Situated where the plains meet the Rockies, Fort Collins, Colorado, is known for its abundant natural resources, good agricultural land, and outdoors lifestyle. The city is also gaining a reputation for breakthrough inventions in clean energy and socially responsible innovation. Colorado State University, the city, and community businesses actively pursue collaborations that result in local innovations with global impact. Seen as a place where a person can make a difference while enjoying life, Fort Collins is one of America’s newest places of invention.
Like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, many people from the university, private industry, and the city government started to come together in Fort Collins in the 1990s around the idea of clean energy. If there were a single word that could capture the spirit of the city, it would be collaboration. Bryan Willson, whose can-do philosophy has earned him the nickname of “the Great Connector," guided the growth of the Colorado State University's Engines and Energy Conversion Lab as a partner in clean energy start-ups. Judy Dorsey, another “great connector,” brings her expertise to numerous collaborations through her sustainability consulting firm Brendle Group. And New Belgium Brewing Company CEO Kim Jordan’s dedication to sustainability makes environmental stewardship the secret ingredient in every sip. The brewery diverts 99.9% of its waste away from landfills, generates about 20% of its electricity needs on site, and has developed an innovative internal energy tax to allocate funds for future efficiency and renewable energy projects.
Clean, sustainable, useful—these principles guide energy technology innovation in Fort Collins. At Prieto Battery, founded by Colombian-born inventor Amy Prieto, new materials and electroplating methods are eliminating toxic substances from rechargeable batteries and decreasing charging time and production costs. New super turbochargers that promise to dramatically increase efficiency and reduce emissions in vehicle engines are being tested at VanDyne SuperTurbo; the company's founder Ed VanDyne is a self-proclaimed “speed demon” who ran the MIT Racing Team in graduate school. Sunil Cherian and his research team at Spirae, Inc. are inventing “smart grid” technology that integrates renewable and distributed energy sources and produces a more reliable electricity supply.
Fort Collins represents the characteristics common to successful places of invention: a spirit of collaboration and communication, flexibility and adaptability, the willingness to take risks, an openess to failure as a learning tool, and a culture that appreciates creativity in all its forms.