Giving Back To The Future: Donate for Clean Energy Innovation

It’s time for a little #realtalk about why it’s never been more important to support clean energy innovation with your attention, time, and yes, money.

The jobs are real. According to the annual Clean Jobs Midwest report, Illinois has 119,395 people employed in energy efficiency or renewable energy. It also shows that clean energy jobs grew 6x as fast as jobs in other sectors. The clean energy economy is powered by people that truly represent Illinois (including immigrants!) and come from a variety of manufacturing, engineering, science, and business backgrounds.

Part of what drives the recent, steady growth in clean energy jobs are the startups and small businesses that have been created in response to advancements in technology and innovation. But by what process exactly do new technologies and innovations come to scale? How can we make sure the most important innovations that will create human and monetary value can be identified, supported, and allowed to flourish?

For the past four years I have worked at Clean Energy Trust, a nonprofit where we pursue the mission of bringing cleantech innovation to market by funding, supporting and growing high impact startups from the Midwest.

We believe investing in new innovations and technologies that can be commercialized and scaled is critical for not only addressing climate change and positive environmental impacts but also to 1) create good jobs 2) enhance national security 3) strengthen US competitiveness and 4) support disadvantaged populations.

We began making small seed investments in 2014 and since that time we have invested $3.8 million in 23 companies. Some interesting metrics we’ve collected along the way include:

· 48% of our portfolio companies received their first investment from Clean Energy Trust and our portfolio companies have gone forward to raise $53 million in follow-on funding post our initial investment;

· 68% have a female or minority founders

· 30% have 1st or 2nd generation immigrant founders

Many people will argue that we have all the technologies we need to address energy demand and climate change — that we just need to focus more on deploying those technologies. But, the science and data show us that deployment alone will not be enough. We will need technological innovations in order to continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, while also meeting the global demand of rapidly developing areas like China and Sub-Saharan Africa.

At Clean Energy Trust, our goal is nothing less than to turn our greatest global challenge into the greatest economic and entrepreneurial opportunity.

The enormity of our goal is punctuated by the severe gap in funding for early-stage cleantech. The federal government, private industry, and VCs have stepped away. As a non-profit, we pursue a unique, 501vc(TM) model, that blends the proven elements of venture capital with the mission-driven perspectives and structure of a not-for-profit organization.

“If Clean Energy Trust didn’t exist, I do not think SiNode would exist. And that impacts 15 people who get their livelihoods from SiNode and the community of people around then, So it’s pretty impactful.
And for me personally, I would probably be working at a different company. I don’t know what I would be doing, but it certainly wouldn’t be starting an energy company because I don’t think I would have known that it was possible to do that or that I would have the network and funds to do if it wasn’t for Clean Energy Trust.” — Samir Mayekar, Founder & CEO, SiNode Systems.
SiNode produces a battery material to allow smaller, lighter-weight batteries to hold more charge. So that, for example, electric vehicles could travel longer distances on a single charge.

This #GivingTuesday, give back so that future generations benefit from a stable, sustainable environment. Give back so that the newly-minted inventors and scientists from West Lafayette, Champaign-Urbana, Madison, and Ann Arbor don’t give up on the Midwest and head for the coasts.

Every dollar we collect through donations helps support clean energy innovation and the brilliant entrepreneurs who are creating jobs in the Midwest and positive change for the world.

Co_invest in cleantech with us http://cleanenergytrust.org/donate/

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