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Case for a Climate Campus, Part II
Miami can become a climate solutions hub by building on what's already here.
Join us for our 9th Climate Tech Meetup on Nov. 3 focused on the South Florida Climate Resilience Tech Hub proposal. Register here.
MIT Technology Review recently announced its 15 Climate Tech Companies to Watch. The list includes a Stockholm startup developing sustainable steel, an electric bus manufacturer in Shenzhen, China, a wind and solar energy company in Gurugram, India, and a maker of clean concrete in Boston.
A South Florida company is on the list too. Blue Frontier is a Boca Raton-based startup led by CEO Daniel Betts that is reinventing air conditioning by making it dramatically more energy-efficient. We’ve featured Blue Frontier previously in our Opportunity Miami On Site series. Watch it here.
The announcement illustrates how the entrepreneurs, inventors, and scientists behind the companies doing this work are in places all over the world – and that the prize of becoming a leading climate tech hub remains very much up for grabs.
Consider this: out of the 15 climate tech companies highlighted by MIT Technology Review, seven are in North America, four in Asia, three in Europe, and one in South America. Just one is from the Bay Area and none are from New York.
This raises the question: what are big, game-changing efforts that can help Miami seize the opportunity of becoming one of the leading climate tech hubs?
For this newsletter, we revisit the idea of creating a Climate Campus in Miami. We raised it previously, in a post titled “Time for a climate campus?” that you can read here. The aim is to create a cluster focused on building a sustainable, net-zero future with a concentration of universities for teaching, research, and scholarship; incubators and accelerators for company building and experimentation; co-working for entrepreneurs and innovation teams at established companies; and space for the community to gather.
Together, it can serve as a catalyst for making Miami a globally-leading climate tech hub.
This week we look at the idea by focusing on the assets that are already here. Neither branded as part of a climate tech network in Miami nor necessarily connected in any intentional way, they’re examples of existing pieces in Miami that are building blocks in creating a Climate Campus and positioning the region. As Harvard Business School Professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter described in an Opportunity Miami Interview, Miami can become “a global solutions hub.”
CLIMATE CAMPUS WRIT LARGE
So what are examples of pieces already here?
We start with the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine, Atmospheric and Earth Science on Virginia Key. The globally acclaimed school has undergraduate and masters programs in areas including marine biology and ecology, oceanography, environmental science, and policy, among others. Not only that, it’s part of a 65-acre expanse that includes NOAA laboratories and MAST Academy, Miami-Dade Public Schools’ magnet school in marine and science technology.
In Coral Gables, the University of Miami’s Herbert Business School launched an MBA program in sustainable business. Also on UM’s Coral Gables campus, the University of Miami’s Engineering School launched a consortium called the Miami Engineering Autonomous Mobility Initiative, dedicated to how we commute and get around by air in an emission-free way.
Heading west, Florida International University’s Wall of Wind allows for wind research to achieve greater resilience and sustainability in everything from our built environment to energy.
Not far away is FIU’s Energy, Power & Sustainability-Intelligence program, which includes a microgrid and virtual power plant, allowing for learning and research in battery storage and renewable energy.
Meanwhile, LenX, the venture arm of homebuilder Lennar Homes, with its offices near Miami International Airport, is investing in companies doing everything from 3D printing homes to decarbonizing cement. Ventures funds based in Miami that are focused on investing in companies building a sustainable future include Avila Ventures, Mission One Capital, and Rethink Food’s founding general partner, Rini Greenfield.
There are a range of established and startup companies focused on building a net-zero sustainable future across the Miami metropolitan area. Watsco, the largest distributor of efficient HVAC units in North America, in Coconut Grove. Blink, among the largest EV charging network companies in the U.S., on Miami Beach. Atlantic Sapphire, harvesting salmon sustainably at the largest indoor aquaculture facility in the world, in Homestead. Startups like Kind Designs, building 3D-printed “living” seawalls that mimic coral reefs to be used for marine infrastructure, in southwest Miami-Dade County.
Nonprofits and government organizations are leaning in too. Seaworthy Collective is a non-profit helping propel companies driving innovation related to oceans and waterways. On Saturday is its 2023 Startup Showcase, which you can learn about here. Miami-Dade County Public Schools has begun the process of transitioning the entire school district to one that’s powered by clean energy. The Miami-Dade County Mayor's office recently spearheaded the launch of the Miami-Dade Innovation Authority, with funding and support for ideas related to addressing environmental challenges.
And the community is here. Future of Cities’ Climate and Innovation Hub facility opened in Little Haiti. When we launched Opportunity Miami nearly two years ago as a platform at Miami-Dade Beacon Council focused on Miami’s future, we highlighted climate tech as a key pillar defining Miami’s economic future. As part of that, we've done eight meetups in partnership with Miami-Dade County, drawing packed audiences from across the community. You can join us at the next one on Nov. 3 by signing up here.
HARNESSING ENERGY, BUILDING AN IDENTITY
A Climate Campus can help harness such energy, focus attention, establish greater connections across the community, and serve as a global symbol of how Miami is turning its vulnerability into a great strength.
The concept of a campus focused on driving a specific sector is hardly new. More than a decade ago, New York City offered up funding and public land to attract leading universities to propel its tech community. The result is Cornell Tech, a collaboration between Cornell University and Israel’s acclaimed Institute of Technology, Technion, that will ultimately be a 12-acre tech campus of research, education, and innovation on Roosevelt Island alongside Manhattan.
To do it well, the effort needs to be in a place that is accessible to the community and in a high-profile location that can capture the public’s imagination. Indeed, by simply making the commitment, a message will be sent — before even a shovel goes into the ground — that Miami is serious about building a sustainable future. And, in so doing, help establish Miami’s identity as a place to build companies that will propel a sustainable future.
The good news is that efforts from academia, entrepreneurs, investors, established companies, ecosystem builders, and government are already here in Miami and underway. Now, it’s on us to build upon it.
Opportunity Miami is a platform for people passionate about Miami’s future. As always, we would love to hear from you. If you have a company or entrepreneur to suggest or an idea to share that relates to building Miami’s future, email us at email@example.com. We invite you to subscribe to our YouTube channel to watch our Interviews and On Site video series featuring leaders shaping Miami's future. Please also follow us on our social media channels. If you were forwarded this newsletter, you can subscribe by clicking here. And if you are new to Opportunity Miami, you can learn about our mission and work here.