Mr. Adams goes to Washington

Millions in funding, thousands of jobs, hundreds of companies, six accelerators, and one trip to the swamp.

On Tuesday, July 18, I was in Washington DC as part of a cleantech accelerator fly-in to discuss the importance of Federal funding for energy innovation R&D and commercialization with Senate offices.

While spending a day in DC’s swampy summer weather running around in suit might not be anyone’s idea of a great time, it is critically important that we collectively speak up and ensure our elected representatives know the importance of this Federal funding.

My colleague Dr. Ben Gaddy’s recent post on the slump in cleantech venture capital investments drives home why commercialization support from the Federal government is so important – if the Federal government does not fund these efforts, these technologies will simply not be developed here in the United States.

This trip was coordinated by the business advocacy group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), who did the heavy lifting of setting up our meeting schedule and preparing materials. On the trip was yours truly, representing Clean Energy Trust, as well as leaders from cleantech accelerators and incubators from across the country, including:

  • Greentown Labs
  • Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator
  • New York ACRE
  • Next Energy
  • Oregon BEST
  • Village Capital

While no single meeting is going to make an immediate impact, it’s important for businesses and organizations to talk to their elected representatives. I recently presented a webinar on policy engagement for early stage businesses, where I emphasize the importance of developing relationships with policymakers and drawing attention to important issues.

At the end of the day, while many of us might be moved by data, legislators are more likely to be drawn to compelling stories, especially about their constituents. Luckily, our group of cleantech accelerators came armed with numerous examples of great early stage companies doing interesting work in clean energy innovation, such as the gas compression company NuMat Technologies and plasma assisted fuel injection developer FGC Plasma. While these companies wouldn’t be where they are today without the tireless work of their founders, they also wouldn’t be here if they didn’t receive support for their work from Federally funded R&D and commercialization programs like Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards, lab accelerator programs, business plan competitions, and revolving loan funds.

And, while some people might think of support for energy innovation as a partisan issue, this couldn’t be further from the case: while the President’s budget would do significant damage to our leadership in energy innovation, every Senate office we spoke to (Republicans and Democrats alike) expressed chagrin at the President’s budget and universally agreed on the importance of funding energy innovation.

Nonetheless, there are many competing priorities for federal funding, and many other entities making the case for why their issues should be prioritized, so even as our leaders recognize the importance of supporting energy innovation, we need to collectively make sure our voices are heard so that federal investments are prioritized in this space.

By Ian Adams | July 28, 2017