2022: The Year of Demonstrating Solutions

IN2 Blog
Feb 28, 2023 11:00 AM ET
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Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2)

2022 was the year of demonstrating solutions. Not only did our portfolio companies demonstrate solutions for potential customers and investors—IN2 demonstrated itself, yet again, as a solution for accelerating the transition to a low-carbon economy.

IN2 welcomed nine new companies into its portfolio in 2022, representing building, mobility, and agricultural technologies. The selected companies each received up to $250,000 in funding to test, validate and demonstrate their technologies with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) or the world-renowned Donald Danforth Plant Science Center. They are in good company—as of 2022, our portfolio of 65 now boasts $1.64 billion in follow-on capital since joining the program. That means our portfolio companies raise more than $88 for every $1 invested by IN2.

In April, we launched our first all-demonstration cohort which brought together five startups prepared to conduct a real-world installation of their technology with assistance from a community partner. With technical assistance from NREL, IN2 is helping these companies validate their solutions and build credibility to accelerate adoption.

For example, Kit Switch is working with Habitat for Humanity LA to deploy its plug-and-play kitchens in Los Angeles, and is doing a separate installation in San Francisco, to turn abandoned buildings into affordable apartment complexes. Community Energy Labs (CEL) is testing its model-predictive building control platform at more than 20 school campuses across the Pacific Northwest. NineDot Energy installed its first vehicle-to-grid charging system in a Brooklyn, New York, parking garage in partnership with Fermata Energy and Revel. In 2023, CorePower Magnetics plans to demonstrate its patented high-performance power electronics with Eaton, and BlocPower hopes to work with Steffes to replace fossil fuel-based appliances in low-income communities.

In June, we welcomed four companies focused on improving the resilience of global food systems into our newest agriculture cohort. These companies began collaborative research projects at the Danforth Center, and the now 20 companies in IN2’s agriculture cohorts continue work on commercializing solutions to improve the sustainability and resilience of agriculture.

Several of our agtech companies completed field trials with our partners at Farmers Business Network during the 2022 growing season to test their products on real farms, providing invaluable learning experiences. Intrinsyx Bio held trials in Indiana and Illinois, collecting usable data for learning how to adjust their product. New West Genetics held a trial in Montana to test two hemp hybrids for yield and quality. EarthSense learned how to adapt their solution to bigger fields and different weather patterns in the Midwest.

We were pleased to see the many accomplishments of our alumni companies over the past year, proving that IN2 provides an accelerated path to market. Eleven of our portfolio companies saw successful exits in the form of mergers or acquisitions. IN2 also serves as a breeding ground for companies to form strategic alliances and partnerships.

For example, alumni 75F and J2 Innovations announced a collaboration to improve the energy efficiency of mid-sized commercial buildings. 75F and J2 will standardize the use of a tool that allows community members to contribute peer-reviewed, plug-and-play digital twin models of building controls and equipment.

These examples only provide a small glimpse into the work that NREL and Wells Fargo do to catalyze cleantech innovation for the built environment and agriculture sector.

This year, IN2 also distributed $1 million to seven of our channel partners. Launched in 2017, the Channel Partner Strategic Awards foster an ecosystem of expertise and support within the IN2 Channel Partner network, which consists of more than 60 incubators, accelerators, and universities that mentor and refer companies to the IN2 program. For example, in 2022, BioGenerator helped Plastomics, an IN2 cohort company, spin out a new company called Solis Agrosciences, using IN2 award funding to help set up the new company. Since 2017, IN2 has distributed $6 million through the Channel Partner Strategic Awards.

The Channel Partner Strategic Awards also support IN2’s diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. In 2021, IN2 presented the Channel Partner Strategic Awards, totaling $350,000, to four organizations that provide entrepreneurial opportunities for historically underrepresented individuals in the cleantech industry. The awards supported thousands of BIPOC people and organizations in 2022 including six historically Black colleges and universities, 134 students, 70 farmers, 11 startups, six community partners, and 1,820 businesses.

As we enter our ninth year, IN2 aims to multiply the economic and environmental impact of its proven technology incubation model by bringing on new corporate partners that want to find cutting-edge solutions for a more sustainable future. For more information, read the 2022 Annual Report.

The Wells Fargo Innovation Incubator (IN2) is a technology incubator for cleantech startups. Co-founded and co-administered by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) since 2014, its results are transformative and catalytic.