Rocky Mountain Innosphere, an incubator focused on high impact scientific and technology startup companies, recently announced the launch of the cleantech focused “Innosphere at CREED”. CREED is the Colorado Center for Renewable Energy Economic Development, co-located with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. Until now, Innosphere’s sole physical location has been in Fort Collins, Colorado, so the new location represents a significant geographic expansion.
Innosphere’s move into CREED comes a few months after CleanLaunch, an incubator focused exclusively on cleantech, moved out. Four CleanLaunch companies transitioned into Innosphere during this time, including Fabriq, US e-Chromic, Solid Power, and EcoVapor Recovery Systems. Rob Writz, former Director of New Ventures at CleanLaunch, is now Innosphere’s Director of Clean Technology Programs. Clearly, Innosphere at CREED has enabled some continuity in the support available to former CleanLaunch companies, and it has preserved the presence of a cleantech focused incubator at CREED, which are both good things for Colorado’s cleantech industry.
Historically Innosphere’s industry focus has been much broader than CleanLaunch’s was, but according to Innosphere CEO Mike Freeman, Innosphere has always been committed to the cleantech space. This is reflected by the fact that Innosphere has nine current cleantech clients in addition to the four that recently came over from CleanLaunch. Innosphere at CREED reinforces this commitment to cleantech, and strengthens it through a closer relationship with NREL and NREL’s ecosystem of cleantech focused investors and partners.
Cleantech is an incredibly broad industry, so Innosphere has chosen four specific segments to focus on, including transportation technologies, building efficiency, electrical systems integration, and sustainable materials. Even these segments are extremely broad, but they are still narrower than the cleantech industry as a whole, which allows Innosphere to provide deeper support than they could if they tried to cover every clean technology.
Overall I believe Innosphere’s move into CREED represents a positive development for cleantech in Colorado, in part because it brings a new organization and some fresh eyes to explore ways to help local entrepreneurs take advantage of all that NREL has to offer. Sometimes it helps to shake things up a bit when tackling something as challenging as commercializing new clean technologies, and combining the substantial organizations of NREL and Innosphere might open up new opportunities and new paths to funding for startups that weren’t available, or weren’t easy to find, before.
As a next step, I’d love to see Innosphere open up a space for cleantech entrepreneurs in Boulder. Given the interest in co-working spaces there, which I’ve experienced first-hand at Colab Boulder, I don’t think they’d have a hard time filling it with paying tenants. Impact HUB Boulder, a co-working space for those trying to create a positive impact, comes closest to meeting this need today, but I think there would still be demand for a space dedicated to cleantech. I’m sure Innosphere has its hands full integrating its new CREED site, so I don’t expect to see any new sites opening soon, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed.