The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) Channel Partner Awards are competitive grants that serve to support the cleantech ecosystem by funding sustainability-focused incubators, accelerators, and university programs

Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator Grants $1M to Cleantech Projects

Trish Cozart and Ramsay Huntley | The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator

What is the Channel Partner Awards program? 

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) Channel Partner Awards are competitive grants that serve to support the cleantech ecosystem by funding sustainability-focused incubators, accelerators, and university programs as key stakeholders in supporting the Wells Fargo Foundation’s mission to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon economy.


How is the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) involved in this program?

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) co-administers the IN2 program with the Wells Fargo Foundation and acts as the fiscal agent for the Channel Partner Awards program.


How was the program started? 

The IN2 program launched the Channel Partner Awards program in 2017 to nurture an ecosystem in which more startups and innovators receive the technical and financial backing, as well as business mentoring and encouragement, they need to advance them to commercialization. The Channel Partners Awards program was established with $5 million in committed funding from the Wells Fargo Foundation to be distributed over four years.


What is the criteria for a company to be selected to win a Channel Partner award?

Proposals are scored based on their ability to further support the mission of advancing clean technology solutions, and their ability to ultimately be leveraged across the entire IN2 stakeholder network. Organizations are encouraged to partner with each other and incorporate diversity, environmental and/or STEM education, and low to moderate-income impact. These projects are meant to be unique, tackling creative and diverse challenges across the cleantech sector.


Why is the program important?

The Channel Partner Awards program creates a strong collaborative ecosystem of cleantech and agtech support across the county, not only for early-stage entrepreneurs, but for Channel Partner organizations as they create partnerships and share best practices.

The program also helps create diverse resources of cleantech incubation across the nation.


Besides the award, how do organizations benefit from being Channel Partners?

IN2 provides these organizations a unique funding opportunity for their portfolio companies, recognition of their involvement in the program in press releases and other marketing materials and provides networking opportunities with other Channel Partners and ongoing connections to organizations across value chains.  

The Channel Partners also receive a non-competitive $5000 award each year to support the development of their local cleantech ecosystem. This is often used for events or meetings that gather cleantech stakeholders and entrepreneurs together.


How does the IN2 program benefit from having Channel Partners and granting awards? 

Channel Partners serve as the pipeline of innovation to the IN2 program. Each application round, the program relies on these critical partners to send their best and brightest to apply. Channel Partners act as ambassadors and help their portfolio companies, or startups within their network, determine if IN2 is a good fit for their current needs.


What are some of the projects that have been funded through this year's Channel Partner Awards grant?

Examples of this year’s Channel Partner Award recipients include:

  • AgLaunch (Memphis) to create a common framework for connecting startups within its incubation program to historical and real-time farm data.
  • Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh) with several partners, to build a mature, supportive network and differentiate, elevate and amplify the energy, innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystem in Southwest Pennsylvania.
  • Innosphere (Fort Collins, Colo.) to research and address challenges related to artificial intelligence and Colorado’s transportation and energy industries, and to research future artificial intelligence applications to agriculture.
  • The Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center (Warren, Ohio) to build out the Appalachia regional cluster to develop a yearly event focused on energy storage and IoT.

A full list of Awarded projects can be found on the IN2 website:


The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

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