A recent GreenBiz article about the Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator program, or IN2, describes how the company’s relationship with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is a secret weapon for the program’s success. From what started four years ago, the Denver-based program “has tripled in size, to $30 million, and is arguably one of the best launchpads for cleantech startups in the United States.”
"There’s no shortage of technology, but the ‘valley of death’ is very real for these companies," said Ashley Grosh, vice president and business initiatives manager of environmental affairs at Wells Fargo. "We can speed up the path to commercialization in a way that is best for the company, without their having to give up equity, while giving them access to NREL and giving them access to a corporate."
Participants get a $250,000 grant, most of which goes toward paying NREL researchers to work with each firm on its technology. The startups do not give up any equity in return.
After an IN2 startup goes through the program and NREL validates its technology, Wells Fargo offers up one of its banking branches as the startup’s first commercial customer, to try out the technology and gain experience working with a large corporation.