Baby come back: Clean energy jobs considered key to Midwest's post-pandemic recovery

Welcome back from the weekend! I’d like to thank my editor, Dan Haugen, for steering the Centered ship while I was on vacation. I’m ready to jump back in and bring you the top Midwest tech headlines:

💼 JOBS REPORT: Prior to the pandemic, more than 744,000 Midwesterners held clean energy jobs and the number of those jobs was growing in every state, the Clean Energy Trust notes in its annual Clean Jobs Midwest report. The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in job losses, but the report says clean energy is the key to recovery. It outlines recommended policies for lawmakers to reinvigorate the economy while supporting clean energy. Highlighted 2019 stats from the report:

  • The energy efficiency sector accounts for the most clean energy jobs in the Midwest, at more than 70%. That’s followed by advanced transportation, renewable energy, grid and storage, and clean fuels.

  • Although cities including Chicago, Detroit, and Minneapolis are some of the largest clean energy job hubs, more than 20% of jobs were located in rural areas.

  • More than 20% of the country’s clean energy jobs are located in the Midwest.

  • Clean energy jobs grew at two times the rate of overall employment in the Midwest.

💧 HYDROGEN: Hydrogen has the greatest future potential among technologies for seasonal energy storage, say researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Seasonal energy storage technologies could increase the shares of wind and solar energy sources.

🔬 RESEARCH: Scientists from Ames Laboratory, in collaboration with Iowa State University, discovered a process for building nanostructures that could eventually lead to applications for electronics and renewable energy technology.

(Rendering of new Syngenta R&D facility via Business Wire)

🌱 AGRICULTURE: Agtech company Syngenta will build a new R&D innovation center in Malta, Illinois. The 90-acre site is intended to boost innovations with seeds and agricultural digital technologies and to help solve key problems that farmers face, such as sustainability and environmental responsibility.

🤝 ACCELERATOR: Two Midwest startups that focus on sustainability are among the six chosen for the new cohort at the Gener8tor 12-week accelerator program in Madison, Wisconsin, according to Wisconsin Inno. Madison’s Cultured Decadence develops novel methods to make nutritious and sustainable seafood, and Kansas City, Missouri’s NEER will work on its machine learning-enabled, real-time water quality and infrastructure management platform.

📆 DEADLINE: The deadline has been extended for startups to apply for the inaugural cohort with Third Derivative, new accelerator from Rocky Mountain Institute and New Energy Nexus. Tech businesses have until July 15 to apply for the program, which is designed to boost the speed of scaling and commercializing climate innovations.

💰 FUNDING:

  • Columbus, Ohio-based venture capital firm Loud Capital raised $10 million this month for its Pride Fund 1, which will invest in early-stage startups and growth companies with LGBTQ+ founders, according to Cincy Inno.

  • Jet Constellations, a software company in Milwaukee, is launching a $50 million fund to invest in tech companies founded by Black people and other underrepresented demographics, reports the Milwaukee Business Journal. The fund will target scalable tech companies that are in or willing to relocate to and invest in Milwaukee, and it will be administered through the company’s social impact arm, the Milky Way Tech Hub.

  • Lightship Capital in Cincinnati — lauded as one of the rare VC firms managed by Black partners — is raising a $50 million fund to invest in underrepresented startup founders in the Midwest, reports The Wall Street Journal.

🧪 INTERNSHIP: Applications are due tomorrow for Argonne National Laboratory’s Student Research Participation Program fall session. The research internships encourage college undergraduate students to pursue STEM careers.

👏 RECOGNITION: Chicago-based Conagra Brands announced the recipients of its annual Sustainable Development Awards, through which employees suggest and develop ways to make the company more sustainable and reduce its carbon footprint. Food waste reduction, water conservation, and sustainable agriculture projects at company facilities in Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Minnesota are among the six award winners.

Help me cover the Midwest tech economy! Send news tips, press releases, and feedback to katie@centered.tech or connect on Twitter @centereddottech.


Centered is a publication of the Energy News Network, in partnership with the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation and mHUB.