Cleantech Innovation Bridge
Connects Industry Giants and Startups

Archer Daniels Midland, American Electric Power, and Nicor Gas use CIB to source energy innovations in a new, efficient, and effective way.

Cleantech Innovation Bridge

Cleantech Innovation Bridge (CIB) will bring major corporations and clean energy startups together at a private pitch and networking event designed to foster innovation collaborations on June 29th at the Gleacher Center in downtown Chicago.

Corporate participants in this CIB cohort include Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), one of the world’s largest agricultural processors, American Electric Power (AEP), one of the largest electric utilities in the US, and Nicor Gas, an AGL Resources Company providing natural gas to more than 2.1 million Illinois customers.

The Cleantech Innovation Bridge program is coordinated and produced jointly by Clean Energy Trust (CET) and Freshwater Advisors, with support from Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ChicagoNEXT initiative, the U.S. Department of Energy, Accenture, and Deloitte.

CIB Program

This year’s corporate clients engaged CIB to source innovation for their companies in a new and efficient way. Working with the CET and Freshwater teams, each corporation specified unique innovation challenges and interest areas. Based on these articulated needs, the CIB team sourced 185 startups from across the country and internationally. Of those companies, 70 were carefully evaluated and vetted on behalf of each of the large corporations by the CIB team.

Each corporation received a curated portfolio of recommended ventures, and then selected the companies most interesting to them. On Wednesday, June 29th, 18 startups will pitch their innovative technologies and solutions in private sessions to a group of C-suite executives at the CIB Showcase.

2016 Selected Startups

Inaugural CIB Program Results

Last year’s inaugural CIB program was a success, sourcing 16 promising startups from over 200 applicants for Exelon, Invenergy, and Schneider Electric.

After hearing Austin, TX-based SparkCognition pitch, Invenergy was interested to see if they could tackle a long-standing problem in the wind energy industry—cost-effective prediction of turbine failure. They soon began a trial with SparkCognition’s predictive analytics software. That initial trial was so successful they have rolled-out the full platform to seven sites and continue to see positive impacts to the business.

 “Because of the good working relationship we’ve had with SparkCognition, due to our introduction through CIB, we are continuing to discuss collaboration on other solutions beyond gearbox monitoring,” said Maggie Pakula, Manager of Commercial Analytics at Invenergy.

CIB Enables Innovation Collaboration

The upcoming 2nd CIB Showcase will take place at the Chicago Gleacher Center on Wednesday, June 29th. Startups will pitch to their matched corporations in the morning, and the event will conclude with a lunch event and panel on corporate innovation.

CIB provides an efficient, effective process for corporations and startups to work together, and such new approaches are particularly needed in the energy and cleantech space as more corporations look for innovative energy solutions.

“As the largest natural gas distribution company in northern Illinois, we recognize and understand the value of programs like CIB,” said Meena Beyers, Managing Director of Customer and Partner Engagement at Nicor Gas. “We understand that in order to provide a sustainable and long-term energy efficiency program for our customers, it’s important to find, connect and bring new technologies into our business practices.”


About Clean Energy Trust:

Clean Energy Trust (CET) is a non-profit cleantech accelerator based in Chicago, IL. Through a revolving evergreen fund, CET has investments in 20 companies and supports 60 additional companies that have come through our annual CET Challenge event. In addition to the CET Challenge and Cleantech Innovation Bridge, CET is also one of four commercialization partners of the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), the battery research hub at Argonne National Laboratory.

About Freshwater Advisors:

Freshwater Advisors is a Chicago-based venture development firm and innovation consultancy that connects corporations to entrepreneurial ecosystems. By scouting early stage technologies and evaluating new ventures for investment and partnership opportunities, Freshwater helps corporate clients speed to market new innovations. Freshwater’s proprietary technology platform provides corporations with customized startup portfolios, market insights, and tracking tools to help them effectively scout and engage with innovative startup companies. Since the company’s founding in 2013, Freshwater has worked with 21 major corporations, including 16 Fortune 500 companies.

By Emily Achler | June 27, 2016