Helping Climate Tech Start-ups Achieve Scale
For ClimateTech, a suite of programs administered by SecondMuse, is a global community of innovators, entrepreneurs, corporate partners, and investors uniting to elevate emerging climate tech founders in order to move the needle on the climate crisis in a positive direction. Their accelerators help early- and growth-stage innovators jump-start and scale their high-impact climate tech companies. Scale For ClimateTech has supported over 50 high-impact climate tech companies leave the nest and fly.
Many startup companies working to commercialise clean energy technologies face a difficult path to market. The capital intensity and long lead times associated with the initial manufacturing of products for the clean energy market are one obstacle. Startups often lack the knowledge if their product can be manufactured profitably at scale, let alone access to manufacturers equipped to make their clean tech product.. Without a strong manufacturing strategy tied to it, great, clean tech products often struggle to secure private investment or strategic corporate partnerships. The climate crisis demands immediate, wide scale action and the manufacturing of climate tech solutions should reflect that urgency.
Because hardware startups experience a cash flow squeeze when undertaking scaling up their manufacturing, they can understandably be risk averse. Without critical deliverables like technical drawings of the product designed for manufacture at scale, or without the appropriate runway to fund production to meet customer demand, a startup poses a significant risk for a manufacturing partner. A worthy startup may also find itself partnered with a manufacturer who does not understand the specific needs of the product and is underprepared to identify and leverage best practices for working with them. These challenges converge to create circumstances that are difficult for a startup to overcome and it can be their undoing.
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has done extensive customer discovery and research at the intersection of hardware startup companies, manufacturers, and investors. This research indicated that closing the manufacturing gap for startups can help disruptive cleantech innovations effectively scale. Fortunately, SecondMuse is on the case with Scale For ClimateTech.
The research for For ClimateTech began in 2017 when NYSERDA began attending hardware-focused events around New York state. These included workshops led by the SecondMuse Futureworks Incubator, a program aimed at accelerating the growth of hardware startups and advanced manufacturing entrepreneurs in New York City. NYSERDA met key stakeholders within the SecondMuse community such as the New York State Small Business Services, New York City Economic Development Corporation, Greentown Labs, NewLab, the NY Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), and many others.
SecondMuse had already successfully implemented programs in advanced manufacturing and understood deeply the challenges identified by NYSERDA and how to overcome them. They were able to inform NYSERDA of a gap in their existing funded programming related to manufacturing support for climate tech startups at the growth to commercialization stage and ultimately work to bridge it.
The program works by applying open innovation processes in the form of applications and challenges as well as open calls to source companies and innovators from various geographies to select and build cohorts of companies. In its dedicated programming, SecondMuse implements a manufacturing-focused curriculum flow over the course of 10–12 months of each program cycle. They begin by onboarding selected cohort members as a group through a deep dive educational workshop series on The Basics of Manufacturing.
Teams first do a self-assessment of their Manufacturing Readiness Level (MRL). They are then given one-on-one coaching and certification of their assessment to identify key high-risk areas (including cost analysis, design and engineering, facility management, and workforce) that could slow or even stop their path to commercialization. Through this exercise, cohort members create up to three manufacturing-related milestones in a Project Roadmap to work towards throughout the program. Based on this information, SecondMuse customises the curriculum to address commonalities across select manufacturing topics. These are delivered in a variety of programs that include tools and templates, workshops, and summits, and matchmaking with mentors and advisors with select expertise for both one-on-one support and monthly accountability board meetings.
For ClimateTech now also includes a venture program which supports earlier stage innovators as they jumpstart their climate tech companies. The venture program is additionally focused on achieving diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.
To date a total of 67 startups (including Canadian companies) have participated in the program. The initiative has supported over 50 high-impact climate tech companies to start and scale their products and leverage $160M+ in funding while creating 150 jobs, helping the companies that will build a greener tomorrow leave the nest and fly.