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May 12, 2013 | Tom Ballard

Friday session explores regional “Cleantech Open” opportunity

Cleantech OpenIt was more of a two-hour conversation than an overview session when a dozen people attended Friday’s meeting on the “Cleantech Open” at Tech 20/20.

The Oak Ridge-based venture development organization and co-hosted the event that featured Rochelle Blaustein, former Senior Advisor for Technology Transfer in the U. S. Department of Energy and currently an Ambassador-at-Large for the Cleantech Open organization.

Blaustein told the group that she had two goals for her visit – begin the recruitment process for the 2014 competition and seek volunteers (mentors, judges and subject matter experts) for the 2013 competition that is already underway.

“Now is a wonderful time to get involved,” she said, adding that the region has “lots of pieces of the puzzle” with assets like Oak Ridge National Laboratory and its universities. “I see this (cleantech) as the next wave to ride.”

The group was surprised to learn that one local company is already involved. Patrick Hunt of Knoxville-based Shelton Group said the company actually applied earlier this month to be part of the 2013 competition. The company and all other applicants will learn the week after Memorial Day if they will proceed to the intense mentoring phase before regional competitions that will select winners for the “Global Forum” in November.

“The Cleantech Open is a network of networks,” Blaustein said. It relies on 2000 volunteers, such as her, and only a handful of staff members. It began in 2006 in Silicon Valley and has seen about 40 percent of the 700 competing companies raise more than $800 million in funding.

“The Cleantech Open is about partnering,” she explained, noting that she relocated last fall to the Research Triangle Park area and is helping expand the organization’s reach into the Southeast. Each region has “Metro Hubs” – currently RTP and Miami in the Southeast.

Attendees at the discussion seemed very interested in exploring the potential of establishing the Knoxville/Oak Ridge region as one of the Southeast hubs. They included representatives of LaunchTN, Venture Incite, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, The Biz Foundry regional accelerator, and Tech 20/20.

“This is not a business plan competition,” Blaustein said. Companies must be established and have a license or at least option on intellectual property.

More information about the Cleantech Open organization can be found at