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Ranking cites top 10 universities for cleantech technologies

By David Schwartz
Published: January 6th, 2010

Shawn Lesser, president and founder of Atlanta-based Sustainable World Capital, which raises funds for private equity cleantech funds and private cleantech companies, peeked inside U.S. university labs and reports the best examples of collaboration among academics, businesses, and investors focused on clean technologies. “While many dotcom companies were started by students out of their dorm rooms or basements, don’t look for a similar trend in the cleantech world,” Lesser says. He ranks the top 10 U.S. cleantech universities in 2010 as follows:

Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT is home to the MIT Clean Energy Prize, which has helped launch several energy ventures, including FloDesign, FastCap Systems, Levant Power, Husk Insulation, and Covalent Solar. In addition, the MIT Energy Initiative, launched in September 2006, is an institute-wide initiative to help meet the energy needs of the future by improving existing systems. Notable MIT cleantech spinouts include A123 Systems, FastCap Systems, Levant Power, Trophos Energy, Promethean Power, 1366 Technologies, Sun Catalytix, and Agrivida.

University of California at Berkeley. Berkeley is home to several partnerships with big industry players. The Energy and Biosciences Institute is a partnership of UC Berkeley, Berkeley Lab, and the University of Illinois that is receiving $500 million from BP over 10 years. The Bio Energy Institute is a partnership of three national labs and three research universities in the San Francisco Bay area that is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) with $125 million over five years. And Berkeley’s proximity to Silicon Valley and the East Bay Cleantech Corridor provides visibility with the entrepreneurs, VCs, and consulting companies driving the growth of new energy. Notable cleantech spinoffs include Amyris Biotechnologies, Adura Technologies, Seeo, Aurora Biofuels, and Progressive Cooling Solutions.

The University of Texas in Austin. A historical leader in energy innovation, R&D, and teaching, UT-Austin has abundant oil and gas on its own lands and deep connections to the energy industry. UT is using its leadership in conventional energy as a launch pad for leadership in cleantech. The inventor of the lithium-ion battery, John Goodenough, is a professor of mechanical engineering at UT, and the university is a leader in algae-based biofuels. UT is a part of a multimillion dollar DARPA-sponsored project to produce jet fuels from algae. The DOE also awarded UT-Austin $35 million for research on carbon sequestration. Its notable cleantech spinouts include ActaCell, Advanced Hydro, Graphene Energy, Organic Fuels, and Inspired Solar.

Stanford University. Stanford has developed a long-range, $250-million initiative to reduce its energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. The university also established a $100 million research institute, the Precourt Institute for Energy, to focus on energy issues. In fact, the university spends more than $30 million annually on energy research. In addition, Stanford Technology Ventures Program (STVP), the entrepreneurship center at Stanford’s School of Engineering, is dedicated to accelerating high-tech entrepreneurship education and creating scholarly research on technology-based firms. Notable cleantech spinouts include Amprius, Nanostellar, Rolith, D.light Design, Driptech, and Veranda Solar.

University of Michigan. Driven by the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies in the Business School, the Center for Entrepreneurship in the College of Engineering, and the student organization MPowered, U-M students are highly engaged in cleantech entrepreneurship. The student-led Wolverine Venture Fund and the Frankel Commercialization Fund have invested in Environmental Operating Systems and Accio Energy, and the Universities TechArb program is poised to leverage U-M’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and stake out a leadership position in the green economy. Notable cleantech spinouts include T/J Technologies (acquired), Sensicore (acquired), Sakti3, and Flexsys Wind Energy.

University of Colorado at Boulder. Viewed as being at the forefront of the sustainability and cleantech revolution, CU-Boulder has created a joint energy institute with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The Renewable and Sustainable Energy Institute (RASEI) partners leading researchers from CU-Boulder and NREL on cross-disciplinary research. Currently, 19 major corporations sit on the RASEI leadership council, including Xcel Energy, ConocoPhilips, Toyota, SAIC, Good Energies, Wells Fargo, and Vestas. In addition, the university leads the Rocky Mountain region in funded research, which exceeds $350 million annually. Notable cleantech spinouts include Ion Engineering and OPX Biotechnologies.

University of Wisconsin at Madison. UW’s Solar Energy Lab, founded in 1954, is the oldest of its kind. More recently, the university has become a focal point for research in bio-energy. To coordinate energy-related research and education, a group of professors came together in 2006 to create the Energy Institute, which is focused on sustainability opportunities through “real world” design and engineering practices. Since then, U-W has become home to one of three DOE-funded Bioenergy Research Centers — the only one based at an academic institution. In 2009, U-W’s College of Engineering entered into a long-term partnership with Vestas, and last May, the university snagged 10 of 71 DOE funding awards for advanced nuclear research, totaling more than $5 million. Notable cleantech spinouts include Virent Energy Systems and AquaMost.

Cornell University. With world-class research in the physical sciences, engineering, and nanotechnology, Cornell is leading New York State’s task force to promote high-tech development through industry-higher education partnerships. Its campus-wide Center for a Sustainable Future fosters multidisciplinary research into new energy sources, environmental and biodiversity initiatives, and economic development projects to implement these programs globally. Notable cleantech spinouts include Novomer and iFyber.

Georgia Institute of Technology. Georgia Tech boasts more than $500 million in sponsored research, and its Advanced Technology Development Center is a nationally recognized science and technology incubator that helps Georgia entrepreneurs launch and build successful companies. Its VentureLab program also helps to move innovations out of university labs and into the marketplace by assessing their commercial potential and assisting in the development of new companies. VentureLab is currently advising a number of cleantech startup companies. Notable cleantech spinouts include Suniva, RideCell, and CoolClouds.

Washington State University. With its legacy in agriculture, power, and applied engineering, WSU’s Clean Technology program is growing rapidly in the ecology-minded Pacific Northwest. Plant science is the engine behind the opening of the Bioproducts Science and Engineering Laboratory, Battelle’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratories, and the recently funded Washington State Algae Alliance. One of WSU’s main objectives is the commercialization of aviation biofuels with partner Boeing Commercial Airlines. Notable cleantech spinouts include GoNano, Ajuga Biosciences, BioGasol, Schweitzer Engineering Labs, and Integrated Engineering Solutions.

Source: Cleantech Group

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