Innovation Blog

Cleantech Startups Are Finding Support and Opportunities in Massachusetts Accelerators


Massachusetts is leading the way in cleantech and clean energy innovation. This achievement is a direct result of a strong network of cleantech startups, accelerators, incubators, and government supporters in the New England innovation ecosystem.

Startups are finding a large amount of support and resources specifically with two acclaimed startup accelerators supporting cleantech entrepreneurship: MassChallenge and Cleantech Open Northeast (CTONE). Both programs were founded in Boston in the mid to late 2000s, offering unique blends of curriculum, mentorship, and extensive expert networks for entrepreneurs in the cleantech space.

CTONE’s cleantech focus leads to strong industry connections, while MassChallenge’s unique, industry agnostic model leverages its vast global network to navigate the Massachusetts innovation ecosystem. An unprecedented 37 common cleantech startups have graduated from both of the accelerator programs. Many of these alumni have gone on to great success within their ventures–creating massive global impact on the environment, in the cleantech ecosystem, and in the green economy.

“Instead of deciding between the two programs, we recommend that startups consider both MassChallenge and Cleantech Open,” said Beth Zonis, Director, Cleantech Open Northeast. “Together we are able to give startups in Massachusetts the best possible chance for success.”

Alumni of both programs have achieved success after participating in the MassChallenge and CTONE programs. Some of the top alumni include:

  • AeroShield, developer of a high clarity silica aerogel that fits between window panes to improve energy efficiency, was a 2019 MassChallenge Finalist and winner of the national grand prize at the 2019 Cleantech Open Global Forum. The startup was also accepted into the prestigious Wells Fargo IN2 accelerator and received investment from GTT GROUP’s Patent Equity Fund, Ideaship.
  • Drinkwell, a 2014 MassChallenge Boston Diamond Winner Finalist and 2014 Cleantech Open Northeast regional winner, is a US-based social enterprise with offices in Kolkata and Dhaka and more than 50 employees. The company improves service delivery and supplies clean water in some of the world’s most vulnerable communities.
  • NBD Nano, a 2012 MassChallenge Boston Finalist and 2012 Cleantech Open Northeast regional winner, has solutions that improve the durability of surfaces. The company has received angel, venture, and strategic funding–including from MassChallenge partner, Henkel, and BASF–totaling over $15 million. In 2019 they expanded into an 8412-foot space in Lexington, MA, west of Boston.

MassChallenge’s mission is to solve massive challenges by supporting entrepreneurs! We are excited to see so many startups participate in both the MassChallenge and Cleantech Open programs, equipping them with even more resources to succeed,” said Cait Brumme, Managing Director, MassChallenge Boston. “We know from our decade of experience that we must work together–across programs, academia, investors–to build strong innovation communities, including in cleantech.”

The MassChallenge and CTONE programs are both backed by a strong support network of various cleantech government, academic, and corporate entities who share the same vision for promoting cleantech entrepreneurship. One primary example is MassCEC, a MassChallenge Silver Sponsor and a CTONE Premier Sponsor. MassCEC offers financial support for the programs, funding opportunities for entrepreneurs, and an extensive peer network to advance the success of startups engaging in both programs. MassChallenge and CTONE have also worked closely with other local startup programs, namely Greentown Labs, the largest cleantech startup incubator in North America.

The community of support around these startups bolsters the overall cleantech innovation ecosystem in Massachusetts. With training and support from both MassChallenge and CTONE at their foundations, cleantech startups are well on their way to growing their ventures and making an impact.

Learn More About MassChallenge

MassChallenge Boston is a premier early-stage startup accelerator program. Our unique model is industry agnostic, allowing us to select and support the highest potential innovators from all sectors. To date, our Boston accelerator program has achieved 1,230 alumni startups accelerated, $4.7B+ in funding raised, $2.6B+ in revenue generated, and 97K+ jobs created.
MassChallenge Boston’s accelerator program runs from June to October, supporting 100 of the world’s highest-growth startups each year through access to MassChallenge’s powerful network of support and resources.

At the culmination of the four-month program, top startups will be awarded shares of more than $1 million in cash prizes at the 2020 MassChallenge Awards.


To further advance startups focused on sustainable ventures in 2020, MassChallenge Boston and Rhode Island launched their first BlueTech Track. This 2020 strategic BlueTech Initiative focuses on several industry challenge areas, including Oceanography, Autonomy, Connectivity, and Sustainability. This will provide startups with a specialized network and support to further accelerate BlueTech startups.

Learn More About Cleantech Open

Cleantech Open is the world’s oldest and largest cleantech accelerator and business plan competition. In 2020 we are celebrating our 15th year. We are dedicated to providing entrepreneurs and technologists the resources needed to launch a successful cleantech company. Our mission is to find, fund and foster entrepreneurs with big ideas that address today’s most urgent energy, environmental, and economic challenges. A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, Cleantech Open provides the infrastructure, expertise and strategic relationships that turn clever ideas into successful global cleantech companies.

Over the past eight years, Cleantech Open has awarded over $5 million in cash and services. During that time, our 1,200 alumni companies have raised more than $1.2 billion in external funding. Fueled by a network of more than 2,000 volunteers, Cleantech Open unites the public and private sectors in a shared vision for making America’s cleantech sector a thriving economic engine. For more information, visit us at


Cleantech Open’s 2020 application period is open until 11:59 PM PST on April 19th. The 2020 accelerator program will kick off June 2-3 with their Virtual Academy East. Cleantech Open will host regional business clinics during the summer and pitch coaching in September. In October the program will conclude with the Northeast Regional Finals, which includes a showcase, opportunities to win $40,000 in cash prizes and over $200,000 in in-kind products and services. Their annual Global Forum will be at Verge 2020 for the entire national cohort. For the 2020 program, programming will be virtual-only until further notice.

Learn More About About NECEC

NECEC (Northeast Clean Energy Council & NECEC Institute) is the premier voice of businesses building a world-class clean energy hub in the Northeast, helping clean energy companies start, scale and succeed with our unique business, innovation, and policy leadership. NECEC is the Northeast regional affiliate for Cleantech Open, executing the Northeast accelerator and business plan competition and building the region’s innovation network with NECEC’s successor program for cleantech entrepreneurs, Cleantech Navigate Northeast. Learn more at

New to MassChallenge?

Visit the Join section of our site to learn more about the organization and how you may benefit by getting involved.

Upcoming events