CEBIP sees a possible future in NYSERDA fund

The $1.5 million question: Stony Brook's CEBIP is ready to keep on incubating, according to Executive Director David Hamilton.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

A fresh $10 million investment will support early-stage clean-energy companies plugged into New York’s disparate business-incubator ecosystem – and one Long Island business program is especially glad to hear it.

State-sponsored incubators, including partially funded hubs around several Long Island universities, connect startups with investors, encourage partnerships and otherwise guide entrepreneurs toward business growth – and $10 million will help some of them help startups learn to help themselves, thereby helping the regional economy.

That’s the helpful assessment of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office, which said “successful incubator initiatives” – including incubators where reducing carbon footprints isn’t the focus – have created more than 1,000 jobs across the state and leveraged almost $250 million in private economic investment.

To that end, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority is earmarking $10 million of its 10-year, $5.3 billion Clean Energy Fund to support incubator programs – specifically, incubators servicing clean-energy initiatives.

Steaming ahead: Clean-energy startup (and CEBIP client) Bonded Energy, on the scene.

Steaming ahead: Clean-energy startup (and CEBIP client) Bonded Energy, on the scene.

Targeting energy efficiency startups, the governor noted, will help New York meet the Clean Energy Standard, Cuomo’s commitment that 50 percent of the state’s electricity be generated by renewable sources by 2030. In that way, supporting “small companies with big, innovative ideas” is New York’s way of investing in its own clean-energy future, the governor said in a statement.

“This program is one more step toward a cleaner, greener, more prosperous New York,” Cuomo added.

Richard Kauffman, the state’s chairman of energy and finance, said clean-energy incubators – including Stony Brook University’s state-funded Clean Energy Business Incubator Program – “are already helping in the transformation of our energy system” by creating jobs and attracting investment.

“With the expansion of the NYSERDA incubator initiative, not only are we adding new jobs and helping companies bring new products to market, we are creating a cleaner, more affordable and resilient energy system for all New Yorkers,” Kauffman said.

Among several commercial and clean-energy success stories emerging from state-funded incubators, the governor’s office highlighted CEBIP graduate WATT Fuel Cell Corp.

The company, which develops and manufactures solid-oxide fuel-cell systems for commercial and military uses, has since relocated to Pennsylvania, but SBU’s clean-energy incubator is stocked with other early-stage clients on the brink of clean-energy greatness, noted Executive Director David Hamilton – and the five-year-old program has just about exhausted its first round of state funding.

A $1.5 million award – paid in tranches following quarterly milestone updates – got CEBIP off the ground in 2011, but the incubator has gone as far as it can go on that award, according to Hamilton, who sees the $10 million announcement as a chance at “renewal.”

The state is now accepting online applications from incubator administrators. The governor’s office noted special attention will be paid to applicants pushing new or existing clean-energy incubators “particularly in the Southern Tier,” but Hamilton still likes CEBIP’s chances of landing enough state funding to keep on keeping on for another four years, and to continue supporting the next WATT Fuel Cell.

Or the next several.

“Companies like Sulfcrete and Thermolift and Bonded Energy are all on the cusp of achieving great things,” Hamilton said. “This funding is critical to ensuring that we can give them as much support as possible.”