Building Regional Energy Innovation Clusters

The Administration is working to empower scientists, business leaders, investors, government leaders, and entrepreneurs to harness American ingenuity to create affordable clean energy and high-paying jobs.  In President Barack Obama’s most recent address to the nation, he called for a national mission to “unleash America’s innovation” to create a clean energy economy.  Unleashing America’s innovation requires a critical mass of scientists and researchers, working together in an entrepreneurial ecosystem to bring these technologies to market and investors to take them to scale.  Through a series of energy conferences, and by fostering Regional Energy Innovation Clusters the Administration is bringing these key players together to create a critical mass of information, human capital, and financial resources.  These clusters are organic communities of entrepreneurs, investors, scientists and engineers, able to work in a spirit of collaboration to create new technologies, and make them an everyday reality. 

Last week the path to clean energy and oil independence ran through the American heartland.  Entrepreneurs, business leaders, investors, university researchers, non-profits, along with local government and White House officials met together in Omaha, Nebraska for the first of three regional Energy Innovation Conferences.  Throughout the day, over two hundred attendees gathered in Omaha to discuss energy challenges, share approaches to address these challenges, and begin to coordinate solutions.  Participants also made invaluable connections with one another to increase collaboration among various sectors of the economy necessary for building Regional Energy Innovation Clusters and a clean energy economy. 

The Administration has also stepped up to help innovators and entrepreneurs in the Midwest to spur a successful Regional Innovation Cluster.  The Administration highlighted over $30 million dollars in funding for Nebraska, Iowa and Missouri for worker training in green jobs, in order to create the workforce necessary to fuel the region’s Innovation Cluster.  The Department of Energy is also working with businesses to provide badly needed capital for new ventures to supplement the millions of dollars already invested by DOE in the Midwest.  The Department of Labor is working to address critical human development and leadership capital gaps.  And the Department of Agriculture recently issued $2.7 million of new funding for projects in rural areas that generate renewable energy or increase access to capital for innovative businesses and farmers.

These conferences are a key first step to connecting the dots that build the network that lead to Regional Energy Innovation Clusters across the country to spur new technologies and bring them to the marketplace. The Administration is confident that the ties created in Omaha, along with continued support for job training and seed capital, will foster collaboration across the business, government and research communities, encourage innovation, and apply it in the future clean energy economy. 

Ginger Lew is Senior Counselor to the White House National Economic Council and the Small Business Administration

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