What is Cleantech and Why Do We Want It?

Share this

According to the Environmental and Energy Technology Council of Maine, ("E2Tech"), "Clean Tech is defined by a diverse range of products, services, and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, promote the sustainable use of natural resources, and reduce or eliminate emissions and wastes. Clean tech firms seek to increase performance, productivity and efficiency by minimizing negative effects on the environment, and describe companies that generally deal in energy (renewables, bio-fuels, efficiency, storage), recycling and waste, the environment, transportation, agriculture, materials and manufacturing. The clean tech sector refers both to clean tech firms as well as to all those industries that support those firms including construction, legal, marketing and any other number of businesses which may play a role as service providers. The clean tech economy produces a broad spectrum of “clean” products, from goods such as wind turbines and solar photovoltaic panels, to services such as mass transit and environmental engineering.

"The clean economy is an important element of America's emerging economy. It will define our state's and country's low carbon future and provide opportunity for workers at all levels of the income and skills distributions. A recent report by The Brookings Institute found that from 2003 to 2010, Maine added 2,914 “clean jobs,” growing by 4 percent annually. Between 2008 and 2009, the state rate overtook the national growth rate of 3.4 percent. Nationwide in 2010 there were 2.7 million clean tech jobs.

"The clean economy matters because it interacts with nearly every aspect of the rest of the economy and is emerging as a source of rapid technological and process innovation worldwide. Clean tech venture capital surged in the third quarter of 2011, according to Ernst & Young. The accounting firm said U.S. VC investment in clean tech companies increased 73 percent, to $1.1 billion. Regionally, while California was the top spot for clean tech investment ($583 million in the 3rd quarter), Massachusetts was next at $170.4 million."

Watch the video about Clean Tech here.

E2Tech, the University of Maine’s Department of Industrial Cooperation (UMAINE) and the New England Clean Energy Council (NECEC) have all partnered to develop the “Clean Tech Corridor” (The Corridor). The purpose of the Corridor is simple: connect people and resources between and among Greater Boston and Maine that help form, sustain and grow clean technology companies.

The goal of the initiative is to attract companies from across the New England region that require, but cannot easily access, high quality research and development technology services. For example, there are many Greater Boston-based companies that cannot easily or affordably access university labs and other resources in their area, due to limited facility and personnel capacity. There is technical and support capacity available in Maine, through both the University and the business incubation facilities located throughout the state. The simplifying, packaging and marketing of services are designed to meet the needs of business, and perhaps even influence relocation of some companies to Maine. And of course, the initiative will directly benefit Maine companies which may require, but may not know of the services available in Maine.

Each partner brings unique assets and relationships to the corridor concept. E2TECH and NECEC both bring specialized knowledge of the clean tech sector, as well as relationships with startup and existing clean tech companies, and an awareness of the services and support they require. UMAINE will offer streamlined access to their clean technology research and development hub, including a variety of technical experts, specialized equipment and business services aimed to assist small and medium sized businesses looking to develop and commercialize clean tech products and services.

There are several compelling reasons for this venture which include the opportunity for a focused launch of UMAINE service bundles. The University of Maine has unique facilities with available capacity to perform research services and offer attractive service packages and educational programs, such as Innovation Engineering, that are not generally well known outside the state. UMAINE’s assets include the following centers or initiatives:

    Forest Bioproducts Research Institute;
    Laboratory for Surface Science and Technology;
    Advanced Manufacturing Center;
    AEWC or the Advanced Structures and Composites Center
    Process Development Center (a specialized pulp, paper and fiber pilot facility)
    Sustainability Solutions Initiative (Current NSF EPSCOR program)
    Fifth Year workforce development initiative, in collaboration United Technologies Center and Eastern Maine Community College

In addition, watch for the activites of the Cleantech Innovations New England (CINE), a new initiative formed in partnership with the New England Clean Energy Foundation (NECEF), the non-profit arm of the NECEC that has been charged with administering the i6 Green Challenge grant funds.

i6 Green challenge is a $1,250,000 award led by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (“EDA”) with participatory funding from other U.S. Government agencies to fund the Cleantech Innovations New England innovation consortium aimed at accelerating clean energy startup activity. Cleantech Innovations New England is expected to be a $3.3 million program over 2 years, combining support from EDA and with other federal agencies to NECEF and its partners, as well as matching funds from foundations and the New England states.

This award was one of six i6 Green Challenge grants presented by EDA nationally to proposals aimed at regional economic development through innovative, groundbreaking ideas that accelerate technology commercialization, new venture formation, and job creation across the United States in the cleantech space.

Read More about CINE here. Then, read NECEF's press release.