Economic vitality and environmental protection have long been linked in New England, and will be again with efforts to address climate change in the region. There is an emerging body of literature to support the potential economic benefits of a so-called “green economy” in the region and the nation. In New Hampshire, economic studies of both the Renewable Portfolio Standards and Regional Greenhouse Gas legislation (the effort to reduce CO2 emissions from power plants in 10 Northeast and Middle Atlantic states to address climate change, using a “cap and trade,” in which total emissions from affected facilities are limited over time) suggest the programs could create jobs, reduce electricity costs and grow the economy in the state through decreased dependence on greenhouse-gas emitting energy imported into the region and investment in fuel diversity and energy efficiency.
In reaction to the environmental challenges and economic opportunities in addressing climate change, the Green Launching Pad (GLP) program was started in February 2010 at the University of New Hampshire. The impetus for the GLP was the belief that there was no reason why UNH together with New Hampshire’s entrepreneurs and inventors could not take the lead in efforts to address environmental concerns in an economically beneficial way. Well before Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, faculty and student researchers at UNH, Dartmouth and other colleges and universities in New Hampshire were leaders in identifying new ways to use energy more efficiently, discovering new ways to make old engines work better, inventing new engines and creating greener fuels. The GLP is an effort to tap this expertise to benefit the state’s environment and economy.
Strong economic and green foundations are present in the Granite State (and across New England). New Hampshire’s researchers and citizens can draw on the state’s tradition of conservation and innovative practices in the frugal use of resources as well as the state’s high technology concentration and entrepreneurial spirit. The growth of the green economy, and particularly the growth in well-paying clean energy technology jobs, can benefit from the state’s pool of technology workers. Average annual earnings in green industries in New Hampshire are almost 25% above the average annual wage in the state. The state has well above the national average concentration of green jobs and is advantageously positioned for future growth in clean-energy technology, which is the highest-paying sector in the green economy.
To capitalize on research and innovation base and entrepreneurial spirit in the state, the GLP is organized as a competitive program. Applicants from universities and industry and the state’s entrepreneurial base are encouraged to participate. To qualify, teams must specifically demonstrate their potential to commercialize new products and services that improve energy efficiency, enhance energy conservation or provide renewable energy, and lead to energy savings, emissions reductions and business and employment growth. The selected teams receive financial, technical and management support and are committed to launching a new business venture in an accelerated manner.
The GLP is an entrepreneurial venture in and of itself. It is a new kind of university and state government partnership that is strategically focused, market-based and links environmental conservation and economic development. And it brings together UNH, Dartmouth and other colleges and partners higher education with the business and entrepreneurship community in the state.
The GLP is off to a good start. It has benefited from the Obama administration’s focus on energy efficiency and the federal stimulus program’s priority on job creation. The GLP received stimulus funding under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) through the U.S. Department of Energy and the state of New Hampshire and was launched in February. As soon as funding was secured, the GLP aggressively sought applicants. By the middle of March, the initiative had attracted more than 70 proposals. The proposals came from diverse groups that included UNH and Dartmouth faculty, research scientists, alumni and students and also non-university-affiliated businesses and entrepreneurs. By late March, 10 applicants were invited to submit full proposals and to present their plans for use of GLP support and funds by the end of April. From these 10, at least three prospective ventures will be selected, and each could receive up to $90,000 to accelerate the development of innovation-based green businesses in New Hampshire. The selection criteria used, consistent with ARRA program and U.S. Department of Energy priorities, will be the potential contributions to reducing carbon emissions, enhancing energy efficiency and job creation.
In addition to the high number of proposals submitted, more than 50 UNH and Dartmouth engineering, science and business students have indicated an interest in being involved in the launching of new ventures and a 16-member advisory board that includes senior executives from some of New Hampshire’s leading businesses and law firms and from UNH and Dartmouth has been appointed by Gov. John Lynch.
Judging from the initial response, the Green Launching Pad will help maximize the economic benefits in New Hampshire from emerging interest and efforts to reduce energy use and the dependence on high carbon content and imported energy sources. The GLP’s focus and timing is right for New Hampshire. People in New Hampshire are concerned about the economy and the poor prospects for strong recovery from the recession. They also care deeply about the environment. These two concerns are increasingly tied together in the Granite State and will be even more intertwined in the future. As we start to come out of the current economic hard times, New Hampshire has an opportunity to ensure a strong economic and environmental future for its citizens with the help of the Green Launching Pad.
Ross Gittell is the James R. Carter Professor at the University of New Hampshire’s Whittemore School of Business and Economics and a co-founder of the Green Launching Pad.