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Wells Fargo 2023 Innovation Incubator winners.
The winners of the strategic awards. Photo: Business Wire.

Wells Fargo Foundation allocates $1 million to climate technology incubators and accelerators

The resources are intended for companies that are leading the change towards a low carbon economy and an inclusive energy transition.

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The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN²), a technology incubator funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-managed by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), recently announced the recipients of its seventh cycle of Channel Partner Strategic Awards.

IN² distributed $970,000 among seven winners to fund projects deemed innovative and impactful, aimed at strengthening and diversifying cleantech and agritech ecosystems.

Trish Cozart, IN² program manager at NREL, noted in a press release:

The IN² Channel Partner Network fosters meaningful connections and provides critical support to a diverse group of industry stakeholders.

IN² identifies and supports promising new cleantech companies, with the goal of commercializing low-carbon solutions to achieve associated social, economic, and climate benefits.

Beneficiaries

Noting that the selections were guided by a commitment to distribute funds equitably in the U.S., IN² allocated funding options between $100,000 and $250,000.

Applications were reviewed based on their potential for capacity building, with a particular focus on either fostering diversity, equity and inclusion, or supporting pilot and demonstration projects for start-ups.

Leveraging NREL’s ability to bring people and resources together, the Channel Partner Awards aim to drive impact throughout the cleantech and agtech ecosystems to advance a sustainable future for all,” added Cozart. 

The 2023 Channel Partner Strategic Award winners and their plans are:

  • AgLaunch (Memphis, TN) will form a Cleantech Pilot & Demonstration Network for Underserved Communities to increase the participation of small and minority farmers in pilots and demonstration projects, who will receive equity in the company they support. They will also develop a similar approach for clean energy innovations in underserved markets in collaboration with the HBCU Clean Energy Initiative.
  • BRITE Energy Innovators (Warren, OH) and the Centrepolis Accelerator (Southfield, MI) will launch a joint program aimed at supporting underrepresented climate tech entrepreneurs in Ohio and Michigan by combining their core programs, increasing access, and helping underserved founders reach commercialization faster.
  • Evergreen Climate Innovations (Chicago, IL) will use the award to expand support for underrepresented founders in the climate tech space, focusing on solutions deployable in historically underserved communities, and offering assistance for pursuing pilot and demonstration opportunities in line with the White House's Justice40 Initiative.
  • Grid Catalyst (Minneapolis, MN) will use the funding to lead a demonstration cohort for energy and hardtech startups, matching them with Minnesota-based partners for pilot projects, and accelerating the process of initiating these projects within six months of the application process.
  • Launch Alaska (Anchorage, AK) will use the award to support and expand its Tech Deployment Track program, which aids climate tech startups and historically underserved legacy energy communities in Alaska in acquiring demonstration partners and funding, as well as increasing partner diversity and providing travel stipends for rural-based mentors.
  • Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (LACI) (Los Angeles, CA) will use the award to enhance its Impact Framework and Equity Earn Back program, which allows its portfolio companies (65% of which are owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color) to earn back up to 50% of LACI’s equity stake by improving environmental, social, and economic impacts.
  • Urban Future Lab (Brooklyn, NY) will use award funding to host events connecting climate tech startups, investors, and community-based organizations to accelerate pilot project deployments while promoting an equitable transition in the climate economy.

About the Awards

IN² launched the Channel Partner Strategic Awards program in 2017 to nurture the Channel Partner ecosystem, which includes more than 60 business incubators, accelerators, universities, and industry experts in cleantech and agtech.

The transition to a resilient, equitable, and sustainable future requires innovation in climate clean tech,” pointed out Robyn Luhning, chief sustainability officer at Wells Fargo.

Since its inception, the IN² Channel Strategic Partner Awards program has distributed more than $6 million, proceeds that have particularly benefited BIPOC organizations and HBCU institutions.

The national program involves thousands of entrepreneurs, students, investors, mentors and industry experts, who have raised $208 million, plus $5 million in matching program funds.

IN² highlights how during the COVID pandemic in 2020, the program provided $900,000 in relief awards, generating more than $19 million in revenue, 106 new jobs, 1,500 new clients, and $78 million in investment and other funds.

The Wells Fargo Foundation is proud to support the diverse group of entrepreneurs who are innovating in this space with this year’s Channel Partner Awards,” concluded Luhning.

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