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03-26-2012

Sprout Foundation Loan Fund for Student Start-Ups in Green Innovation Established at Clarkson University

Clarkson University has received a generous grant from the Sprout Foundation Inc. of Denver, Colo., to establish the Sprout Foundation Loan Fund for Student Start-Ups in Green Innovation.

The Sprout Foundation was established by a member of the class of 1969, Robert Fanch, and his wife, Suzanne, in 2005 with the primary mission of providing support to organizations and institutions that serve the environment and the needs of children. The Foundation favors projects that have a permanent impact upon and achieve these goals.

The Sprout Foundation Loan Fund for Student Start-Ups in Green Innovation is a revolving loan fund for student-inspired and student-run start-ups that address issues and challenges associated with a sustainable environment.

Oversight of the loan fund will be shared by Clarkson’s Institute for a Sustainable Environment, Shipley Center for Innovation, and Reh Center for Entrepreneurship.

The loans will have a significant impact by resourcing proof of concept and/or the scale-up of prototypes to establish commercial operations. By its grant, the Sprout Foundation has created an enduring source of capital that will enable students to focus their creative ideas and prove their viability.

Clarkson students Sean P. Bonnell ’10, ’11 MBA, Daegan A.J. Gonyer ’09, ’12 M.S., and Shaun M. Jones ’10, ’12 M.E. have created a company called Blue Sphere Industries, which has been selected as the first recipient of a loan from the Sprout Foundation Loan Fund.

The Blue Sphere Industries project is the Controlled Environment High-Rise Farm (CEHRF), a high-tech greenhouse built with a passive solar design and implementing sustainable LED lighting, aeroponic, water, and anaerobic waste to energy systems.

A small-scale pilot unit was constructed on the Clarkson campus and is serving as a test site for the High-Rise Farm’s technology and systems. The loan will be used to scale the project up to a 100-unit greenhouse providing fresh vegetables during the winter months to ARAMARK, Clarkson’s dining service, and eventually to other customers.

“We are grateful for the support of the Sprout Foundation as it provides much needed capital to take our pilot to the next level,” said Gonyer on behalf of Blue Sphere Industries. “The ability to utilize the High-Rise Farm for our small-scale pilot unit and space in Clarkson’s Peyton Hall for fabrication of additional units, results in a business plan to ramp up production quickly and efficiently.”

“It has been exciting be a part of the Blue Sphere Industries start-up since its beginning,” said Susan E. Powers, associate director of the Institute for a Sustainable Environment and Spence Professor in Sustainable Environmental Systems. “Being able to help students see their projects through from the concept stage to scale up is truly gratifying.”

“The Shipley Center for Innovation was created to accelerate the commercialization of discovery-driven Clarkson innovations into the marketplace,” said Matthew E. Draper, deputy director of the Shipley Center for Innovation. “The Blue Sphere Industries start-up is a prime example of putting our mission into practice.” 

“Clarkson has a proven track record of positively impacting the local and regional economy,” said Marc S. Compeau, director of the Reh Center for Entrepreneurship. “The Reh Center for Entrepreneurship is thrilled to be a partner in the Blue Sphere Industries start-up, as it further demonstrates our commitment to bring entrepreneurial, real-world experiences to Clarkson students.” 

Clarkson University launches leaders into the global economy. One in five alumni already leads as a CEO, VP or equivalent senior executive of a company. Located just outside the Adirondack Park in Potsdam, N.Y., Clarkson is a nationally recognized research university for undergraduates with select graduate programs in signature areas of academic excellence directed toward the world’s pressing issues. Through 50 rigorous programs of study in engineering, business, arts, sciences and health sciences, the entire learning-living community spans boundaries across disciplines, nations and cultures to build powers of observation, challenge the status quo, and connect discovery and engineering innovation with enterprise.

[News directors and editors: For more information, contact Michael P. Griffin, director of News & Digital Content Services, at 315-268-6716 or mgriffin@clarkson.edu.]

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