Why I’m excited about the BERC Energy Summit

Disclosure: I am co-chair responsible for organizing the BERC Summit

BERC Energy Summit

Next month, the UC Berkeley Energy and Resources Collaborative (BERC) will be hosting their annual Energy Summit — a two-day event showcasing the research and innovations in energy happening in the Berkeley community and beyond. The theme of the flagship Conference on Friday is “Collaborative Innovation, Systemic Change,” — in other words: it takes a community of public, private, and civil sector actors for energy innovations to commercialize successfully.

Living in the Bay Area, I frequently see the contrast between commercialization pathways for innovations in the energy field and in the software/technology fields. On the one hand, take the chart from M37’s Ilan Gur, below, which shows that private sector seed stage investing in cleantech is at an all time low:

US venture investment in cleantech startups since Q4 2010. Source: PricewaterhouseCoopers / National Venture Capital Association MoneyTree™ Report, based on data from Thomson Reuters

Source: M37

Cleantech innovations have to rely almost entirely on University and government R&D programs to get off the ground today. On the other hand, the overall trend for seed-stage financing is at an all time high:


Source: CB Insights

While Series A and B follow-on deals are still lagging for many of these tech companies, it is still clear that new innovations in software/tech have ample private-sector opportunities to get the capital they need to prove out their concepts. Add this distinction to the facts that that cleantech companies are frequently much more capital intensive, can have considerably longer sales cycles, and are frequently involved with more complex regulatory processes than other tech companies, and it becomes clear just how different energy technology commercialization can be.

The Keynote Plenary session at the BERC Conference will touch on many of these themes as the participants share their perspectives on how successful innovation happens in the energy field. Panelists will include ARPA-E’s Cheryl Martin, KPCB’s Brook Porter, and Google’s John Woolard, who all bring a wealth of experience collaborating among various public and private sector actors to advance the energy field.

And while the panelists won’t be talking CDR explicitly, I think many of the lessons they share will be directly relevant to helping the CDR field develop over the next decades. Which is why I’m excited for the BERC Summit. And if this piques your interest as well, check out www.bercenergysummit.com for more info!


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