BRITE Energy Innovators

Unleashing the Energy Revolution in Northeast Ohio: Key Takeaways from Cleantech NEO

Author: Vicki Rusu, Strategic Partnerships Director at BRITE

On the wall outside my office at BRITE is a quote that I love: “Do you know what my favorite renewable fuel is? An ecosystem for innovation.” – Thomas Friedman

If you’ve spent any time with me in the 10 months since I started my journey as BRITE’s Strategic Partnerships Director, you’ve heard me use the word “ecosystem” a lot. It’s a concept that I believe is vitally important to what we’re building at BRITE. Our startups and their innovations are at the center, the heartbeat of BRITE, and that next circle around them is the clean energy ecosystem that continues to serve as the renewable fuel of the work that we do. One can’t exist without the other, and they continually make each other stronger.

Last week, we had the pleasure of welcoming our Northeast Ohio ecosystem to The City Club of Cleveland for an engaging afternoon of learning, networking, and exploring opportunities for growth. Our speakers brought incredible insight and shared their expertise, taking audience questions and helping provide meaningful feedback to advance our clean energy economy across Northeast Ohio. Here’s a quick recap from CleanTech NEO:

Investing in the US Clean Energy and Automotive Supply Chains 

Featuring Nana Menya Ayensu, Special Assistant to the President on Climate Policy, Finance, and Innovation at The White House 
  • Ohio is well-positioned to see continued growth in the clean energy and automotive supply chains 
  • The administration is committed to diversify supply chains and invest in small- and mid-size manufacturing companies

During his interview with Tony Richardson, President of The George Gund Foundation, Nana took questions from the audience, noting that the White House is aware and working to address barriers to accessing federal support, and encouraging the members of our ecosystem to continue collaborating and working toward advancing clean energy solutions.

Tony Richardson, President of The George Gund Foundation, interviews Nana Menya Ayensa, Special Assistant to the President on Climate Policy, Finance and Innovation

The Green Economy is the Future Economy 

Bethia Burke, President of the Fund for our Economic Future, joined us to delve into the details of “The Practical Guide to the Green Economy.” Some key takeaways include: 
  •  The green economy will favor places – like Northeast Ohio – that make things, but we are not automatically positioned to win
  • There is no clear guide on what to do, and climate action plans don’t typically map to economic development plans, leaving a significant gap between goals and execution 
  • The Guide offers three strategic imperatives to begin moving toward a Green Economy: Greening Job Hubs, Future-Proofing Businesses, and Maximizing Community Benefits


I can’t recommend The Practical Guide to the Green Economy enough. Grab a cup of coffee (or two, it’s a deep dive), and you’ll walk away with a solid understanding of both the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for our region. You can download a digital copy here: The Practical Guide to the Green Economy 

Bethia Burke, President of the Fund for Our Economic Future, presents The Practical Guide to the Green Economy.

Building the Transition: Panel Discussion

John Duer, Chief Legal Officer at Illuminate USA, Tom Gallagher, VP Operations at Ultium Cells, and Robert Schlaeger of Hon Hai USA (Foxconn) joined us to discuss the work they are doing within our clean energy ecosystem, why they chose to locate in Ohio, some of their challenges that are yet to be solved, and shared their wish lists for future innovations. 

This deeply insightful panel was full of useful information, including discussions around: 

  • The significant impact of government investment in energy projects and companies 
  • The importance of building a strong supply chain and regional infrastructure to support it 
  • Collaboration with educational institutions to drive workforce development and innovation 
  • The challenges of navigating complex small government structure as a multinational business 
  • Technological innovations and future needs, including continued advancement of battery technology and energy storage, cells for solar panels, and the importance of utilizing AI in the manufacturing process for electric vehicles 
John Duer, Tom Gallagher, and Robert Schlaeger (l to r) discuss the challenges and opportunities of building clean energy companies in Northeast Ohio.

Unleashing the Energy Revolution: Opportunities for Advancing Cleantech 

Closing Keynote, The Honorable Daniel Simmons, Principal of Simmons Energy and Environmental Strategies; Former Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the Department of Energy, closed out our discussions with his expertise in the federal funding landscape. 
  • Discussion of the bipartisan support that exists for early-stage research into renewable energy, vehicle technologies, and advanced manufacturing, but recognition of the gap for later-stage funding and deployment of technologies 
  • The importance of aligning DOE goals with congressional appropriations, which typically drive the funding available through the agency 
  • Shared the importance of aligning project proposals with the specific requirements laid out by the DOE when pursuing funding opportunities – answer the questions fully and succinctly! 
  • Encouraged entrepreneurs to engage with the DOE, members of Congress, and other stakeholders as often as possible to directly share the impact their decisions have on the ecosystem
  • Emphasized the need to develop unambiguously better technologies to drive future advancements in clean energy
The Honorable Daniel Simmons shares the stage with BRITE’s own Rick Stockburger.

BRITEspark Awards

For our first-ever BRITEspark Awards, we recognized three individuals who have each made significant commitments to our clean energy ecosystem across three categories: Startup, Collegiate, and Women in Cleantech. The 2024 BRITEspark Award Winners are: 
  • Startup: Steve Flaherty, CEO and Founder of necoTech USA 
  • Women in Cleantech: Erika Boeing, CEO and Founder of Accelerate Wind
  • Collegiate: Ben Booker, a third-year student at University of Cincinnati
Tim Ward of necoTECH accepts the award on behalf of Steve Flaherty, alongside Jing Lyon, BRITE Program Director.
Erika Boeing, Founder & CEO of Accelerate Wind, accepts her award next to BRITE’s Program Director, Jing Lyon

Startup Showcase 

We featured 11 of BRITE’s 115 Startup Member Companies during our Startup Showcase, where participants learned more about the work startups right here in Ohio are doing to innovate and accelerate the clean energy economy. Participating startups and a quick overview of their tech can be found here: Cleantech NEO Startup Showcase Participants 

Join the Energy Revolution

Want more events like Cleantech NEO, to stay up to date on our virtual cleantech learning series, or to participate in happy hours and exclusive dinners with others passionate about cleantech and the energy revolution? BRITEnetwork is the ONLY clean energy ecosystem in Ohio dedicated to advancing the clean energy economy.

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