CLEANcarolinas inaugural workshop features NSF Innovation Engines Program Director
CLEANcarolinas, led by UNC Charlotte’s Energy Production and Infrastructure Center (EPIC), reached a community engagement milestone by completing its inaugural workshop, “CLEANcarolinas: A Vision for Clean Energy Innovations to Drive Regional Economic Development in the Carolinas.” This forum for leaders in the energy industry was presented on November 1 in conjunction with the 2023 Making Energy Work conference, which included North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper as a featured speaker. The events were held in Raleigh and were hosted by the NC Sustainable Energy Association.
As key presenter of the CLEANcarolinas workshop, a U.S. National Science Foundation Regional Innovation Engines program director, Dr. Alan Cohen, spoke to the sellout crowd about the NSF’s Technology, Innovation and Partnerships (TIP) Directorate and the flagship Regional Innovation Engines program. A primary theme was the importance of use-inspired research and its translation to the market, enhancing the full cycle of discovery and innovation.
“The focus of TIP, which prioritizes the solutions that can be applied to real world challenges, directly aligns to the purpose of CLEANcarolinas,” said Mike Mazzola, Executive Director of EPIC and program director of CLEANcarolinas. “The resulting momentum built from our collective goals will steer the success of clean energy advancements in the Carolinas, creating an economic and workforce engine for the region. Our two states already host 260+ energy related companies with a $17.8 billion economic impact on this area, which accounts for 11.7% of the region’s economy. Imagine how CLEANcarolinas is poised to accelerate much-needed impact and serve as a model for other regions.”
The workshop included panel discussions on economic and workforce development within the clean energy sector. Panelists included UNC Charlotte’s Rob Cox, Associate Director of EPIC, and Saffeer Khan, Associate Professor of Practice and CLEANcarolinas program co-director, along with partners and other leaders in the energy sector.
UNC Charlotte has long been committed to leveraging its partnerships with government, industry, nonprofits, and communities to accelerate innovative research toward societal solutions, making EPIC the ideal leader for the CLEANcarolinas regional innovation engine. EPIC, together with partners like the South Carolina Research Authority, the NC Clean Energy Technology Center, E4 Carolinas, the NC Department of Commerce, and other leading higher education institutes, is actively developing a core resource that will steer the clean energy efforts and economy of the Carolinas. See the full list of CLEANcarolinas partners.
The success of the “Vision for Clean Energy Innovations” workshop has set a high bar for community engagement in the national Innovation Engines program.
As an NSF Regional Innovation Engine Development awardee, CLEANcarolinas has received crucial seed funding to begin establishing the Carolinas as a hub for clean energy innovation, use-inspired research and groundbreaking technologies. Through research, investment, education, and multi-stakeholder collaboration, CLEANcarolinas will nurture an innovation ecosystem for clean energy, driving energy solutions and economic growth that will enhance the region’s competitiveness.