The Breakthrough Energy Fellows program is continuing to grow – adding 28 new Innovators and Business Fellows, representing 7 countries and 13 companies as part of its third cohort.
The mission of the Fellows program is to provide technical support, funding, and business resources to companies that are working on climate breakthroughs in industries that are notoriously hard to decarbonize, like cement and steel production. Without this type of tailored support, many innovations fall into the “valley of death”, or fail to scale to the level needed for commercialization and wide-spread adoption.
“Our Fellows program seeks to discover the next generation of climate tech breakthroughs that address all Five Grand Challenges: Agriculture, Manufacturing, Buildings, Transportation, and Electricity,” says Ashley Grosh, BE Vice President and Fellows Program Director. “We look for innovators across continents, disciplines, backgrounds, and experiences. We’re excited to welcome this new group of groundbreaking leaders helping to build a clean energy future.”
Our Third Cohort
Kathryn Polkoff, an Innovator Fellow joining the third cohort from Raleigh, North Carolina, has spent the past decade working at the intersection of livestock and biotechnology. Kathryn and her co-founder at Hoofprint Biome – Innovator Fellow Scott Collins – have discovered novel enzymes that naturally prevent methane production in cattle. Through the Fellows program, Polkoff and Collins hope to make progress on a probiotic that releases these enzymes in the cow’s stomach – a potential technological breakthrough that cuts methane emissions while also improving animal health and nutrition.
“I’m most excited about the opportunity to make technical progress during the program and then share perspectives and insights with the [agricultural] community – these farmers are the ones tackling the toughest challenges humanity has ever faced,” Polkoff said.
Evan Gardner, a 2023 Innovator Fellow who co-founded Get Lit Technologies, a company that is working on a way to convert saltwater brines into lithium for batteries, is coming to entrepreneurship after more than a decade in academic research.
“I’m eager to translate my learnings from academia into technologies that solve major, real-world problems,” Gardner said. “And I’m excited to do so alongside many talented teams in the Breakthrough Energy Fellows community.”
To be selected, Innovator Fellows must go through a rigorous application and selection process led by the Breakthrough Energy team along with input from external experts. This process includes a technology assessment, deep dive interviews, and technical milestone identification. Their technologies had to demonstrate the potential to reduce 500 million tons of greenhouse gasses per year at scale.
Our 2023 Innovator fellows will be joined by four Business Fellows – experienced leaders who provide guidance and strategic input to Innovators on their path to commercialization. This year, our business fellows bring over eight decades of combined experience in roles at the intersection of technology and business, across industries like power generation, green chemicals, real estate and renewable energy.
Since its launch in 2021, the Fellows program has supported 90 Fellows across 15 countries. This portfolio of Fellows projects have made significant progress toward their technical milestones, advanced their IP, launched pilot projects, grown the size of their teams, raised millions of dollars in funding, connected with climate leaders, established industry partnerships, and much more.
Ted McKlveen, a 2021 Fellow who is the co-founder and CEO of Verne and a recent graduate of the program said his time as a BE Fellow dramatically accelerated the growth of his company. They grew from three people to sixteen, built four different iterations of their prototype in larger and larger scale, and are now in purchasing conversations with some of the largest trucking companies in the world.
“I learned more from the other Fellows in this network who are trying to do similar things than I did in my MBA program,” McKlveen said. “It was especially interesting to learn from the parallels with different industries.”
“The Breakthrough Energy Fellows program has already aided in the advancement of technologies and formation of companies that will be critical to a successful clean energy transition,” said 2023 Innovator Fellow and co-founder of Olokun Materials Lacey Reddix. “I’m excited Olokun will now have the support and guidance it needs, and to be among those Breakthrough Energy Fellows companies truly impacting the world for the better.”
“This spirit of collaboration and partnership between the Fellows is one of the things that makes the program unique and high value,” according to Grosh. “We are also intentional about helping the Fellows curate a vast network of key industry partners, mentors and other advisors that provide critical insights early in their development process, helping them to refine their core product market fit.”
For a complete list of the 2023 Breakthrough Energy Fellows, including more detailed information on their technologies and companies, please visit the BE Fellows website. Nominations and applications for the 2024 Breakthrough Energy Fellows program are now open.