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San Francisco to Get Its Own Cleantech Incubator

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Just a few weeks after San Francisco’s hopes of being a biotech hub were slightly dashed by Pfizer’s decision to pull out of its Mission Bay development, Mayor Gavin Newsom announced big news today in the city’s push to be the nation’s cleantech hub: The city’s Hunters Point shipyard neighborhood will soon be the home of a green technology incubator.

UNGC Shipyard

Plans have been in the works to create some sort of green job-training and cleantech center at Hunters Point for years now, but, as was the case with the Mission Bay development, city staffers were looking for an anchor tenant, and now they’ve found it: the U.N. Global Compact. A relatively new division of the U.N., the Global Compact is dedicated to sharing best practices in sustainability and encouraging the private sector to adopt those practices.

The idea is that the U.N. will provide thought leadership and a big, anchor name to the project, allowing the city to bring in private sector companies and venture capitalist and angel funds. In the mayor’s announcement today, he said the proposed U.N. Global Compact Center will include a cleantech business incubator, offices of the U.N. Global Compact, and a conference center to facilitate the exchange of sustainability best practices and other innovations related to combating global warming.

Right now, the plan is to open the center’s doors in 2.5 to 3 years, but some Bay Area cleantech funders are pushing to move that deadline up. Dan Adler of the California Clean Energy Fund, an early stage angel fund, spoke after the mayor at the press conference this morning and told us that CalCEF plans to partner in any way possible with the project and that his fund would love to get some early stage seed companies in there as soon as possible. In particular, the 2.5-year timeline is too slow, said Adler, adding: “We can get started with part of the incubator now, and it may not be pretty, but it gets us going, and it may even help bring in the funding we need to get the full-fledged U.N. Global Compact Center off the ground.”

Dan Pascal, the mayor’s cleantech and green business advocate, said the city has been in early talks with some potential private sector partners, but that it’s too early yet to disclose who those partners may be. “Really the work on securing private and philanthropic partnerships is just beginning in earnest,” he said, but added that the mayor’s office may be ready to announce in a few weeks some of the entities that are expressing early interest and some more details about how the city plans to make this all happen.

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