Clean energy startup hub EnergyLab secures $120,000 in funding from NSW Government as it welcomes its first residents

Energy Lab Piers Grove

A startup co-working and accelerator hub dedicated entirely to the advancement of clean energy is welcoming its newest residents in Sydney, after receiving $120,000 in grant funding from the New South Wales Government.

EnergyLab, founded by Piers Grove and Nick Lake, is located at the University of Technology Sydney’s Chippendale campus, and holds its first event on Thursday, February 16.

Grove tells StartupSmart the hub aims to fill an important gap in Sydney’s startup sector for the advancement of renewable energy ventures, which need unique support systems not available in the traditional startup sector to thrive.

“Clean tech startups take longer and have a shared regulatory challenge, and need the same resources,” Grove tells StartupSmart.

“To create a successful startup in clean tech, it requires a lot of persistence and lot of hard work, with an understanding there can be manufacturing challenges, there can be regulatory challenges, there can be partnering challenges to get to the market.”

In many cases, clean-tech-energy startups can take as many as seven years to develop, which means there’s a stark difference in traction and growth rates when compared to other tech startups, Grove says.

Jobs for NSW, which awarded the grant funding, has set a target with the non-profit startup hub to generate more than 70 new “direct jobs” in the clean energy sector each year.

“EnergyLab will have capacity for up to 60 clean energy entrepreneurs to operate,” Jobs for NSW chief executive Karen Borg said in a statement.

EnergyLab’s accelerator program

The hub, which spans across two floors, will facilitate a 12-month long accelerator program.

Accepted startups will be offered at least $50,000 in seed funding, free office space and access to investors and industry leaders. The seed capital will come from Artesian Ventures in return for 5% equity.

Applications for the first intake close on Sunday, February 19, and the four chosen startups will be revealed in April. Grove adds that a second batch will enter the program in September.

“They’ll be really diverse; most founders are first-time founders in the industry, many come from a technical background [with] Masters or PhDs,” he says.

“We also have innovation coming out of the CSIRO so we tend to have technically led startups.

“We’re particularly focused on female participation in the clean tech and renewable energy sector; we’ll be running a women in energy event series across the year. Our goal is to be 50-50 [men and women] by the end of the year.”

Grove says startups at EnergyLab will develop a range of new innovations and its first three residents are working on energy storage and what business models can arise from this, and energy productivity to find ways to better service low-income households.

Read more: We need cheap, clean and reliable power: How startups like Greensync can help

What it takes to build a clean energy startup

To founders interested in applying to the hub, Grove says, the team will be searching for startups with long-term dedication to the renewable energy sector.

“We’re asking them to demonstrate a need that can be met as the energy market transforms. It doesn’t need to be a need that’s immediately there, it can be something that’s coming up,” he says.

More importantly, Grove says, unlike most high-growth tech startups, clean energy ventures take much longer to form so founders who enter the lab should expect to be working on their ventures for 10 or 15 years.

“We are looking for good quality entrepreneurs who are in it for the the long haul,” he says.

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Dinushi Dias is a journalist at StartupSmart and multimedia content producer. When she’s out of the office, she works on social projects with her We Love It Productions family and buddying filmmakers.