The California Energy Commission approved $5 million in follow-on funding for the California State University, Fresno Foundation to continue building the Central Valley’s energy innovation ecosystem through BlueTechValley Energy Innovation Cluster programs.

The Central Valley network provides resources and assets to create a fertile environment for clean energy, water and ag-tech entrepreneurs to turn visions into real-world solutions to meet California’s clean energy goals and build toward a sustainable future.

The California Energy Innovation Ecosystem is a statewide initiative of the Energy Commission that connects clean energy entrepreneurs with the funding, training, resources and expertise needed to turn technologies and concepts into products that benefit consumers, companies and utilities. In 2016, four energy innovation clusters were funded to provide services to California in the Central Valley, Los Angeles, San Diego and the Bay Area.

“The [California Energy Commission] is proud to continue its support of the BlueTechValley Energy Innovation Cluster,” said Jonah Steinbuck, the Energy Commission’s deputy director for energy research and development. “The programs and services they provide offer world-class support for entrepreneurs working to reduce water use and energy consumption in the industrial and agricultural sectors.”

The Water, Energy and Technology (WET) Center at Fresno State, which manages the BlueTechValley programs, is driven by goals to accelerate high-quality job growth, create economic opportunities, support the next generation of industry-leading companies and to enable an inclusive and just entrepreneurial innovation ecosystem through strong relationships and partnerships with disadvantaged and underserved communities.

“I am very excited that the WET Center is leading such critical conversations around water, energy and technology, as clean energy solutions in California are paramount,” said Fresno State President Saúl Jiménez-Sandoval. “The work that this grant supports will ensure Fresno State’s and our Central Valley’s leadership in finding sustainable solutions for water — our most precious resource.”

The WET Center has supported clean energy, water and ag-tech entrepreneurs through a variety of services including technology incubation, acceleration and commercialization; product development and testing; education and on-demand learning; one-on-one advisory services; and pitch sessions and networking.

The Central Valley cluster encompasses two-thirds of California’s geographic area and includes 39 of the state’s 58 counties.

“Our designated cluster hubs and an extensive network of strategic partners have been instrumental in interconnecting and expanding the wide range of services available to entrepreneurs from Bakersfield to the Northern California border,” said Helle Petersen, director of the WET Center. “This follow-on funding allows the WET Center to continue to support innovators and successfully bring new technologies to market. We are tremendously excited about what the next five years will bring.”

As of 2021, the WET Center had evaluated 474 companies and reported 583 jobs created. The 86 companies that completed the Valley Ventures Accelerator program raised a total of $205 million in total private and public funding.

(Written by Alexis Duncil)