McKinstry Innovation Center Cozies into Position as Cleantech ‘Accelerator’, Director Elsa Croonquist On What’s Next

8/11/10

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entirely new, but are really more about ways of improving on existing systems.

“All of the tools, all of the appliances, all of the systems that they are using are to retrofit,” existing buildings, Croonquist said. “If you look at that pipeline of new technologies that EcoFab is putting into a house, or McKinstry is putting into an industrial space—that’s what I’m seeing a lot of right now.”

McKinstry Innovation Center

McKinstry Innovation Center

With three new tenants in four months, Croonquist has kept busy. The next project on the table is readying a corner office for its newest upcoming tenant—a center for Washington state’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education foundation, which Croonquist says will bring the tenant count up to 20 people within 18 months.

But this doesn’t mean she’s not still looking for new cleantech companies to bring into the fold.

“I am meeting everybody who is a small business working in energy—they’re walking through my door,” she says. One of the first things Croonquist looks at when evaluating if a company will be a good fit for McKinstry, is whether or not it is beyond the startup stage. Beyond that, she takes into account referrals from other cleantech companies and investors, specific technological innovations, and patents, and whether a company would benefit from both McKinstry’s resources, and the collaborative relationship with the its other tenants.

“The idea is that you are developing a technology, a product, a service that is saving energy—that is our main goal,” Croonquist says, adding. “Because we are on the McKinstry campus, we have all of our experts to call on.”

The most important factor, however, is the meet and greet.

Waste bins at the center

Waste bins at the center

“We sit down and see if there’s a relationship,” she says. “Sometimes they don’t need McKinstry’s engineering—they just want to be around likeminded people.”

And that, she notes, is what the center is all about.

“The idea is that the tenants will have their shared office space and all of their meetings will happen here in the center,” Croonquist says. And in addition to providing resources and space for its tenants, the Center also hosts classes for the tenants on varying topics that will help them develop their business, and thrive.

And while the center is still in its infancy, we can expect to see a lot more out of it before the year’s end.

“I have several companies that I’m talking to,” Croonquist says. “There are three groups that I’m talking to right now, and three that I’m hoping to close.” Hopefully, that will happen before the end of 2010, she adds.

Thea Chard is a correspondent for Xconomy Seattle. You can e-mail her at theachard@gmail.com or follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/theachard. Follow @

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