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State fuels four cleantech incubators with $300,000 in new grants

Posted by Scott Kirsner  September 5, 2013 01:18 PM

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At a moment when it feels like the cleantech industry could use any help it can get, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is handing out $300,000 grants to incubators that could produce the next generation of fast-growing companies. The biggest chunk of money, $190,000, goes to Greentown Labs, a shared space for energy entrepreneurs and nonprofits, which is expanding and relocating from Boston to Somerville. Greentown, founded in 2010, houses almost 30 different ventures.

The other incubators are in Beverly, Dartmouth, and Springfield. Most organize workshops and seminars in addition to providing workspace and mentoring to resident entrepreneurs. North Shore InnoVentures gets $60,000; it is home to three clean energy startups, but provides mentoring and other services to another six member companies. The nine startups employ 33 workers in total, according to a release from the MassCEC. The Advanced Technology Manufacturing Center at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth collects $30,000. It currently hosts two startups. The Scibelli Enterprise Center at Springfield Technical Community College, established in 1999, gets $20,000. It has three startups in residence.

jeremymcd.jpgThis is the MassCEC's first funding program focused explicitly on supporting incubators. The money is designed to help support their day-to-day operations, says Jeremy McDiarmid, left, the MassCEC's senior director of innovation and industry support. "We want to have them continue to provide space and resources for these very new companies," he says. "We want to put them on a path to self-sufficiency, understanding that they play a crucial role for the overall clean energy ecosystem." McDiarmid acknowledges that investors may be more reluctant today than in the past to provide funding to fledgling cleantech companies, but he says "there is still a vibrant culture, and a lot of cool ideas, particularly in Boston and Cambridge."

The MassCEC is a publicly-funded agency that aims to support the growth of the clean energy sector in Massachusetts, and promote the use of clean energy by homeowners and businesses. It gets its funding from the Renewable Energy Trust Fund, which in turn gets its money from Massachusetts electricity ratepayers.

(In the photo up top is Boston Mayor Thomas Menino speaking at Greentown Labs' current space in Boston.)

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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