat was selected for the winners' circle at the 2020 EarthX CleanTech Pitch Competition and has been awarded Phase I funding by the National Science Foundation's Small Business Innovation Research team of subject matter experts.
Learn more on the EnKoat website: 
"EnKoat Finishes Runners-Up for the EarthX CleanTech Pitch Competition."
"EnKoat Secures Phase I Funding from the NSF SBIR Program."

Smart Glass

IN2UbiQD has partnered with Nanosys to scale up production of its quantum dot-based technologies to develop and manufacture luminescent greenhouse films.
Read the article in Fast Company: "Quantum Dot Tech Helps Grow More Plants by Making Sunlight More Powerful."


GCxN: Antora Energy sets thermal efficiency record.
Read the article at the TomKatCenter, Stanford University website: "Antora Energy Recently Demonstrated the World's Most Efficient Solid State Heat Engine."

IGF: Blue Planet Energy will supply four of its Blue Ion 2.0 energy storage systems at a pilot affordable housing project in Basalt, Colorado.
More information from the Blue Planet Energy blog: "Blue Planet Energy, Habitat for Humanity, NREL, DOE, and Holy Cross Energy Deliver Renewable Power and Homeowner Savings in Colorado."

Program Updates

Energy I-Corps has announced its new director. Shelly Curtiss, formerly executive director of the Colorado Cleantech Industries Association, has joined NREL's Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center and will be the director of the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy I-Corps program.

Energy I-Corps will kick off Cohort #11 the week of Oct. 5–9 and will close out the session the week of Nov. 17–19.

The Shell GameChanger AcceleratorTM Powered by NREL (GCxN) announced its third cohort of companies. The cohort of three cleantech startups is focused on energy storage and perovskite manufacturing. Meet the cohort.

GCxN has announced the research focus areas for its next round of awards. Cohort #4 will be focused on electrosynthesis for fuel and chemicals. Contact for more information.

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) announced its seventh cohort. The five agtech companies selected will work with the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center to advance their technologies. Watch the Cohort #7 video.

IN2 awarded $900,000 in expedited strategic award funding to Channel Partners to help startups stay on the path to commercialization during the pandemic. Find out more about the 18 Channel Partners that received these awards.

Recommended Reading from the Lab

NREL: News Release: Best in Show–Cleantech Innovators Announced at 2020 Virtual Industry Growth Forum (April 30, 2020)

NREL: News Release: NREL Helps Found Consortium to Boost Solar Perovskite Commercialization (April 29, 2020)

Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2): Finding Creative Answers to Today's Energy Challenges, Wells Fargo Viewpoints (April 22, 2020)

NREL: ESIF 2019, The Energy Systems Integration Facility annual report (January 2020)


June–October 2020
Colorado Energy Research Collaboratory, 21st Century Energy Transitions 2021: Free Webinar Series

June 18, 2020
NECEC, Navigate Webinar: Renewable Energy: Opportunities for the Next Decade

June 23, 2020
Cleantech Group, IN2 Market Trends and Value Chains: Webinar #3: Sustainable Agriculture

August 4–6, 2020
Virtual Connect Global Venture Summit: Where Innovation Meets Capital

Sept. 15, 2020
Cleantech Group, IN2 Market Trends and Value Chains: Webinar #4: Housing

April 21–22, 2021 – Denver, Colorado
NREL Industry Growth Forum 2021, Hilton Denver City Center
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