By John Doussard, Oregon Innovation Council

The 4th annual Oregon BEST FEST – the gathering of cleantech business leaders, entrepreneurs, university researchers, investors, students, NGO’s, and others – finished up last week as the largest BEST FEST to date. More than 280 people attended at Portland’s historic Eastside Annex. Gov. John Kitzhaber spoke about Oregon’s potential as a cleantech leader, and keynote speakers Karina Edmonds from the US. Energy Dept. and Kirk Washington from Yaletown Venture Partners talked about the role cleantech startups and innovation play in economic development.

In addition to commercialization case studies, focused workshops, research poster sessions – and, of course, networking – the conference also provided several unique opportunities for participants, including:

  • Oregon Cleantech Start-up/Investor Dinner

Oregon BEST hosted a dinner prior to BEST FEST that included the CEOs from 14 Oregon cleantech startup companies and a group of local and out-of-state investors. The out-of-town investors included representatives from Seattle and Vancouver BC venture capital firms as well as corporate venture executives from Dow Chemical and Saint-Gobain. The investors were impressed by the breadth and quality of the cleantech startups and some follow-on discussions are expected. The out of-town guests were very impressed by Portland and Oregon’s focus on sustainability and cleantech.

  • Green and the Government: Insights into Government Funding & Financing for Small Cleantech Businesses

Cosponsored by the U.S. Small Business Administration and featuring the SBA’s Regional Administrator of Region X, Calvin Goings, the event drew more than 20 attendees gained tips and insights on how to use government contracts and tap research and development funding to diversify their revenue and build successful cleantech companies. Most importantly, they shared tips and ideas informally amongst themselves and established connections with Small Business Administration staff who are experts on making it easy to work with perhaps the most important cleantech player in the world: the federal government. The group included cleantech companies ranging from makers of solar-powered drones, data center cooling systems, and solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations to a manufacturer of low cost window inserts and a developer of biomass energy projects.

  • Deep Retrofits Forum

Oregon BEST’s Sustainable Built Environment Program hosted the first of its new series of “Research Agenda Development Forums,” this first one focused on Deep Retrofits of Existing Buildings. Some 24 leaders from across the design and construction industry, universities, NGOs, and government came together to articulate priority research projects that would transform their ability to deliver deep retrofits of existing buildings more effectively and consistently. The forum resulted in 10 detailed project descriptions that Oregon BEST will perform an initial literature review of, publish, and subsequently work to build collaborative research teams to execute. Forums are also scheduled for November (focused on Materials) and February (focused on Occupant Behavior).