Brite Energy Awarded $220K Wells Fargo Grant

WARREN, Ohio – Brite Energy Innovators has partnered with Centrepolis Accelerator to launch a new program supporting underrepresented climate technology entrepreneurs in Ohio and Michigan.

The joint effort received a $220,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator of Denver to develop the program, according to a news release issued by Wells Fargo this morning.

Brite and Centrepolis, based in Southfield, Michigan, plan to combine their core programs to improve access and help underserved startup companies expedite climate technology for commercial use.

The Innovation Incubator, or IN2, is a $50 million clean technology fund funded by the Wells Fargo Foundation and co-administered through the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

This year, Wells Fargo’s Channel Partner Strategic Awards distributed $970,000 among seven entities to fund “projects that are intended to strengthen and diversify the cleantech and agtech ecosystems,” according to the release.  

Each project received between $100,000 and $250,000 in funding, Wells Fargo said. 

Awards were determined based on the project’s potential for capacity building, with a particular focus on diversity, equity and inclusion, or supporting pilot and demonstration projects for startups.

“The IN² Channel Partner Network fosters meaningful connections and provides critical support to a diverse group of industry stakeholders,” said Trish Cozart, IN² program manager at NREL. “Leveraging NREL’s ability to bring people and resources together, the Channel Partner Awards aim to drive impact throughout the cleantech and agtech ecosystems to advance a sustainable future for all.”

Other grant recipients are:

  • AgLaunch (Memphis, Tennessee) will form a Cleantech Pilot & Demonstration Network for Underserved Communities to increase the participation of small and minority farmers in pilots and demonstration projects who will receive equity in the company they support. They will also develop a similar approach for clean energy innovations in underserved markets in collaboration with the HBCU Clean Energy Initiative.
  • Evergreen Climate Innovations (Chicago) will use the award to expand support for underrepresented founders in the climate tech space, focusing on solutions deployable in historically underserved communities, and offering assistance for pursuing pilot and demonstration opportunities in line with the White House’s Justice40 Initiative.
  • Grid Catalyst (Minneapolis, Minnesota) will use the funding to lead a demonstration cohort for energy and hardtech startups, matching them with Minnesota-based partners for pilot projects, and accelerating the process of initiating these projects within six months of the application process.
  • Launch Alaska (Anchorage, Alaska) will use the award to support and expand its Tech Deployment Track program, which aids climate tech startups and historically underserved legacy energy communities in Alaska in acquiring demonstration partners and funding, as well as increasing partner diversity and providing travel stipends for rural-based mentors.
  • Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator (Los Angeles) will use the award to enhance its Impact Framework and Equity Earn Back program, which allows its portfolio companies (65% of which are owned by Black, Indigenous and people of color) to earn back up to 50% of LACI’s equity stake by improving environmental, social and economic impacts.
  • Urban Future Lab (Brooklyn, New York) will use award funding to host events connecting climate tech startups, investors and community-based organizations to accelerate pilot project deployments while promoting an equitable transition in the climate economy.

“The transition to a resilient, equitable and sustainable future requires innovation in climate cleantech,” said Robyn Luhning, chief sustainability officer at Wells Fargo. “The Wells Fargo Foundation is proud to support the diverse group of entrepreneurs who are innovating in this space with this year’s Channel Partner Awards.”

In addition to the Strategic Awards, IN² awarded $19,000 in Connector Awards in January 2023 and plans to allocate another $16,000 this summer. Connector Awards support Channel Partner events and activities.

IN² launched the Channel Partner Strategic Awards program in 2017 to help fund projects affiliated with more than 60 cleantech and agtech business incubators, accelerators, universities and industry experts.

Since its inception, the IN² Channel Partner Strategic Awards program has distributed more than $6 million, the organization said.

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