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MassChallenge and NECEC: A Collaboration to Advance Climate Tech and Clean Technology Startups

The collaboration between MassChallenge and Cleantech Open Northeast (run by NECEC), continues into 2024, helping to push Massachusetts as the innovation hub for climatetech and Clean Energy. An unprecedented 53 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.

At the heart of this movement lie several recent initiatives occurring in Massachusetts. In March 2024, Massachusetts Clean Energy Center announced $2.5 million in grants to clean energy and climate technology companies. In early April, a Regional Clean Energy Innovation Showcase was held at Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, only the second of its kind. The first took place in Silicon Valley a year earlier.

“These grants will infuse early-stage companies and researchers with the funding they need to develop their climate technologies and attract further investment,” said Massachusetts Clean Energy Center CEO Dr. Emily Reichert. “Our goal is to make Massachusetts the climate innovation lab for the world, and that means creating an environment where ClimateTech businesses can start, stay and scale. Our tech-to-market grants, administered in partnership with MassVentures, are designed to help innovators test and demonstrate their climate solutions. Governor Healey’s Mass Leads Act would build on this success and help these companies thrive, creating good-paying jobs for our residents.”

The Imperative of an Ecosystem

The ecosystem of climatetech and cleantech innovation is one where startups are striving to collaborate within industries and tackle pressing environmental issues.

Success for these startups often relies on support in key areas such as pilot sites and smoother permitting processes, heightened funding for early-stage companies, and the recognition of diversity’s importance in the climate economy. There’s also the vital significance of soft skills training, corporate collaborations, and the pivotal roles played by educational and medical institutions in fostering early adoption.

Flux Marine, Cleantech Northeast Regional Winner

It is in these areas that MassChallenge and Cleantech Open Northeast join forces to drive progress. 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. By combining resources and expertise, MassChallenge and Cleantech Open Northeast create a synergistic environment where startups can thrive. This collaboration extends beyond mere partnership; it represents a shared commitment to driving positive change and fostering innovation in the cleantech sector.

“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 Spotlight

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

Magnomer

2018 Cleantech Open Northeast Regional Finalist; 2018 MassChallenge U.S. Early Stage

Magnomer is a materials startup introducing a magnetic ink-based technology (Magmark) to impart sortability features for recyclable packaging. Magmark inks can be printed on flexible plastics packaging as a transparent coating. The inks complement widely used magnetic separators in plastics recycling economically sort packaging. Magnomer’s ink technology can be used to resolve long standing sorting issues in package recycling such as label contamination.

“Magnomer won the MassChallenge Gold Award and was a Cleantech Open Northeast finalist. MassChallenge and Cleantech Open are collectively the best accelerators a startup could ask for. From mentors to funding, both MassChallenge and Cleantech Open

provide great access and have resources that complement each other very well for startups focused on sustainability.”

— Ravish Majithia, Founder & CEO, Magnomer

Flux Marine

2018 MassChallenge U.S. Early Stage; 2019 Cleantech Open National Grand Prize Runner Up, National People’s Choice Winner, Northeast Regional Winner, and Northeast People’s Choice Winner

Every boater’s nightmare is engine failure, an unnecessarily common and frustrating event. Drawing from the electrification revolution of the automotive industry, Flux Marine has adapted similar technology and developed an electric outboard propulsion system. Its ground-up design utilizes all the advantages of electric power, eliminating common failure points of existing gas engines. At the same time, Flux Marine provides increased performance and peace of mind in an innovative, sustainable package.

“Cleantech Open and MassChallenge have curated an amazing network of partners that supported us from our earliest stages and continue to support us today. From funders to legal counsel, these groups really know how to set up their startups for success.”

— Benjamin Sorkin, Chief Executive Officer, Flux Marine

RenewCO2

2020 Cleantech Open Northeast Winner; 2021 MassChallenge U.S. Early Stage

RenewCO2 is the future of carbon.  Our proprietary technology allows our customers to take CO2 and turn it into chemicals used for plastics and a green bottom line. Corporate thought leaders are committed to reduce CO2 emissions to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, but solutions are needed to go beyond energy optimization. Our technology allows existing producers of plastics to source a product that is completely carbon negative…that is, it actively reduces emissions from the chemical industry!

“Participating in the Cleantech Open and MassChallenge accelerators was a game-changer for RenewCO2. These intensive programs were crucial in shaping our business model and team. Notably, we met our first senior hire, Peter Shepard, who served as a judge for Cleantech Open and is now our COO, and we leveraged a lot of the partnership offerings from MassChallenge to build our organizational infrastructure”

— Dr. Anders B. Laursen, CEO, RenewCO2 Inc.

MassChallenge and Northeast Clean Energy Council Forward-Facing Partnership

The partnership between MassChallenge and Cleantech Open Northeast not only accelerates the growth of startups but also strengthens Massachusetts’ position as a global leader in cleantech innovation. By fostering collaboration and driving entrepreneurship, these organizations are catalyzing the development of solutions that address some of the most pressing challenges facing our planet.

MassChallenge and NECEC Institute, Inc. leverage their unique strengths to collaboratively support the growth of high-potential startups. MassChallenge, brings its extensive network and a distinctive zero-cost, zero-equity model, accelerates 500 startups annually and engages over 4,000 experts. NECEC Institute, with its programs Cleantech Open Northeast and Navigate, has a proven track record in the climatetech sector, working with over 600 alumni and providing valuable connections through events in Boston and New York City. Together, they enhance the startup ecosystem by leveraging MassChallenge’s broad acceleration expertise and NECEC’s deep industry-specific connections.

The two organizations’ partnership involves reciprocal promotion and resource sharing to maximize the benefits for startups. MassChallenge highlights Cleantech application information, offers quality referrals for NECEC’s Navigate program, and provides event tickets for NECEC representatives. NECEC, in turn, promotes MassChallenge programs to its network, invites MassChallenge representatives to key events, and grants access to its Green Future Gala. Both organizations aim to enhance each other’s visibility in the innovation community in order to better source and support high-impact startups.

Learn More About Cleantech Open Northeast

Cleantech Open Northeast is the Northeast region of Cleantech Open and is managed by NECEC as the on-the-ground affiliate. Cleantech Open is the world’s oldest and largest cleantech accelerator and is dedicated to providing entrepreneurs and technologists with the resources needed to launch a successful cleantech company. Its mission is to find, fund, and foster entrepreneurs with big ideas that address today’s most urgent energy, environmental, and economic challenges. Cleantech Open provides the infrastructure, expertise, and strategic relationships that turn clever ideas into successful global cleantech companies. Fueled by a network of more than 1,000 volunteers, Cleantech Open unites the public and private sectors in a shared vision for making America’s cleantech sector a thriving economic engine. Between 2005 and 2023, Cleantech Open Northeast has trained 601 early-stage clean technology startups through its annual business accelerator. 74% of Cleantech Open Northeast alumni are still active or have had a successful exit. Cleantech Open Northeast alumni have raised more than $1.47 billion, created more than 4,400 clean economy jobs, and generated more than $697 million in revenue. For more information, visit cleantechopen.org

Learn More 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 necec.org.

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