New York’s ACRE Incubator is Churning Out Cleantech Startups, and Helping Build a New Engine for the City’s Economy

Micah Kotch, operations director of New York City’s only cleantech incubator, has developed a bit of a complex. The incubator, called NYC ACRE (Accelerator for a Clean & Renewable Economy), is housed within New York University’s better-known technology incubator on Varick Street. Since ACRE started up in July 2009, Kotch has watched a procession of media—from the Wall Street Journal to MSNBC—come to spotlight the tech side of the incubator, while virtually ignoring the ten or so companies on the cleantech side. Why? Because mobile apps and other emerging technologies are sexy, whereas “cleantech is viewed more as infrastructure,” Kotch says.

Maybe so, but cleantech is one part of New York’s infrastructure that the city has pegged as vital for its economic growth. In 2007, the New York City Investment Fund—a private group that promotes the diversification of New York’s economy—released a report urging local governments to support cleantech. That encouraged NYU’s Polytechnic University to apply for a grant from New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

The University won a four-year NYSERDA grant of $1.5 million, and ACRE was born.

Since then, the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) has signed on as a partner, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has publicly declared his support for the incubator’s mission. Cities “need to be bold” when it comes to figuring out new ways to reduce their impact on the environment, the mayor said during a press conference last fall at ACRE.

Kotch is fully on board with the mayor’s mission, and even though ACRE is barely two years old, it has chalked up some impressive metrics to prove NYC can be a player in cleantech. ACRE companies have raised $8 million so far, created 125 jobs, and … Next Page »

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