New Innovators Network Announcement


Sept. 28, 2021



Grid Catalyst announces new Innovators Network to boost clean energy jobs, fight climate change

Minnesota institutions, municipalities, and Fortune 500 companies join forces to provide demonstration and mentorship opportunities for inaugural clean energy cohort

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Minnesota clean energy accelerator Grid Catalyst today announced the formation of its Innovators Network. The founding group consists of 12 Fortune 500 companies, cities and public institutions that will support the accelerator’s first-ever cohort, allowing clean energy startups to test their technologies in real-life scenarios. Grid Catalyst is a program of Clean Energy Economy MN, and is the only Midwest clean energy accelerator focused on project demonstration and deploying solutions for northern climate challenges.

“As a brand-new accelerator in its pilot year, we feel honored and grateful for the participation of such monumental organizations in our Innovators Network,” said Nina Axelson, founder of Grid Catalyst. “The impact these partners will have on the future of Minnesota’s clean energy economy cannot be overstated. I look forward to seeing what innovative new technologies become a reality because of them.”

The Innovators Network is a coalition of funders, investors and other partners committed to accelerating clean energy jobs and innovative solutions to climate change. Members are either hosts, who will act as sites for cohort members’ demonstration projects, or conduits, who will support the mission by helping make connections and identify potential demonstration sites.

“3M is excited to be one of the founding partners in the Innovators Network,” said Ben Wright, senior vice president of 3M’s venture capital arm, 3M Ventures. “Sustainability is a core value of our company. We’re committed to supporting the innovators working to combat climate change and create new jobs through clean energy.”

Grid Catalyst will be accepting applications for cohort members beginning October 4. Qualifying startups will focus on addressing climate change through decarbonization solutions; advancing Minnesota’s economic position in clean energy; delivering the technology needed for northern climates; and prepare a product or service ready for demonstration. Application priority will be given to startups led by people of color, women and LGBTQIA+. Up to six startups will be chosen for the cohort and matched with a demonstration partner in November, with demonstration projects beginning in 2022.

“This is a thrilling opportunity to bring together leaders from both the private and public sectors, driving real, tangible results that benefit the entire state,” said Jessica Hellmann, executive director and Ecolab chair for environmental leadership at the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment. “I’m grateful for Grid Catalyst’s collaboration with the University and look forward to seeing what we achieve together.”

In addition to the Innovators Network, Grid Catalyst has formed a partnership with the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development’s Launch Minnesota – a public/private initiative working to elevate Minnesota as a top state for startups and innovation. The partnership will provide Grid Catalyst cohort members access to Launch Minnesota programming to support them in their startup journey.

“This partnership will make the state’s clean energy economy and startup ecosystem stronger and more prepared to deploy solutions needed by the communities and businesses that make Minnesota great,” said Neela Mollgaard, executive director of Launch Minnesota. “Together, we will make Minnesota a go-to market for clean energy business and deployment.”

To learn more about the Grid Catalyst cohort and how to apply, visit


About Grid Catalyst

Grid Catalyst is a Minnesota clean energy accelerator focused on connecting entrepreneurs to project demonstration, mentorship and development, and investments to grow their business. Founded in 2021, Grid Catalyst recruits companies to conduct demonstration projects for technology specifically built for cold weather climates. Grid Catalyst is a program of Clean Energy Economy Minnesota (CEEM). CEEM is an industry-led nonprofit organization advancing and promoting the transition to a clean energy economy through education, policymaking, and business advocacy.

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Nina Axelson

Grid Catalyst was founded in 2021 by Nina Axelson, an industry leader with nearly 20 years of experience in energy and sustainability. Previously, Nina was the VP of Sustainability for Ever-Green Energy and served on the board of the International District Energy Association.

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