Michigan has a long been known as a hub for talent and innovation in technology. The clean energy industry is just one sector that is gaining momentum in the state as well as attention in national rankings, investment in innovation, and business development.
One example is Clean Edge’s annual Clean Tech Leadership Index, which recently ranked Michigan 14th in the nation for clean tech activity. In the same report, Metro Detroit led nationally in clean energy patents, and snagged fourth place in the investment, innovation and workforce category. Likewise, the state (via a project led by NextEnergy and Clean Energy Trust) was recently selected as one of the three regional incubators to support clean energy activity and increase investment in early stage companies with high-risk technologies. Further, clean energy manufacturers–like Suniva, a producer of crystalline silicon solar cells and modules–recognize the wealth of opportunities in the state and are choosing to locate their manufacturing facilities in Michigan.
As the clean energy industry grows, it is critical to assess the industry’s foundation to lay out a clear pathway for success. With this in mind, NextEnergy announces the launch of a new initiative, the Clean Energy Roadmap. Funded by the Department of Energy, the Clean Energy Roadmap is a collaborative effort between Michigan and Ohio to accelerate investment and technology innovation in the clean energy sector.
Partnering with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and NorTech–a Cleveland-based organization focused on technology-based economic development in Northeast Ohio–NextEnergy will focus on two specific areas in the clean energy sector: energy efficient building technologies and clean energy manufacturing processes. For each, we will create an inventory of services and products, identify business challenges, and develop an economic development strategy to ensure a sustainable, thriving clean energy cluster throughout the region.
Identifying Michigan’s clean energy community
Building a long-term economic development strategy requires taking a wide lens approach at learning more about the sector’s players, products, services and creating a baseline assessment of the status quo. As a first step to build that foundation, NextEnergy is developing an asset map that identifies the Michigan-based services and products offered in the energy efficient building technologies and clean energy manufacturing value and supply chains.
Our team will seek industry input through an extensive online survey and face-to-face interviews. The purpose of these exercises is not only to identify the different players in this space, but to also provide a venue to share business challenges and discover opportunities to break down barriers to success. Next, technology roadmaps will provide recommendations for reducing energy intensive processes and costs incurred in the clean energy production process. Throughout the project, NextEnergy and NorTech will host events and meetings that offer opportunities to conduct on-site value and supply chain analysis and face-to-face connections among industry players.
Local First: Benefits to the community and to the economy
From contractors and service providers to manufacturers and entrepreneurs–the Clean Energy Roadmap has the power to benefit all facets of the clean energy sector. Making connections to infuse local partners in the value and supply chain will help to build stronger regional relationships and a robust regional economy, while creating demand for job creation. Creating a collective regional voice will aid in shaping policy and improving the competitive positioning of clean energy technologies. For manufacturers, providing support to develop a cleaner, more efficient process aims to reduce operating and maintenance costs, driving a more globally competitive position.
Further the growing popularity of clean energy will impact job retention and talent attraction. In fact, the Brookings Institution reported millennials–a population that will account for 75% of the workforce by 2025 and one-third of US population–favor buying products and working for companies that support societal causes (like clean energy) that align with their own. Additionally, the clean energy sector attracts investment. Last month, Bloomberg New Energy Finance reported global investment in clean energy is rebounding from previous downfalls and ramping up in 2014.
Be an active part of growing the regional clean energy cluster
There are plenty of ways to get involved and be a part of the action. I encourage companies working in the clean energy sector to fill out the Clean Energy Roadmap survey and attend related industry events and meetings. Industry participation is critical to the success of our efforts to identify the clean energy sector’s trends, risks, and opportunities. To learn more, stay tuned to the Clean Energy Roadmap website for updates.
For more information on the Clean Energy Roadmap, and access to the survey (deadline 8/29/14) click here.