Funding Resources for Cleantech Entrepreneurs

Through decades of working with cleantech investors and entrepreneurs, we know that securing funding for early-stage cleantech startups is hard. The Innovation & Entrepreneurship Center (IEC) was born from the need to help bridge the gaps among startups, investors, and technical expertise. With that mission in mind, here are five (mostly) early-stage funding resources for energy entrepreneurs:

  1. CalSEED

CalSEED is one of several initiatives funded by the California Energy Commission to advance energy innovation. This public sector investment helps to accelerate progress against the state of California’s clean energy goals and serves as an important avenue for economic development for the state.

CalSEED offers up to $600k in grants to eligible applicants. Unfortunately, only California based applicants are considered eligible, but with over $500m invested in California cleantech since 2015 (paywall), it may be worth the move to the Golden State.

  1. The Cleantech Open

Cleantech Open provides entrepreneurs and corporate innovators with the resources they need to launch and grow successful cleantech businesses. They also provide tangible benefits such as world-class mentoring, a 12-week series of intensive workshops, bootcamps and webinars, $75k in cash investment to winners of their regional and national showcasing competitions, $50,000 of in-kind services, and the chance to showcase your startup to investors, strategic partners, and customers through specialized connection events as well as through social media and press releases.

  1. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Grants

The SBIR program is a highly competitive program that encourages domestic small businesses to engage in Federal Research/Research and Development that has the potential for commercialization. Companies who progress through all three phases of the program have the opportunity to receive more than $1m in federal grants. If you’re interested in government grants, you should also explore Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) opportunities.

  1. Environmental Security Technology Certification (ESTCP) Program

The Program’s goal is to identify and demonstrate the most promising, innovative, and cost-effective technologies and methods that address the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) high-priority environmental requirements. Projects conduct formal demonstrations at DoD facilities and sites in operational settings to document and validate improved performance and cost savings. Researchers from Federal organizations, universities, and private industry can apply for ESTCP funding.

Learn more by checking out their webinar, ESTCP Funding Opportunities – FY 2019 on January 18, 2018, from 1:30-2:30 p.m. Eastern Time.

  1. NREL’s Industry Growth Forum

The Forum’s mission is to foster a collaborative community of thought leaders, build relationships among NREL experts, cleantech startups, investors, accelerators, incubators, and other cleantech industry leaders to showcase and explore innovative technologies and disruptive business solutions. By applying to present, entrepreneurs obtain exposure to over 100 investors on the selection committee, advance sign up for 1:1 meetings with investors, and discounted registration to attend the IGF. The Industry Growth Forum is currently accepting applications. Learn more here!

Of all the spaces to work in, cleantech is one of the most difficult. There are long R&D periods, difficult supply issues, and sometimes painful amounts of time spent educating customers. It is difficult, but it is not impossible. There are resources available and a strong community of brilliant and passionate people willing to help a promising company get to market.

Know of an early-stage funding opportunity in cleantech? Let us know by sending an email to



All readers are encouraged to leave comments. While all points of view are welcome on the NREL Industry Growth Forum blog, only comments that are courteous and on-topic will be posted. All comments will be reviewed, and NREL reserves the right to post comments at its discretion.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s