Northeast clean-tech accelerator primes for 2017

Clean living: From ThermoLift's next-gen heat pumps to solar-powered desalination by New Jersey firm GreenBlu, Boston-based Cleantech Open Northeast is looking ahead.

From the It Takes a Nation file comes the Cleantech Open Northeast, an annual Boston-based business-accelerator program with a major-league reputation for assisting “clean technology” startups – including clean-tech startups from Long Island.

“Clean technology” largely refers to manufacturing processes, but technically references any process, product or service that promotes energy efficiency and otherwise reduces environmental footprints. Cleantech Open’s unique innovation ecosystem, built over a dozen years of programming, spans key cleantech innovation hubs around the nation and the world – a global, nonprofit innovation network focused on a sustainable future and run almost exclusively by volunteers.

Since 2005, Cleantech Open – self-promoted as “the world’s oldest and largest cleantech startup accelerator” – has helped more than 1,200 early-stage clean-tech entrepreneurs through the merciless “valley of death” known to swallow tech startups whole, with some 70 percent of accelerator participants going on to raise $1.2 billion in capital investments and create 3,000-plus jobs, according to CTO organizers.

Past regional CTO programs have included “a number of strong teams from Long Island,” noted native Islander Kathryn Elmes, executive director of Cleantech Open Northeast.

In addition to sharpening pitch decks and building global networks, Cleantech Open Northeast is also a competition, with regional winners each receiving $20,000 in cash or services, plus the right to represent CTO Northeast in the Cleantech Open Global Forum, with $100,000 in cash and/or business-development services on the line.

The regional round also doles out a number of smaller prizes. In 2016, Cleantech Open Northeast bestowed its first-ever Strategic Partner Prize – a $5,000 award funded by Shell Corp. and French multinational Schneider Electric – to New York-based SHAREnergy, which aims to connect urban and rural electrical grids.

Other 2016 awards included a $5,000 Sustainability Prize for regional finalist PV Pure, a Massachusetts-based startup offering solar-powered water purifiers, and a $1,000 Crowd Favorite Prize for regional finalist Surge Hydro, a Maine-based champion of hydroelectric power.

Rounding out the Cleantech Open Northeast 2016 regional winners were Proper Pipe, an Iceland- and Boston-based startup looking to mitigate water loss by maximizing pipeline efficiency, and GreenBlu, a New Jersey firm working on the global potable-water shortage by exploring solar-powered desalination technologies.

All told, 24 companies graduated from the 2016 Cleantech Open Northeast accelerator program, including 11 from New York, eight from Massachusetts, three from New Jersey and two from Maine.

Past program participants include Stony Brook-based clean-energy startup ThermoLift Inc., a 2014 graduate of the Cleantech Northeast Open.

Northeast regional program sponsors include National Grid and NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The 2017 program is now accepting applications, offering clean-tech entrepreneurs from across the Northeast a chance to fine-tune their investor pitches, connect with like-minded startups and otherwise accelerate their commercial interests – and, of course, possibly walk off with some much-needed working capital. Information on application and program-participation fees can be found here.

Cleantech Open Northeast is also accepting applications from prospective program mentors, who can learn more here.

The deadline for applications is May 1. The accelerator program is slated to run from mid-May to October, with participants investing between two and eight hours per week in program activities, according to organizers. More information on program specifics is available here.

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