Innovation and commercialization of new technologies is fundamental to long-term economic growth and job creation. Yet there are significant challenges to moving new clean technologies from the lab to the market, including business planning, market development, regulatory reform, and technology demonstration. The human and capital resources to address many of these challenges overlap where clean tech startups and energy markets aggregate– in regional clusters. The U.S. has a significant number of new, emerging innovation clusters and regional initiatives to accelerate early clean tech commercialization. These regional initiatives build partnerships or networks with National Labs, universities, states, non-profits, innovation accelerators, and private companies to help move innovations out of the lab and into the factory. In many cases, these partnerships have become true hubs of innovation in their respective state or region.
The next step in developing and expanding these innovation clusters is two-fold: (1) connecting each to the broader federal R&D ecosystem; and (2) leveraging best practices and seeding the development of new innovation clusters where opportunities exist. For instance, many clean tech ecosystems were created, in part, from public investments, such as through the Department of Energy’s Innovation Ecosystem program, the Department of Commerce’s i6 Green program, and the Small Business Administration’s Regional Innovation Cluster program. These programs have demonstrated that federal support can help grow innovation clusters around the country. It is critical to formally link federal energy R&D resources and institutions to these innovation clusters to accelerate technology transfer, pilot testing, technology demonstration, and smart deployment of new ideas into the market.
To highlight best innovation cluster practices and discuss potential policy reforms, the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation and the New England Clean Energy Council are bringing together leading regional clean tech innovation programs from across the country to discuss their efforts and potential for expanded impact. The session is also sponsored by the office of Senator Ed Markey (D-MA).