Cleaning Up

Cleantech to Market program celebrates 10 successful years at Haas

Cleaning Up
Cleantech to Market Co-Directors Bev Alexander and Brian Steel are celebrating the 10th year of the C2M program, which advances low carbon energy, green chemistry, and clean water solutions to address climate change and other environmental issues.

How do the best ideas in clean technology make it from the whiteboard to the marketplace? It’s a long road, but Haas’ Cleantech to Market (C2M) program helps speed the journey. Over the past decade, C2M has guided more than 300 innovators in bringing promising cleantech solutions to market.

C2M just marked its tenth anniversary. Each year, the program’s founding director, Beverly Alexander, and co-director, Brian Steel, oversee six to eight student teams comprised of second-year Berkeley MBA students and other grad students from 20 disciplines campuswide. The teams match passions and expertise with cleantech researchers and entrepreneurs.

For the entrepreneurs, C2M is a chance to get technology assessment and market research to advance their budding ventures. For the students, it provides a novel interdisciplinary leadership experience with high-pressure deadlines and real-world consequences. “C2M is a true capstone experience that prepares and positions MBAs to become cleantech leaders,” Steel says.

C2M has guided more than 300 innovators in bringing promising cleantech solutions to market.

Maxwell Kushner-Lenhoff, MBA 18, says C2M was his most challenging experience at Haas. He led a top-performing team, working with the wastewater treatment startup MICROrganic Technologies. “It was a really good experience, learning what it takes to commercialize a new technology,” says Kushner-Lenhoff, who is now a global supply manager of battery materials at Tesla. He says C2M’s approach “first entailed understanding the technical hurdles, and then the commercial hurdles, and then working with an interdisciplinary team to package that into a coherent story.” He adds, “That basically describes my current job.”

Matthew Penfold, MBA 14, uses his C2M experience as vice president of commercialization for Advanced Microgrid Solutions. Penfold led a C2M team in 2013, working with CinderBio, a small company that came out of the Lawrence Berkeley

National Laboratory (LBL). CinderBio had developed a new class of enzymes with industrial applications.

When the company came to C2M, Co-Founder Jill Fuss says, “We had the technology, but we didn’t know what to do with it.” Penfold’s team had to find a market CinderBio could compete in. After several dead ends they landed on the dairy industry, which Fuss says is a great technical fit and one CinderBio is still pursuing.

C2M has benefited from sponsors who care enough to keep it going. Jed Bullard, BS 71, and his wife, Sherri, BA 72 (political science), are enthusiastic supporters of C2M. “We’re interested in programs that involve students in emerging technologies,” Bullard says. “C2M made sense to us because clean technology is not only important in California, but taking it to worldwide markets is critical.”

C2M has continued to evolve. Before it grew into a national program, C2M was initially founded by the LBL and by MBA and other grad students in the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative. Early on, participating technologies were little more than conceptual. In the past three years, however, the program has worked exclusively with existing startups. Says Steel, “These entrepreneurs put their lives into trying to make this a commercial success.” That ups the ante for everyone involved.