Sustain OC: Engaging the Southern California Region to Advance Sustainability

In The Ecosystem
October 17, 2017 By Hai Truong

Cove resident and ecosystem partner, Sustain OC, formerly known as CleanTech OC, was founded in 2010 to advance Orange County’s sustainability and cleantech industries through innovation, collaboration, and education with a goal to promote job creation and economic growth throughout the county. In this endeavor, it has partnered with private, public, and academic sectors in the Orange County region. Ongoing initiatives include Energize California (the Regional Energy Innovation Cluster including many partners such as LACI and the Counties of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles and Orange), the Sustain OC Water Cluster, and the Advanced Transportation Center of OC and the Inland Empire.

As the organization evolved, it attracted larger corporate partners, local government, schools, other non-profits, hospitals, and an increasing number of investors, thus changing the dynamic of the membership and increasing the scope of work to include broader sustainability initiatives such as supply chain management, human capital management, recycling, and more – ultimately rebranding itself into Sustain OC to reflect this change.

In spring of this year, Sustain OC engaged with the Los Angeles Cleantech Incubator. This forged a partnership to manage the Orange County portion of a grant awarded by the California Energy Commission to strengthen the region’s clean energy economy through support of the industry ecosystem – helping companies in this space bring new technologies to market.

In addition to uniting industry leaders to collaborate on common solutions and economic growth, Sustain OC is an information hub for all recent and reliable information on sustainability initiatives, practices, and clean technologies; an advocate for its members throughout OC, Sacramento, and Washington D.C.; a mentor in driving the community towards sustainable growth; a platform to share best practices for sustainable solutions; a social media promotional vehicle bringing visibility to its members’ businesses; and an educator promoting awareness of sustainable matters.

Sustain OC provides five ways to engage as a member, ranging from individual/startup to corporate stakeholder memberships–each including valuable benefits. Through a variety of engagement opportunities, members have access to the best local minds in sustainability, the latest technology and its C-suites, capital both private and public, in addition to research and facilities at universities and colleges. Sustain OC holds forums regularly for members to exchange ideas, information, and business opportunities among large corporations, cleantech companies, local government, investors, academia, and non-profits. Mentorship and advisory are also provided as a benefit, giving the community direction on sustainable practices such as business planning, strategic partnerships, supply chain management, human capital management, recycling, cleantech assessment integration, and more. Sustain OC is on the cusp of expanding its reach beyond Orange County through these services as the organization continues to garner attention across Southern California.

Sustain OC also collaborates with its fellow tenants and UCI Applied Innovation’s ecosystem partners such as Auctus Global Capital Group, Blossom, The Executive Next Practices Institute, GenGirl Media, TriTech SBDC, and OCTANe. It collaborates with Applied Innovation’s Invention Transfer Group by introducing technology available to license to potential clients. Many UCI based startups have presented or tabled at Sustain OC conferences, accelerating the growth of the cleantech industry in the Orange County ecosystem and helping early-stage cleantech companies gain more exposure to relevant industry stakeholders.

In addition to being housed at the Cove, Sustain OC is a strategic partner for UCI and is involved in a fuel cell initiative alongside the National Fuel Cell Research Center and the Advanced Power and Energy Program on campus. Sustain OC also acts as the Advanced Transportation Center in Orange County, where members discuss best practices and the future of transportation with key stakeholders.

Each year, Sustain OC holds a series of large public conferences focused on legislative and sustainability issues. In a few days, Sustain OC’s annual conference will focus on energy innovation, bringing in key stakeholders from throughout the region to collaborate on the latest in energy storage, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. The event includes keynotes from Dr. Michl Binderbauer of Tri Alpha Energy, Dipender Saluja of Capricorn LLC, and Phil Graves of Tin Shed Ventures; and will announce the award recipients for Cleantech Company of the Year, Sustainable Government of the Year, the Van Vlahakis Sustainability Excellence award, and the Chairperson’s award.