“We are seeing a blurring of the lines between IT and energy”

The first misconception that needs to be banished is that cleantech and traditional energy are different.

So began Rice University’s latest Energy and Clean Technology Venture Forum last week, a pitch-day for energy startups as well as a forum for venture and angel investors to discuss trends in the industry.

We need to get away from talking as if these are two different things,” said Greg Neichin, executive vice president of the Cleantech Group, an energy research and advisory firm based in San Francisco. “This is one community trying to find solutions. We need to find ways together to make sources of energy more efficient, safer, and better for the planet.”

Indeed, during the day-long summit, the 11th annual forum hosted on Thursday by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship, consultants like Neichin shared the stage with those from Big Energy, all looking for ways to support innovation in a sector that has long been dominated by Big Oil.

While much of the venture investment from 2007 to 2009 focused on renewables, investments today have shifted to making traditional oil and gas processes more efficient, Neichin added. But opportunities within recycling, transportation, and logistics are emerging as submarkets where startups can thrive. “We are seeing a blurring of the lines between IT and energy,” Neichin said.

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