A new non-profit organization, the trust looks to connect applied scientists with entrepreneurs who have the finance and business expertise to fully develop new ideas for commercial deployment.
“The Office of the Vice President for Research and for National Laboratories at the University of Chicago is especially excited about the potential for this project to build relationships between researchers at Argonne and the partner universities with Chicago Booth’s Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and UChicago’s Energy Initiative,” said Matthew Christian, the University’s Assistant Vice President for Research Program Development.
The DOE grant will be used to initiate four separate university-based programs including seed money, business training, awareness education and sector-specific business development support. Founded by seven business and civic leaders, including UChicago trustee Michael Polsky, the trust seeks to leverage the area’s strengths, including its major corporations, proven manufacturing capabilities, transportation infrastructure and intellectual resources, to create a thriving, clean energy ecosystem.
To qualify for the DOE grant program, the trust attracted more than $1.5 million in cash and in-kind services from universities, corporations, foundations, trade groups, government agencies and others. University partners include the Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University and the University of Illinois at Chicago. The trust is located at TechNexus, a Chicago incubator developed by the Illinois Technology Association.
Focusing on renewable energy, smart grid initiatives and transportation, the trust will soon launch a Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, in which Illinois scientists and entrepreneurs will compete for $100,000 in seed funds and business services. It also will create the Clean Energy Boot Camp, giving entrepreneurs immersion training and a chance to develop new business networks.
“Our nation’s economic future depends on our ability to help create a new innovative ecology—a working partnership of the private sector, government and academia,” said Argonne Director Eric Isaacs. “Thanks to this grant, the Clean Energy Trust will be able to give timely, focused assistance to researchers and entrepreneurs throughout the Midwest as they join forces to harness our region’s extraordinary resources and bring innovative energy technologies swiftly to market.”
Polsky noted how the trust will impact up-and-coming business leaders. “The Clean Energy Trust is not about theory—it’s about making Illinois a dynamic center for clean-energy entrepreneurship,” said the energy entrepreneur. “It’s about creating not just one but dozens of companies just like our own; companies that create hundreds of great jobs as they build our state’s economy. That is how we will judge our success.”