A mountain and a mission

Andrew McInnes, MBA '07, climbs Mt. Kilimanjaro, then devotes himself to advancing clean energy solutions

Andrew McInnes, MBA '07, who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, then devoted himself to advancing clean energy solutions Photo: Andrew McInnes, MBA '07, (center, with his guides), who devoted himself to advancing clean energy solutions after seeing the effects of global warming atop Mt. Kilimanjaro.

While standing atop Mt. Kilimanjaro in July 2003, Andrew McInnes, MBA '07, observed firsthand the effects of global warming and realized something had to be done.

Since then he has been exploring ways to move clean energy technology into the marketplace, including spending this past summer at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico.

“The Snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro were nearly gone,” he explains, “and as a mountaineer, I felt a moral obligation to bring them back.”

McInnes has dedicated himself to improving the current environmental crisis by reducing the world's emission of greenhouse gasses. In 2005 he left behind his life as an investment banker on Wall Street to attend MIT Sloan, where he has focused his studies on entrepreneurial strategies for moving clean technologies out of the lab and into the world.

From the lab to market

Last winter he began working for Wilson Turbo Power, an early-stage energy technology company, where he has since closed a deal with a Fortune 500 company to move “cleantech” out of the lab and into the world. And last summer, through his internship at Los Alamos, he gained even more hands-on experience in energy technology commercialization and entrepreneurship.

“I thought Los Alamos would be a wonderful capstone event after my first year of studies,” McInnes says. “I went out there essentially to acquire insights at a DOE [Department of Energy] lab that I could then leverage outside the lab, and I think the people at Los Alamos are very supportive of that track.”

As part of the technology transfer division, McInnes evaluated and prioritized the market applications and commercialization potential of energy technology in the laboratories, and he worked with regional entrepreneurs to address a variety of startup challenges in building a business around those technologies.

He says that because the lab had recently come under new management, they were very open to new ways of generating revenue and profits.

“It's about working with technologists across the lab and bringing to bear the other human resources and other skill sets that are needed to actually move a technological innovation out of the lab,” he says. “The technologists are great idea generators, but you also need an entrepreneur — someone who can champion the idea inside the lab and outside the lab.”

An enduring hope

McInnes says he walked away from Los Alamos with a greater appreciation of the challenges he will face in his quest to impact climate change.

“There are just so many more challenges you face in trying to commercialize energy technology than you face in commercializing technologies in other fields,” he says. “... There are challenges from an economic standpoint, from a policy standpoint, from a technology standpoint.”

But still, he says he is hopeful.

“This is a huge problem, and it may not be solved in my lifetime but I'm alright with that so long as in my professional life I am doing something that contributes to solving this problem. ... I remain confident in our ability to come together as people to have a real impact. When we do, I look forward to seeing the return of the snows of Mt. Kilimanjaro.”

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