The TomKat Center for Sustainable Energy, which has been a part of the Precourt Institute for Energy since its founding in 2009, will move to the Sustainability Accelerator on June 17. The Accelerator and the Precourt Institute are both part of the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.

“The TomKat Center has been remarkably successful in empowering students and postdocs for entrepreneurship in sustainable energy,” said Dean Arun Majumdar. “Credit for that goes to the directors as well as the dedicated staff who have nurtured an agile intellectual culture that is sensitive to new directions, nimble enough to make quick decisions, and highly collaborative in creating a vibrant network of entrepreneurs.”

The Accelerator and the TomKat Center, which was created with a gift from Stanford alumni and husband-and-wife team Thomas Steyer and Katherine Taylor, share a focus on innovation and speeding ideas to market. The center provides funding, mentoring, networking, and other resources to aspiring energy innovators. 

Innovation Transfer program impact infographic
The TomKat Center’s Innovation Transfer program has a track record of building networks of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors, and alumni to advance energy sustainability. (Image credit: Studio Em)

Over the past decade, more than 100 student teams have received grants from TomKat’s Innovation Transfer program to learn how to move Stanford research and ideas toward commercialization. These students have gone on to create more than 75 cleantech startups with a combined enterprise value exceeding $7 billion. As a part of the Accelerator, TomKat-funded student projects will now be able to compete for space in the Accelerator and access new sources of funding, while the Accelerator will benefit from TomKat’s track record of building networks of entrepreneurs, mentors, investors and alumni to advance energy sustainability. 

“The TomKat Center has enabled significant climate benefit by providing access to capital for student innovators in clean and sustainable energy, food systems, and the built environment. The world badly needs these entrepreneurs,” Steyer and Taylor said in a joint statement. “Transitioning the Center to the Accelerator will open up even more opportunities for Stanford climate leaders – past and present – which we are delighted to see.”

Leadership continuity

The transition will be led by TomKat Center director Matthew Kanan, who is a professor of chemistry in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Group of four people stand and smile
The TomKat Center team, from left: Matthew Kanan, faculty director; Elizabeth Irino, program manager, educational programs; Danica Sarlya, center manager; and Brian Bartholomeusz, executive director of Innovation Transfer. (Image credit: Mark Shwartz)

“The TomKat Center and the Accelerator have totally complementary models,” said Kanan, who is also a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute. “With the strengths of each combined, Stanford provides an unparalleled environment for cultivating and translating innovations that impact sustainability.” 

“The TomKat Center’s valuable assets and culture must be preserved in this transition, and it is for this reason that I have requested Matt continue for an additional year as the director,” said Majumdar, who is also a professor of mechanical engineering, of energy science and engineering, and of photon science.

Majumdar said that he is excited to see where this collaboration will lead, with each organization helping the other to produce benefits to society that would not be possible independently.

“It is a natural fit,” Majumdar said. “Precourt has been an excellent home and allowed the TomKat Center to flourish. By connecting the center more closely to the Sustainability Accelerator, Stanford’s efforts to deploy solutions that address pressing sustainability challenges will be turbocharged.”

Majumdar is also the Jay Precourt Provostial Chair Professor, a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute, and a past director of the institute. He also chairs the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board.