Though Clean Energy Trust is based in Chicago, we are dedicated to uncovering the best innovations and startups from all over the Midwest region. As we source our deal flow pipeline for the 2018 investment program, Clean Energy Trust employees are hitting the road to expand our reach into the region. This is the first installment of a multi-part series to find the best and the brightest cleantech entrepreneurs.
I was in the Twin Cities, Minnesota on Thursday and Friday last week to meet with local innovation ecosystem leaders and to participate in a great clean energy business engagement event hosted by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota. Fortunately, I was able to also catch the first snow of the season while I was in town!
At the business engagement event, I had the chance to discuss the Clean Jobs Midwest employment survey we published this fall – it showed that nearly 600,000 people work in the clean energy industry in the Midwest, and that Minnesota has one of the largest clean energy sectors as a share of its total workforce, at nearly 2%. Along with the remarks of the other speakers at the event, one theme that came up repeatedly was the importance of smart public policy to drive job creation in the clean energy sector.
After the event, I joined the Clean Energy Economy MN team at the state house in St. Paul to talk about clean energy jobs with state legislators.
In addition to speaking with clean energy businesses in Minnesota, while in town I had the chance to talk to several key stakeholder in the Twin Cities, including the University of Minnesota and Impact Hub MSP.
At the University of Minnesota, Carla Pavone from the Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship hosted me at a meeting in the University’s new Discovery Nexus space. In addition to learning more about the commercialization work at the university, we discussed the Minnesota Cup, the largest single day business plan competition in the country, which is held during Startup Week in October each year, as well as the Discovery Capital Fund, the University of Minnesota’s investment initiative for innovative businesses being commercialized from the University of Minnesota.
At Impact Hub MSP Danielle Steer introduced me to some of the members of their coworking space. Impact Hub is a network of more than 80 social enterprise focused co-working spaces internationally, adding more locations each quarter. She also shared with me Impact Hub MSP’s plans to move into a new custom space in early 2018.
All in all, the Twin Cities are home to an active innovation ecosystem, with significant commercialization activity at the University of Minnesota and beyond. Further, there’s a large clean energy business community in the area as well, and the state’s renewable energy sector continues to grow rapidly.