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Can The Heartland Become An Energy Tech Hub?

These Companies are Betting $50M That America’s Heartland Will Be The Next Energy Tech Hub

The United States is a global leader in energy technology hubs, but only in certain parts of the country. Of the top five global startup hubs for energy tech, four are in the U.S., according to StartUs Insights. California’s Silicon Valley ranks No. 1, followed by New York City, London, Los Angeles, and Boston. Combined, these five markets are home to more than 1,700 startups and account for nearly one-third of global energy activity – with most concentrated along the West Coast or Northeast.

A consortium of leading energy and investment companies wants to spread the wealth out a little more by establishing an energy tech hub in America’s heartland. In September, oil and gas suppliers Devon Energy, ONEOK and Williams Companies joined forces with venture capital firm Energy Innovation Capital (EIC) and nonprofit Tulsa Innovation Labs (TIL) on an initiative to attract energy technology startups to states in the middle of the country.

The initiative, spearheaded by EIC, aims to provide access to resources such as free office space and startup support services.

In addition, EIC will provide access to early-stage capital with a $50 million fund, called EIC Rose Rock, to help startups pilot innovative technologies. By fueling R&D and innovation, the project is expected to create more than 1,700 jobs across the energy industry.

Photo Courtesy EIC Rose Rock

“The EIC team has a proven track record in investing and helping build energy tech startups, including market leaders in solar, wind, grid management, and the sustainability of traditional energy that represent more than $20 billion in market value in aggregate,” EIC Managing Partner Kevin Skillern said in a press release. “We’re honored for the opportunity to build an energy tech ecosystem that spurs the creation of new, disruptive companies.”

The initiative was originally conceived by TIL, which was founded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation to build a tech hub in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

The idea is to help meet the nation’s energy needs – including its transition to clean energy – by investing in emerging technologies in a part of the country that lacks the startup resources found in coastal urban areas. It’s no coincidence that the initiative’s three energy partners are all headquartered in Oklahoma – Devon in Oklahoma City, and ONEOK and Williams in Tulsa.

“Tulsa has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to leverage its energy assets and position itself as a hub for energy tech research and commercialization,” said Nicholas Lalla, managing director of Tulsa Innovation Labs. “By diversifying investments in the industry, we will be able to diversify and future-proof energy job opportunities in Tulsa.” 

Photo Courtesy tulsa innovation labs
  • EIC Rose Rock: The $50 million in this fund will go toward Seed and Series A rounds for early-stage energy tech companies. Initial investors include Devon, ONEOK, Williams, and the George Kaiser Family Foundation. Together, they have already committed $30 million, with the rest expected to come from other national and regional investors.
  • EIC Fusion: This program will be run by EIC to connect Devon, ONEOK, and Williams with leading startups that are developing innovative solutions and technologies.
  • Rose Rock Bridge: An energy technology incubator program located in Tulsa, Rose Rock Bridge will provide support to early-stage energy tech startups – including up to $100,000 of capital, office space, and services to accelerate the commercialization of innovative products. The program began taking applications in early September, with qualifying companies accepted on a rolling basis. 
Video Courtesy Tulsa Innovation Labs


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