By Cortney Piper, Executive Director
Advanced energy innovation and entrepreneurs drive Tennessee’s economic growth.
The industry contributes $45.8 billion to our state GDP and outpaces the growth of the state’s overall economy. These figures mean real, high-quality jobs for nearly 400,000 individuals at over 20,000 businesses throughout the state. Investing and advocating for this sector at a local and federal level is essential to continue creating jobs, meeting national decarbonization goals and bolstering economic development.
We are lucky to have major advanced energy and cleantech assets in our state – from innovations coming out of Oak Ridge National Laboratory or the University of Tennessee and the Tennessee Valley Authority to three cleantech startups located in East Tennessee. These institutions churn out brilliant researchers and inventions, but more can be done to move the best technology to market.
Challenges for cleantech innovation and entrepreneurs
Many of these innovators face challenges gathering the assets they need to be successful long term. TAEBC understands that many of these early-stage and hard-tech companies need lab and office space to scale their technologies, along with other forms of support, such as customer discovery, to grow their businesses.
Additionally, cleantech companies and technologies are sometimes viewed as “nice to have,” rather than part of an essential, growing industry. This presumption can slow down capital investment or commercializing efforts.
For these reasons, the Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council joined the National Coalition of Clean Energy Incubators, a group that represents some of the most innovative clean technology incubators in the country. The group promotes the robust growth of regional energy innovation ecosystems across the nation by providing support for startups and entrepreneurs whose businesses focus on energy-related technologies. A big thank you to the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator for convening and organizing this coalition.
Earlier this month, the National Coalition of Clean Energy Incubators hosted its first annual National Cleantech Innovation Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. to help elevate the prominence of the industry and show just how important innovators in this space are for the economy as a whole.
National Cleantech Innovation Advocacy Day
At National Cleantech Innovation Advocacy Day, we met with Members of Congress and Senators to discuss additional support for cleantech innovation. Two of our policy priorities were:
- Support increased funding for U.S. Department of Energy Office of Technology Transitions (OTT); Specifically, we support $34 million in FY 2023, an increase of $14.5 million from FY 2022 enacted level 1, with a $10 million carve-out for a competitive funding opportunity for nonprofit incubators supporting energy innovation clusters.
- Support the creation [authorization] of the National Clean Energy Incubator Program, included in the House-passed America COMPETES Act (H.R. 4512).
Alongside Daniel Ferguson with LACI and Rick Stockburger of BRITE Energy Innovators, we met with various legislators and legislators’ offices, including Representative Bill Johnson (R-6-OH), Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Representative Tim Ryan (D-13-OH),Representative Chuck Fleischmann (R-3-TN) and Representative Tim Burchett (R-2-TN).
Our delegation was unique in that the pairing – specifically BRITE Energy Innovators from Ohio and TAEBC – spoke to the value of the advanced energy assets we have in our backyard that cross state lines. Just last year, DOE announced a $1 million project with ORNL and Youngstown State University to advance workforce development for the battery manufacturing industry. BRITE Energy Innovators of Ohio is part of this project. It was amazing to have organizations from two states and vastly different programs working with one common goal: investing in cleantech solutions.
Overall, I believe there was broad support among the lawmakers for technology transfer and helping transition cleantech technology out of the laboratory and into the marketplace. By increasing funding for DOE’s OTT and creating the National Clean Energy Incubator Program, we can help connect resources with opportunities in the advanced energy space – a key focus of TAEBC.
Fulfilling two commitments to our members
TAEBC has four commitments to our members. Through our participation in National Cleantech Innovation Advocacy Day, we were fulfilling two of our four promises: (1) fostering the growth of Tennessee’s advanced energy technologies and startups and (2) informing the national energy agenda.
TAEBC joined National Cleantech Innovation Advocacy Day because starting and growing cleantech and advanced energy companies and technology right here in Tennessee is a huge area of opportunity. Allocating more resources toward tech transfer for cleantech innovations and forming a national incubator program are some of the best ways to move this industry forward.
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