It’s that time of year again – the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Our Michigan sky has settled into wintery gray tones, our personal plans are all about the holidays (family, friends and food) and our auditors are wrapping up their annual work. As I reflect on the year, I can’t help but express thankfulness, especially since, as I said – it IS the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. So here is my list of what I am thankful for at NextEnergy:
I am thankful for the NextEnergy team…
I am thankful to the team – for a year of hard work, for their willingness to try new things, and for their commitment to following through on the less-than-fun things we need to do (and do well) in order to consistently deliver outstanding impact.
We’ve added a number of new people and roles here at NextEnergy, and are really hitting our stride. Our dynamic team has worked with over 330 companies and hosted over 1500 visitors at NextEnergy this year. We’ve also built up our team to more effectively run the diverse and ever-changing, ever-growing programs and events that happen here throughout the year.
Two new directors (Dave Hurst and Tim Johnson), three Venture for America (VFA) fellows (Danny Allen, Swad Komanduri and Charlie Molthrup), one systems analyst (Kyle Mills), one marketing & communications lead (Dionte Scott-Travick) and one accounting lead (Latonya Binford) joined our team this year. In recognition of her dedication and hard work in helping to grow Michigan’s advanced energy storage ecosystem, Kelly Jezierski was promoted to director of energy storage. The rest of the team: Jim Saber, Dan Radomski, Amanda Roraff, Roland Kibler, Josh Brugeman, Gina Schrader, Eric McDonald, Wayne Snyder, Catalina Coada, Todd Nelson, Heather Boyd, Melissa Smith, Aniela Kuzon, Sue Pinkowski, Rob Pearce, Chuck Moeser, Rosylyn Howard and Howard Heardon also made many contributions toward a truly successful year.
I’m thankful for our partners…
We couldn’t do what we do without our amazing partners — from the formal partners who fund us, to the informal partners who work with us across the innovation ecosystem. I am truly thankful to the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the New Economy Initiative (NEI) for their continued investment in NextEnergy. We are growing our national reputation and impact through the core services and assets built with MEDC and NEI funding:
- The DOE has recognized NextEnergy through the National Incubator Initiative for Clean Energy (NIICE)
- The work we do to support advanced lighting technologies, power electronics, energy storage, and transportation initiatives was highlighted this year through recognition and/or awards from the US Department of Energy (DOE), National Institute for Science and Technology (NIST), Economic Development Administration (EDA) and US Department of Transportation (DOT).
- I am also thankful for the amazing universities, SMART Zones and economic developers across the state, as well as the industry anchors and associations that we regularly work with as part of the innovation ecosystem. Tech-based economic growth is all about an effective ecosystem that connects the innovation pipeline with talent, capital and market opportunities, and we couldn’t have the economic impact we do without our partners.
I’m thankful for our successes…
- We have had significant impact and accomplished a number of program milestones and new activities at our Center, thanks to our team and partners:
- We helped drive investment and job growth in advanced energy technologies, businesses and industry clusters:
- Out of 50 entrepreneurial services providers and economic development entities tracked by the MEDC, NextEnergy ranked 4th and 5th best in terms of jobs created and total capital raised for our clients.
- We helped our clients secure $56 million in funding, $567 million in new business, and create or retain 573 jobs.
- Our venture network filed 117 new patents, copyrights and trademarks, commercialized 104 new products and entered into 17 new licensing agreements.
- We supported 13 of the 50+ semifinalists in the 2014 Accelerate Michigan Business Competition, and four of these companies finished in the top five.
We also hosted a number of high profile events, including:
Advanced Mobility Project Connected Vehicle Conference (February) with partner AutoBeat Group. The event culminated in a mobility innovation-focused PBS documentary that aired October 27, and seeded mobility cluster initiatives in southeast Michigan.
I-Corps Energy and Transportation (May-June) with partner University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship. The 6-week course customized the National Science Foundation (NSF) Innovation Corps training program for Energy and Transportation, and now serves as a national model for DOE LabCorps. We were awarded three years of funding through DOE’s NIICE program to host annual I-Corps Energy and Transportation sessions.
Smart America Challenge (June & August) with partners Bedrock, Nextek Power Systems and Toggled. The program, hosted by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), focused on the economic impact of cyber-physical systems. Two Detroit-based demonstrations were highlighted, and the program culminated with a summit in Washington DC in June and a roundtable hosted in Detroit in August. The event seeded smart city/smart mobility demonstration opportunities and discussions with a number of global players.
Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) World Congress (September) with partners Chrysler, Qualcomm, MEDC, DOT and ITS America. This international event brought 10,000 ITS professionals to the City of Detroit. NextEnergy hosted three technology demonstrations at our Center and received media coverage from Crain’s, WXYZ, Wards and others.
Meeting of the Minds (September-October) with partners The Kresge Foundation, Shell, Cisco and others. “Smart City” thought leaders convened at the College for Creative Studies. NextEnergy served as a workshop site for “Smart Mobility” and a workshop tour stop for “Innovation District.” Our involvement sparked discussions with global players focused on opportunities for smart city/smart mobility demonstrations.
DOE Solid State Lighting Market Development Workshop (November 3). NextEnergy served as a tour stop and hosted a reception for this national meeting, showcasing 11 Michigan advanced lighting technology companies currently demonstrating at our Center. This opportunity helped create national awareness of Michigan-based technologies.
Michigan Advanced Lighting Conference (November) convened 250+ advanced lighting technology providers and thought leaders for this annual conference. Partners include: Michigan Energy Office, Michigan Solid State Lighting Association (MSSLA), Illuminating Engineering Society (IES), Pure Michigan Business Connect, Michigan Advanced Lighting Controls Training Program (MALCTP), Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC), Clean Energy Roadmap, Green Team Coalition, and Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP). Sponsors include: Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, IBEW Local 58/NECA, and Efficiency United.
We accomplished significant investments in our Center, including:
Completion of the Innovation Center infrastructure improvements jointly funded through EDA and NEI. Included in the improvements were SCADA (communications systems), state of the art A/V, lighting and sound system, and electrical infrastructure upgrades to facilitate technology demonstrations at NextEnergy.
Attracted and accomplished new and/or updated demonstrations at NextEnergy including Chrysler vehicle to home (V2H) and vehicle to building (V2B); lighting, sensors and controls technologies from several Michigan providers and NextEnergy’s smart home AC/DC power networks.
Attracted new lab partners: US Green Building Council (USGBC) Detroit Regional Chapter, Heroes’ Alliance (TARDEC sponsored STEM program for high school students) and Qualcomm (HALO wireless charging and pedestrian awareness technology).
I’m thankful for the opportunities…
I’m thankful for the opportunities that the innovation ecosystem here in Michigan represents. Michigan has amazing networks to support tech-based economic development. We have world class university researchers, hundreds of start-ups, small to medium enterprises that serve as effective supply chain and manufacturing process innovators, and very large global players that serve as anchor companies for joint development programs, strategic investors or critical first customers.
Complementing this critical mass of capabilities along the road to commercialization is a “capital continuum” that includes angel groups, early seed funds from the State of Michigan, matching funds for federal programs, venture funds, corporate strategic funds as well as “traditional” venture, equity, and commercial banking.
Being here in Detroit puts NextEnergy at the center of that innovation ecosystem—in fact, we are part of the Detroit Innovation District, announced by Mayor Duggan in June. Given the amazing networks that have been built over the last several years, the tremendous opportunities that are accelerating as Detroit emerges from bankruptcy, I am most thankful for being here now: serving as the leader of a great team, with great partners, in a great place at the right time for boundless opportunities.
Overall, it’s been a wonderful year with many successes for our clients and our partners. Here’s to keeping the momentum going in 2015 and beyond…
President & CEO, NextEnergy