Demonstration Cohorts

An accelerator providing pilot project opportunities for late-stage startups with market-ready prototypes.

Are you pilot-ready?

Pilot projects are key to showing proof-of-concept and bridging the commercialization valley-of-death. Our customized cohort program matches promising innovators with Minnesota-based public and private partners to demonstrate emerging technologies in real-world applications.

Read our 2025 application overview and program information below before starting your application.

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Program benefits:

Is my startup qualified?

To apply for the program, you must be able to check these boxes:

2025 Cohort Timeline

Gridcatalyst cohort timeline 2025

Are you pilot-ready? 

Grid Catalyst is one of the only accelerator programs in the country providing pilot project opportunities for late-stage startups with market-ready prototypes. Our program matches promising innovators with Minnesota-based partners interested in demonstrating emerging technology on the path to commercialization. We recognize that pilot projects are key to bridging the commercialization valley-of-death and have customized a program to help startups with proof-of-concept in real-world applications. 

2024 Demonstration Cohort 

We are thrilled to welcome six startups into the 2024 Demonstration Cohort, working with partners across the State of Minnesota to demonstrate their cutting-edge technologies. Meet the cohort.

Thanks to our partners in Minnesota Energy Alley for the seed funding making this year’s projects possible. 

Applications for the 2025 cohort will open in June. Subscribe to stay updated on the program.

A Program Focused on Late-Stage Startups

Our Demonstration Cohort is catered for late-stage businesses that have a pilot-ready prototype or have already initiated demonstration or commercialization projects that will benefit from a higher visibility installation and from participation in our accelerator program. Startups selected as finalists will have the opportunity to pitch to major utility, business, higher education campus, community, or nonprofit from our Innovators Network. Startups qualify for our cohort if an Innovators Network partner selects them for development of a pilot project.

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Selection Criteria 

Grid Catalyst is committed to creating impact with our platform, which requires us to consider several key criteria throughout the screening process:

Innovation

How unique is your value proposition and how does it compare to other market offerings? 

Equity & Access

We are seeking startups with diverse founders and representation on their leadership team, recognizing that these startups have unique needs and opportunities, and have historically been underrepresented and under-resourced in the startup and energy communities.

Impact

What potential impact will your solution have in addressing carbon and climate change, creating a more equitable and just energy system, and bolstering the local community?

Viability

We are seeking technologies that have been vetted and tested through research and development to meet technical and commercial viability expectations for the program.

Matchmaking

Our partners in the Innovators Network make the ultimate selection for the cohort, from the finalist pool. They will select startups they are interested in developing 2025 pilot projects with. The pitch event with these partners is scheduled for September 25, 2024.

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Innovation  

How unique is your value proposition and how does it compare to other market offerings? 

Impact 

When implemented, what potential impact will your solution have in addressing carbon and climate change, creating a more equitable and just energy system, and bolstering local communities, regional economics, and workforce development?

Equity and Access

We are seeking startups with diverse founders and representation on their leadership team, recognizing that these startups have unique needs and opportunities, and have historically been underrepresented and under-resourced in the startup and energy communities. 

Viability

We are seeking technologies that have been vetted and tested through research and development to meet technical and commercial viability expectations for the program.

Matchmaking with Innovators Network

Our partners in the Innovators Network make the ultimate selection for the cohort, from the finalist pool. They will select startups they are interested in developing 2025 pilot projects with. The pitch event with these partners is scheduled for September 25, 2024.

Preferred Qualifications

Grid Catalyst seeks to be a transformative program that uses its resources and capabilities to elevate startups with both unique needs and unique ideas. As part of this commitment, we are prioritizing diverse founders in our application process and encouraging startups led by people of color, women, and LGBTQIA+ to apply.

We will also be developing additional programming and resources for diverse founders beyond this demonstration cohort, so invite these leaders to reach out to our program staff to discuss how we might work together to develop your clean energy or climate tech idea or solution.

Information Sessions

If you aren’t sure whether you qualify or just want to learn more about our program, please consider attending one of our program information sessions. We encourage innovators at any stage to attend the session and learn more about the accelerator platform and experience, as well as future plans to work more with earlier-stage ventures.

Meetings are held in Central Standard Time and via Zoom.

June 20, 11am – 12pm CST [Registration link]

July 10, 1pm – 2pm CST [Registration link

July 23, 9am – 10am CST [Registration link]

If you can’t make one of our info sessions, please book an office hours session with our team. Book through Calendly.

Program Terms & Conditions

  • Startups are not required to headquarter in Minnesota, but projects are required to be located in Minnesota for this cohort. Startups are responsible for accurately representing their capability to do business in Minnesota, including obtaining any necessary permits.
  • Startups will have the option to receive seed funding to enable their demonstration project. In exchange for funding, startups are asked to sign a SAFE or convertible note (maximum of $100,000). Pilots may exceed $100,000, with additional grant funds and pilot host cost-share expected for most projects. If pilot funding is not needed, cohort members will grant Grid Catalyst Future Funding Participation Agreements. We are committed to transparency and fairness throughout this process, intending to advance your business and innovation while providing a revolving resource for future cohorts.  
  • Startups will receive guidance and guidelines for communicating their role in the program and are expected to strictly adhere to them. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Startups Will Participate in the 2025 Demonstration Cohort? 

We anticipate selecting 4-6 startups for the 2025 Demonstration Cohort.

Does My Startup Have To Be Incorporated to Participate?

For the 2025 Demonstration Cohort, yes. Future programming may allow for earlier stage ventures. 

Does My Startup Have to Be Headquartered or Doing Business in Minnesota? 

No, there will be spots for companies based outside of Minnesota in the 2025 Demonstration Cohort. However, preference may be given to Minnesota-based companies. Also, companies from out-of-state must explain how they can manage a project in Minnesota, including how they will plan for time at project sites and working with partners. Companies must be legally eligible to do business in Minnesota, including necessary licensure and permitting requirements. 

Are Service-Based Companies Eligible to Apply? 

Yes, services are also a crucial way that we can address climate change. However, the service must be an emerging solution that is new-to-market and would benefit specifically from our program structure.

How Developed Must My Solution Be to Participate in the Cohort? 

If the solution is a product or technology (rather than a service), the working prototype must be ready for a “commercial” application. We do not accept prototypes only developed for lab testing and that aren’t designed or prepared for an integrated pilot application. Future cohorts will consider earlier-stage ventures. The company is not required to have an existing demonstration or commercial project.

Are Certain Types of Technologies of Greater Interest? 

All emerging clean energy technologies that address climate change are eligible. The team will need to consider the impact and viability of certain categories, particularly those with longer development cycles and permitting and regulatory requirements. High-potential technology categories: grid advancement and adaptation, renewable thermal, building electrification, EV charging, energy efficiency, small-scale batteries, and controls and metering.

Program Partners

This program is made possible through the support and partnership of Minnesota Energy Alley, funded by the Minnesota Department of Commerce and led by Clean Energy Economy Minnesota. We are working together to drive innovation and secure the state’s energy and economic development future.

In addition, we are grateful to the dozens of partners in our Innovators Network, who lend their expertise, support, and facilities to enable these demonstration projects.

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