Colorado and Wyoming are collaborating to support a regional team working to power innovative pathways toward climate resiliency by utilizing data, predictive modeling and cutting edge technology to address key challenges. The Colorado-Wyoming Regional Innovation Engine (CO-WY Engine) is one of 16 finalists in the first-ever National Science Foundation (NSF) Regional Innovation Engines Competition, which will award up to $160 million in funding over the next ten years.
Officials in both states recognize the opportunity to secure federal funding that will transform the region into a national leader in developing climate-resilient and sustainable technologies and expand economic opportunities and workforce development in these key areas.
To elevate the CO-WY Engine, Colorado and Wyoming have both committed to align resources that will support the Engine’s goals, including increased engagement of the business community with the region’s research institutions and Federal Labs; attracting more funding to support the commercialization and monetization of new technologies; and growing diversity within the region’s workforce to include rural communities.
“We are thrilled to partner with Wyoming on this plan as Colorado is leading our country on environmental tech to help address climate challenges. This funding will grow the work of our universities and federal labs while creating more jobs,” said Gov. Jared Polis.
“The pathway to a prosperous global future will be paved with adequate, affordable energy and a rigorous commitment to a healthy environment,” Gov. Gordon said. “Wyoming understands the urgency of addressing climate challenges. Our unequaled leadership in innovating and developing needed technologies supports Wyoming’s all-of-the-above energy strategy. This approach will grow our economy, develop our workforce and support thriving communities.”
The CO-WY Engine, spearheaded by Innosphere Ventures, looks to transform the region into a leader in the development and commercialization of climate-resilient and sustainable technologies. These technologies will support communities across the region and the country to monitor, mitigate and adapt to climate impacts. They are expected to have direct applications to water resource management, agriculture technology, and extreme weather, including wildfires and flooding.
“We can solve so many climate-related challenges with technology-driven solutions, and NSF funding will dramatically increase what we can accomplish,” said Mike Freeman, CEO of Innosphere Ventures and lead of the CO-WY Engine’s proposal to the NSF. “We are pleased to have the support of both Colorado and Wyoming, which have such a strong history of collaboration and share our commitment to creating an inclusive, nationally and internationally relevant Engine that employs a diverse workforce and benefits rural and urban communities alike.”
Among the initiatives being explored by Colorado and Wyoming, the Wyoming Business Council, Wyoming Venture Capital, the Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade, and Colorado’s Venture Capital Authority are assessing the possibility of a venture capital fund or funds that will invest in startups commercializing technologies that emerge from the CO-WY Engine.
These commitments build upon existing collaboration between the two states, including a four state Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with New Mexico and Utah to create the Western Inter-State Hydrogen Hub to advance a regional hydrogen economy. Colorado and Wyoming have also signed an MoU outlining the states’ commitments to explore the development of direct air capture to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
“Across the Midwest and Mountain States, Wyoming and Colorado rise to the top as one of only a handful of regions that have the talented workforce, collaborative business ecosystem, and research and development capabilities to become a national leader in developing climate resilient technologies. NSF funding will accelerate that growth exponentially, and we are committed to working with Colorado to seize this opportunity,” said Josh Dorrell, CEO of the Wyoming Business Council.
“In Wyoming, Colorado has found a nimble partner equally committed to growing a strong, diversified economy, engaging urban and rural communities alike, and leveraging our regional strengths to create new commercial opportunities that also create climate resiliency. Elevating shared priorities and resources like a regional venture capital fund will directly support the development of the CO-WY Engine as a national and global leader in climate-resilient technologies,” said Eve Lieberman, OEDIT Executive Director.
The NSF Engines program envisions supporting multiple flourishing regional innovation ecosystems across the U.S., spurring economic growth in regions that have not fully participated in the technology boom of the past few decades.The NSF is expected to announce successful Regional Innovation Engines this fall.