The accelerator will be a hands-on, 12-week program to support early stage energy startups from around the world, all of which will have access to the Rice Alliance network of energy corporations, investors and advisers, Rice Alliance will leverage existing relationships with energy corporations and investors, as well as its experiences from the Rice Business Plan Competition, energy tech venture forums and the Rice University OwlSpark accelerator.
The alliance, which is celebrating its 20th anniversary, supports entrepreneurship education, technology commercialization and the launch of technology companies. Since its inception, Rice Alliance has connected with more than 2,675 startups that have raised $21.5 billion in funding.
With a community of entrepreneurs and investors, the accelerator is a commitment to expand that impact and continue supporting society’s transition to clean energy.
Joined by the Greater Houston Partnership, Mayor Sylvester Turner, Rice University President David Leebron and Wells Fargo, the accelerator’s launch announcement closed the 18th annual Rice Alliance Energy Tech Venture Forum, which was held virtually this year. The forum brought together more than 1,000 participants, including representatives from major energy investment firms and corporations.
“Houston is our home, and we are strong believers in our city,” said Brad Burke, managing director of the alliance. “It is here that some of the greatest minds in energy are innovating. New technologies, many driven by startup companies, have enabled the U.S. to become energy self-sufficient for the first time in history, but global energy needs are growing and changing. We need to apply that same entrepreneurial spirit and technology innovation to meet these challenges.”
Wells Fargo, a long-time Rice Alliance partner, provided lead funding to launch the program. In 2015, the alliance became a founding channel partner of the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2), a $50 million collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy’s national renewable energy lab.
“The Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator is poised to increase the quality and quantity of clean-tech startups in the area, which benefits Houston but also has the potential to benefit the greater global economy,” said Jenny Flores, head of small business growth philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “At Wells Fargo, we believe that climate change continues to be one of the most urgent environmental and social issues of our time.”
The energy accelerator will support, champion, and align with the momentum and efforts happening in Houston to further the energy transition: “Houston truly is the hub of the global energy industry, and it is here where the next generation of energy leaders will create and scale innovations that will change the world,” said Bob Harvey, President and CEO at the Greater Houston Partnership. “Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship has long served as a catalyst for positioning Houston as a leading center of technology entrepreneurship. The new Clean Energy Accelerator will build on that legacy and align with the work already taking place in Houston’s robust energy innovation ecosystem.”
The accelerator will support Houston’s recently-released Climate Action Plan, a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make Houston carbon neutral by 2050. The plan is “a science-based, community-driven greenhouse gas emissions reduction strategy” as well as the goal of “being a leader in the global energy transition,” according to the site.
Turner said one of the plan’s goals is to create 50 “Energy 2.0” companies by 2025. “It’s a very ambitious goal, and it’s one the City of Houston, as a municipality, cannot do alone,” he said. “Today’s announcement of the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator is a great example of what we have been seeking to build in Houston, an innovation ecosystem that can develop creative solutions to address our toughest challenges.”
The accelerator will be based in The Ion, the innovation and startup hub that will be the centerpiece of the innovation district Rice University is developing in Houston’s midtown area.
“I am proud and grateful that this initiative fully aligns with Rice University’s strategic plan, the Vision for the Second Century,” said Rice President David Leebron. “We have committed that Rice University will engage with and empower the City of Houston as an exemplary 21st-century metropolis. As one of our leading industries, the energy industry is an essential and foundational part of our Houston story.”
Among the community supporters for the new accelerator are a host of Houston’s energy industry leaders including BP, Chevron Technology Ventures, Equinor, ExxonMobil, NRG, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures, Shell Ventures, Sunnova, Total, Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. and Halliburton Labs. Other community supporters include Houston Exponential, the Center for Houston’s Future and Greentown Labs.
“We are thrilled to support the Rice Alliance and its new accelerator,” said Scott Gale, executive director of Halliburton Labs. “A clean energy future is a tremendous challenge which will require a thriving startup community focused on the right problems.” Halliburton Labs is a collaborative environment where entrepreneurs, academics, investors, and industrial labs come together to advance cleaner affordable energy.
“As a power company, we recognize the critical role we play in decarbonizing our economy. At NRG, we are dedicated to doing our part through our comprehensive sustainability framework and ambitious carbon reduction goals,” said Mauricio Gutierrez, President and Chief Executive Officer of NRG Energy, Inc. “A key part of this strategy is engaging in partnerships with organizations like the Rice Alliance, which is developing innovative approaches to accelerating the energy transition. NRG is excited to be a Founding Supporter of the Rice Alliance Clean Energy Accelerator and take part in collective action towards a sustainable future.”
“Shell has supported the Rice Alliance since the first business plan competition in 2001 and we are proud to be a part of their amazing growth and global prominence,” said Kirk Coburn, Investment Director, Shell Ventures, ”We are excited to be partnering with them on their newest initiative to support energy technology innovations.”
“Chevron Technology Ventures was one of the first organizations to sponsor the Rice Alliance and we are proud to now support the addition of the Rice Energy Accelerator, which will strengthen the support for energy innovators to address the challenges of the energy transition,” said Barbara Burger, Chevron Vice President, Innovation and President, Technology Ventures.
“As a major energy player, Total is committed to making energy safer, more affordable, cleaner, and accessible to as many people as possible,” said Vincent Saubestre, CEO and President, Total EP Research & Technology USA, “Having access to disruptive companies and supporting promising technologies is a way to achieve our ambition. For 20 years, the Rice Alliance has supported innovation energy technology startups. We are pleased to support their vision to further accelerate the adoption of cleaner energy solutions targeting carbon neutrality.”
“As a leading residential solar and battery storage service provider headquartered in Houston, we are proud to be a Founding Supporter of the Rice Alliance’s Energy & Clean Technology Accelerator,” said John Berger, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Sunnova Energy International Inc. “With our city’s innate entrepreneurial spirit and energy-focused history, the accelerator will play a key role in shaping Houston’s future as the energy transition leader.”
“ExxonMobil is committed to producing the energy essential for modern day life in a way that protects people, the environment and the well-being of the communities where we operate,” said Nazeer Bhore, Global Manager, Technology Scouting and Venturing, ExxonMobil. “We are proud to be a founding supporter of the Rice Alliance Accelerator as the Accelerator helps bring to market innovations aimed at enhancing the way we produce energy now and in the future.”
“Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures scouts and invests in new technologies across the energy spectrum, and as a longtime partner of the Rice Alliance we are excited to be part of this new initiative to accelerate the development and deployment of new technologies that address energy challenges,” said Jim Sledzik, Managing Director, North America, Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures.
Applications for startups will open in early 2021. For information visit RiceCleanEnergy.org.