The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Industry Growth Forum (IGF) can change everything for presenters and attendees in the form of crucial new contacts, new partnerships, and especially through additional funding to help propel them forward. The application window to become a presenter for 2023 closes on December 6.
“What I appreciate about the Industry Growth Forum is that they’ve cultivated a group of investors that focus on the tech and the mission,” said SweetSense CEO and founder Evan Thomas, a previous presenter at the IGF. “They are pre-calibrated to know that these are hard problems that deserve investment and attention.”
After presenting, Thomas’ company secured $5 million in venture capital (VC) funding, helping it expand operations to improve groundwater, land, and energy management.
Hosted by NREL’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center, the IGF, an annual event that returns May 2-3, 2023, is in its 28th year. It is the premier event, where cleantech entrepreneurs, investors, and experts from the industry and the public sector build relationships, showcase innovative technologies, and identify disruptive business solutions.
Each year, 40 startups participate in a pitch competition in front of an investor audience of more than 500 attendees from around the world. During the Industry Growth Forum, startups not only present but also join one-on-one meetings with investors. In 2022, attendees participated in nearly 900 meetings with a pool of 105 investors. These meetings are viewed as the high point of the event.
“You don’t have to win the competition or get one of the awards to get the benefit of the IGF,” said Bill Farris, NREL’s associate laboratory director for Innovation, Partnering, and Outreach. “Because of the one-on-one investor meetings, and other meetings as well, they all win. That is where success can really sprout and grow.”
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While important, the one-on-one meetings are not the only chances for networking during the event. In addition to organized networking events, many attendees schedule a time to network and say they find the experience invaluable.
“This is the return on investment—30 meetings in a day and a half. This is what I love specifically about events like this, is that when it’s organized you can really get what you need,” Peak Power’s Chief Strategy Officer and co-founder Imran Noorani said. “This is winning—these meetings. I wouldn’t have missed this event for the world.”
Peak Power, based out of Toronto, Canada, created a software platform that provides decarbonization solutions for commercial real estate and industrial customers by optimizing three core energy assets: battery energy storage systems, grid-interactive buildings, and electric vehicles. The Peak Synergy platform enables customers to minimize operational costs, reduce emissions, and sell energy back to the grid.
While the meetings are key, winning is still nice. During the 2022 Industry Growth Forum, Trevor Best, founder, and CEO of Syzygy Plasmonics, based out of Houston, Texas, won for Outstanding Venture—Commercialization Stage. Syzygy aims to replace chemical reactors powered by the combustion of fossil fuel with reactors powered with light from LEDs that are driven by renewable electricity. Removing the combustion from the trillion-dollar chemical value change is a major shift in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
“You never expect to win, you hope you do, but, wow,” Best said. “It’s big for us. It’s validation to our investors. It’s a huge compliment to Syzygy’s team and all the hard work we’ve done. This is proof point we are on the right track to decarbonizing the future. When we land this plane, it changes the world.”
Reminder, the application window to become a presenter at the 2023 Industry Growth Forum closes on December 6, so make sure you apply now.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. In the Featured Photo: The one-on-one meeting session at the 2022 Industry Growth Forum. Feature Photo Credit: Werner Slocum, NREL.