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Cities Pursue Innovative Strategies to Grow Clean Technology Businesses

March 26, 2007

As renewable energy and environmental technologies emerge as some of the promising industries for high-tech economic development, more cities are seeking new ways to boost clean technology research and businesses. Austin, San Jose, Berkeley, Pasadena and Boston have been singled out for their efforts to promote cleantech industries by SustainLane Government, a nonprofit Internet-based organization that provides current practices and news about municipal sustainability. These cities have all found novel approaches to assisting start-ups and commercializing research in one of the fastest-growing industries for venture capital investment.


SustainLane defines cleantech industries as those involving energy generation, management and efficiency, wind and air related technologies, advanced transportation, and green building technologies. The group's concept of an ideal model for cleantech development combines three elements:

  • Availability of angel and venture capital for all stages of business development, along with access to networks of investors, entrepreneurs, researchers and business leaders;
  • Industry collaboration and partnerships with local universities or federal research laboratories; and,
  • Active state and local government participation through innovative programs and incentives.

Austin is credited by SustainLane for its six years of support for the Clean Energy Incubator (CEI) and the outreach efforts of the city's electric utility. CEI is one of the nation's leading incubators for energy start-ups and is a founding member of the National Alliance of Clean Energy Incubators. During its six years of operation, CEI has hosted more than 18 energy start-ups and held many events to promote awareness of cleantech in the region. Austin Energy, the municipal electric utility, also has been actively involved in assisting clean and renewable energy start-ups. Last month, the group reached an agreement that would open up the utility's power grid as a testing ground for new technologies, including solar, biogas and wind projects.


California is well represented with three cities on the list. San Jose has managed to leverage its success in building the country's most successful venture capital market into a string of clean energy successes, particularly in solar power. The city's Environmental Business Cluster incubator has collaborated with many regional partners, including the city's government, utilities and universities to support early-stage companies and technologies. The list recognizes Berkeley and Pasadena for their successful collaborations with local universities and federal laboratories, including UC Berkeley's growing bioscience research program, and CalTech's Entretech virtual incubator.


In addition to several lists of top sustainability achievers, SustainLane also maintains a directory where practitioners can upload and exchange policy ideas from their city or state government. The directory includes a section on economic development with descriptions of regional initiatives ranging from Seattle's Climate Action City-Business Partnership to Mecklenburg County's (N.C.) approach to assembling an environmental policy team.


Visit SustainLane Government at http://www.sustainlane.us/. Registration is required for access to the policy directory.