State competition seeks clean-energy businesses

A $20 million business competition and business support program is accepting applications from innovative, clean-energy businesses seeking to locate in New York’s 11-county Southern Tier.

Announced Jan. 31 by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, 76West is one of the largest clean-energy business plan competitions in the nation. Cornell, as lead administrator in the Southern Tier Startup Alliance (STSA) in partnership with organizations throughout the state, will manage the new program. Applications are due March 15.

“Meeting evolving energy, environmental, and economic needs is one of the world’s critical challenges,” said Cornell President Elizabeth Garrett. “Cornell, directly and through its role in the Southern Tier Startup Alliance, is pleased to support and foster energy innovations that will have a lasting impact not only in our own backyard, but also globally.”

Funded through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, 76West is a four-year program that will distribute $2.5 million in awards each year beginning in 2016, including a $1 million award, one $500,000 award and four $250,000 awards. Mentorship, incubator space and other services will also be available.

Brian Bauer has been named STSA’s program director for 76West. “Brian’s experience as a mentor and entrepreneur, coupled with more than 30 years of experience in the energy industry, makes him an ideal choice to lead the program,” said Tom Schryver, executive director of Cornell’s Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

An international energy industry executive with experience in renewables, oil, natural gas and chemicals, Bauer recently relocated to Ithaca to focus on startups and tech innovation. He serves as director of STSA and as a mentor to Southern Tier startups.

“We are at the beginning of a transformation to our energy systems – it is nothing short of a clean energy revolution,” said Todd Cowen, faculty director for energy at Cornell’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future. “76West represents an incredible opportunity for the 11 counties of the Southern Tier to lead New York and the nation in creating the new clean-energy businesses that will transformation  not only our energy infrastructure but also our economy.”

76West is similar in design to 43North, a clean-technology incubator competition launched in Buffalo, New York, in 2014.

Applications from New York state, national and international companies will be accepted through March 15. The competition cycle consists of an application period, a review period, semifinal competition and final competition with business training and mentoring at every phase.

Clean energy is defined as anything that is creating positive change in the energy space, whether through clean energy sources, novel developments in energy efficiency or solutions in existing systems that increase energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions.

Recipients from out of state must move to the Southern Tier and maintain a presence there for at least two years. Companies already located in New York state must either move to the Southern Tier or establish a connection with the Southern Tier that creates jobs.

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Melissa Britcher is manager of strategic priority communications in University Relations.

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