Debra Wilcox is our Advanced Transportation Department Head for the Fellows Institute. We asked Debra to share her thoughts about the program.
You were one of the integral members of the Cleantech Fellows Institute’s team of Department Heads during the inaugural session in 2012. Looking back on the experience, what were a couple of program highlights for you?
At the time I was asked to be a member of the CFI team, I had an idea of what I thought the program would be. My vision was far exceeded by both the participants and the content of the program. The value of the program showed itself in the level of participation from the fellows, the staff and the many guests speakers attracted to the program. The program was about learning, not teaching and each session presented learning opportunities for fellows and presenters alike.
Your background in law, aviation, aerospace and energy is quite impressive. What most excites you about the intersection of cleantech and aviation?
I am a strong proponent of bringing industry sectors together. Through those intersections participants learn from each other and those intereactions spark more innovation. I believe that the Cleantech Fellows Institute has created an innovative culture, not unlike that described by the Edison Achievement Award in describing the work of David Kelley, CEO of IDEO, that is the “development of an innovative culture that has broad impact.” This innovative culture will continue to be the success of the program.
Cleantech is still a relatively new industry sector. Aside from the aviation and aerospace industries, what other mature industry sectors could cleantech learn from?
Energy storage and transmission, energy extraction industries, water – availability and quality – and transportation will embrace cleantech solutions. These industries will integrate cleantech as part of improving their basic technologies.
If you had to take out your crystal ball and look ahead for cleantech in 2013, where do you think the industry is going?
I don’t think we need a crystal ball. I think the sector has, in spite of negative press, been showing growth at least in Colorado and that will not change during 2013. There is a maturing process that naturally weeds out some technologies and companies. Others are surviving and growing. There was also an initial push for large projects – utility scale solar and wind projects. For better or worse those projects became the definition of cleantech, but it is much more. We will see more technologies and companies focused on simple, but impactful cleantech solutions.