The last day.
It was pretty simple, really. Just collect your brainstormed ideas, distill them down into very few realistic ideas and then focus the best of those ideas into a final product. Once that is done, simply go up on stage and present in front of the 600 or so people that were attending. Simple… right? Right.
As you may remember from my explanation of Day 2 at the Sustainable Cleveland 2019 summit, I was in a group that focused on Advanced Energy Research. We were a group that had a much more diverse makeup than I had anticipated…I had expected only engineers in my quite limited sight. Instead we got a few engineers, a PR person, a patent lawyer, a stay-at-home mom, the head of financing at a non-profit, a start-up executive, a college student, a PR-person-turned-entrepreneur and a solar array installer. I couldn’t have made up that mix if I tried! But it was really great, the perspectives were unique and very much appreciated. Looking back at the roughly 6 hours of word we did, it’s amazing just how wide a breadth of ideas we covered and how we were able to reduce it to a final product.
So…what did we come up with?
Our group conceived an incubator of sorts, but with many more bells and whistles. Our focus was on the commercialization of technology, as that is probably the most difficult part in making a research concept into a tangible, sell-able product. As a starter name, we decided on “The Laboratories for Advanced Energy Commercialization” (LAEC…pronounced “LAKE”). Catchy, eh? I liked the name a lot. Anyway, the concept would be that eventually LAEC would become the center for all things advanced energy in Cleveland. The pinnacle of achievement would come when we constructed or rehabbed a building (LEED certified, of course) to serve as the center of advanced energy activity in Cleveland. This would include an “Energy Village”, where new technologies could be tested and showcased on model homes, in addition to subjecting it to the Cleveland elements. You think you have a great idea for a new solar panel? Well let’s see how it stands up to Cleveland’s cloudy days and great northern winters. Additionally, there would be a “PowerMart”, where now-commercialized technologies in their final form could be previewed and sold to municipalities and power companies from around the globe; this would help to showcase the region and bring outside investment to the area. Up to and past the point where a brick and mortar location for LAEC exists, the center would also act as a research resource and knowledge hub for all local and non-local researchers. Want to know which companies and Universities are researching or commercializing that new wind turbine technology? Check the LAEC databases or talk to a staff member we would hope to be able to hire. There would be maximum focus on being an independent, yet well connected and informed group that helps to bring all of the research and development firms in the area together around a common goal of increasing advanced energy knowledge.
There were many unanswered questions.
First off, funding. We really didn’t know where funding would come from for such a center. It’s possible that there are foundations out there that would be interested in sponsoring a center such as LAEC but never any guarantees. Other funding concerns would come later, if LAEC was ever truly established; how would the center be able to help to bring in funding for commercialization efforts that have always been so scarce in Cleveland in the first place? These are questions I am not sure the answer to.
If we take a further step back, another question remains: Doesn’t something like this already exist? Yes and no. There are many institutions that are serving the entrepreneurial crowd, some that serve the advanced energy crowd and some that serve the university crowd. However, we felt that there was not a central, all inclusive resource or institution that would allow for independent research and assistance in getting more money into the area for the commercialization of technology. Let’s be honest: Cleveland has many fine institutions that are capable of attracting funding and delivering worthwhile research. But while this does exist, the jobs are still not flooding the area as a result of any research breakthroughs. That is what LAEC would hope to deliver.
The summit left us on an interesting note. Our diverse team is now expected to go out and take action on a plan we set forth, including checkpoints at 3 weeks, 3 months and (1 to) 3 years. We are supposed to begin on our own but with some eventual guidance from the Mayor’s office at some point. As to when we will hear from them, I don’t know. What I do know is that I hear more about this summit and the resulting initiatives, I will continue to write about them here. If nothing ever comes of our ideas, I think there are other things that I could take away from the summit that will be equally, if not more, valuable than the plan for the LAEC.
So what did I really gain from the summit?
- The people I met at the summit was the first real glimpse I’ve had of the Cleveland working community outside of my company…and these were mostly non-engineering types. If nothing else, I learned that it is my duty to get out and begin networking better. Not for a better job or a higher salary, but because there are a lot of people out there with great ideas.
- Similar to above, I never realized the passion of the people that are in the sustainability movement in Cleveland. There are multiple organizations that meet on a regular basis to discuss issues that are important to them and can truly affect the entire community. See some of the links below that I had just found out were locally run. Who knew there was so much interest in sustainability in a city that had a burning river 40 years ago?
- More info
- E4S.org – Entrepreneurs for Sustainability
- Green City, Blue Lake — An institution that is now part of the Great Lakes Science Center
- GreenEnergyOhio.org — Cleveland chapter of the Columbus based initiative
- It’s hard to explain the feelings most people have about Cleveland. It’s like the quirky second cousin you never tell your friends about. You still like your cousin, especially certain things about them…but you have very mixed feelings towards that cousin when others ask you about them. I have always toted the benefits of Cleveland to friends when I could, but I have felt it drag on me too…the negativity of others can be infectious, especially in the winter. But this summit gave me hope; it made me realize there are other people out there that see the potential and the great things that can be done in Cleveland. And that always feels good, no matter where you’re from. It was refreshing to be around that kind of excitement and I really hope that I get to be around something like it again soon.
So that’s all I have to say about the Sustainable Cleveland summit for now. I think there will be a continuing dialogue among my group, with the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, with others from the conference and with outsiders that are not yet participating. If you have any kind of interest in participating in something like LAEC, please let me know, either by email, phone or in the comments. I think we can really make a difference for Cleveland and for progressing Advanced Energy technologies, but we need to work on it together.