Move over, Silicon Valley. The Midwest is poised to drive clean energy innovation.
When we think of an “Innovation Hub,” we usually picture Silicon Valley. The location of thousands of growing startups and renowned high-tech companies, the Valley led the country in a wave of software and services innovation. With this narrow focus of attention on the Valley and a few other coastal areas such as New York and Boston, we’ve overlooked a wave of innovation arising in the middle of the country. Innovative solutions in clean energy, sustainability, manufacturing, and more are being developed and embraced by cities across the Midwest. What we are seeing in the Midwest reflects a broader trend identified in a book by AOL co-founder, Steve Case. He makes the case that Middle America will be the location of a “third wave” of innovation, including large growth in the energy and transportation sectors. It is time to pay attention to this mass potential for new clean energy innovation as well as existing success stories. By fostering and learning from these innovation ecosystems, we could see even greater rewards benefiting Americans from the middle of the country to the coasts.
In this series, we highlight exciting clean energy innovation ecosystems in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio. These states, while typically viewed as fossil-dependent regions, have a longer history with clean energy innovation than one might suspect and are beginning to further embrace the substantial potential of the growing clean energy sector. They each have unique stories of overcoming challenges with innovative solutions, as well as promising areas for further growth. As clean energy technologies continue to develop in areas not traditionally thought of as hubs of innovation, Third Way wants to tell some of the success stories and challenges left to be overcome in these innovation ecosystems.