Wells Fargo & Co. has been a prominent leader in the clean energy revolution in 2015 and has just announced plans to continue to do so moving forward in 2016. The U.S. banking and financial services company partnered up with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and kick-started its Innovation Incubator (IN2) back in April of last year, which aims at fueling new technology start-ups with the necessary funding needed to pursue their research into environmental sustainability.
Originally, four start-ups were awarded $250 000 in cash each as part of a five-year, $10 million commitment as well as access to an array of technical and financial experts that Wells Fargo & Co. has to offer. The first four companies were chosen out of a pool of eighty after three rounds of interviewing and selection.
The finalists were Liquid Cool Solutions from Minnesota, which is developing total immersion electronics cooling technology, Smarter Shade from Chicago, which is working on providing longer-lasting smart glass. The other two are Energy Storage Systems, from Portland, who is producing building efficient battery technology, using a patented cell flow design with an iron electrolyte. Watt Stick Systems is the fourth finalist, from San Francisco, which is developing peel-and-stick electricity metering technology.
These start-ups have offered the potential of demonstrating significant energy savings. Following the New Year, Wells Fargo & Co. followed up on their commitment by adding six additional companies that could benefit the development of clean energy as well as thrive off of the environment that the banking institution is providing in terms of financing and technical support and consultation as part of the second of the three selection rounds for this year’s finalists.
The technical support actually comes from the Department of Energy’s NREL Lab in Golden, Colorado, which can assist with their testing and research. Nevertheless, we cannot ignore the small players involved in the Incubator as well. “The power of IN2 is that it’s built on collaboration with leaders at Wells Fargo, universities, regional accelerators, and the experts, researchers, and scientists at NREL,” said Mary Wenzel, Wells Fargo Head of Environmental Affairs. “We’re rolling up our sleeves and working together to offer support to these entrepreneurs so that they will have the best chance for success in getting their technology to the marketplace in addressing the increasing constraint on natural resources.”
The universities and regional accelerators serve as partners, which have helped funnel over 30 of the 80 participants over the last year through their network of entrepreneurs and start-ups. The six technology candidates for 2016 include: Chicago-based NETenergy, which delivers a module that helps offload energy consumption during off-peak hours for small-scale air conditioning systems, California-based Heliotrope Technologies, which is embedding itself into unique manufacturing for electrochromic devices in the development of smart windows, and Polyceed, also from California, which is working on smart technology that can be controlled optically.
7AC Technologies, from Massachusetts, is offering revolutionary liquid desiccant air conditioning, Go Electric Inc. will provide meter energy solutions facilities that integrate renewable energy into their grid, and ThermoLife Inc., from New York, is aiming at replacing traditional heating, cooling, and hot water systems with a natural-gas driven appliance that can do all of the above. It will be exciting to see which of them will come through as the four finalists for 2016.
Other financial institutions in the U.S. and Canada will continue to lead by example as Wells Fargo & Co. is, by stimulating the start-up environment where many revolutionary ideas are essentially created. With the new Federal Liberal Government in place and certain movements already towards environmental accountability after the Paris Climate Summit, it’s no doubt that Canada will also start mirroring these initiatives. Some of these programs are already in place at incubators such as the Invest Ottawa Incubator on Aberdeen St., in Ottawa, ON, or the highly-esteemed MaRS Discovery District, located in downtown Toronto, which will serve as an urban research and innovation hub for most of the local universities such as University of Toronto and Ryerson University, as well as industrial players such as Airbnb, Synaptive Medical Inc., and Nanoleaf.