FRESNO, Calif. — Fresno State’s International Center for Water Technology received a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to create the Central Valley Regional Energy Innovation Accelerator program.

The International Center for Water Technology and the Water, Energy and Technology (WET) Center will oversee the three-year program that will assist 20 to 25 entrepreneurs in the water, energy and agricultural industries with guidance in product and technology development, commercialization, financial and market analysis, sales strategies and team building.

Participants will be part of a fourth-month cohort that includes a robust curriculum, mentorship, workshops, presentations and conferences with potential customers, industry leaders and investors.

Opportunities for accelerator companies include seed capital funding, office space, a cultivated network of mentors and other resources needed to help scale their startups in exchange for a small amount of equity.

The program is modeled after an award-winning entrepreneurship curriculum designed by Village Capital and based on its peer-selected investment model.

The federal grant originated from the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s Regional Innovation Strategies program. Out of 215 applicants, 35 organizations across the U.S. were selected for the $15 million program.

The accelerator program will leverage industry partnerships created by the state energy commission’s Central Valley regional cluster for agriculture, water and energy that was announced in 2016 and will also be located on the Fresno State campus. The cluster is funded by a $5 million grant that will encourage and assist entrepreneurs and emerging companies from 39 counties statewide to develop water and energy-saving technology. The cluster program will also create water management education programs to assist disadvantaged areas in the state.

“The accelerator and regional cluster strengthen the Central Valley’s national reputation as a leader in water, energy and ag technologies and innovation,” said Helle Petersen, WET Center manager. “The accelerator fills a critical gap in start-up support and is a logical next step for some of the top emerging companies from our cluster. The emerging companies’ viability will be strongly enhanced in their most sensitive period by securing funding and being surrounded by a network of industry experts and end-users. The area’s economic growth and core industries such as agriculture will benefit from the job creation, private investment and new technology.”

With Fresno State’s water research experience and its 1,000-acre campus farm, emerging companies can also work with campus faculty, staff and students and industry leaders from the nation’s leading agricultural area.

Accelerator program candidates will be evaluated based on their products’ scalability, potential return, highest impact, fundability, commercial value, personnel skills and leadership. More information will be available or by contacting Helle Petersen at

—Fresno State

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