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Advanced Power & Energy Cluster Completes First Year with Record of Job Creation

Chip Laingen

Chip LaingenThe Advanced Power & Energy Cluster (APC) recently completed its first year of operation for the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).  The APC is engaged in connecting the innovation of small businesses to technology needs for the nation’s defense, and for commercial applications.  The initiative has helped to create more than 250 jobs and achieve $10.3 million in Department of Defense (DoD) and private business contract awards in the past year, while acting as a catalyst for technology-based economic development.  The APC currently has 95 member companies and organizations in 21 states.

Operated by the Twin Cities-based Defense Alliance and funded by the SBA, the APC is one of 10 Regional Innovation Clusters (RICs), three of which are intended to promote “advanced defense technologies.”  The Defense Alliance selected the power and energy sector for its Cluster because of this region’s strong manufacturing, R&D and entrepreneurial focus on related technologies.

DoD has finally realized that energy solutions can provide savings and mission effectiveness at the same time.  As a result there are a lot of new policy mandates that set out ambitious goals for DoD energy savings.  The Defense Alliance believes that the best way to obtain those is to have small businesses just jump in the game and start contributing, rather than waiting for the DoD to come to them – or waiting for requirements to be perfectly defined.  The APC operates together with its “Partners,” who bring highly focused and effective business mentoring to the membership.  The Partners include Paradigm Positioning, the Dakota Defense Alliance, TechLink and MilTech.  The APC also leverages key existing collaborative relationships held by the Defense Alliance, including with economic development organizations, government entities, academic institutions and large defense contractors.

The industry focus area of power and energy also means that the APC is working with Members to find opportunities outside of the DoD as well.  DoD, DoE or other government agency funding often leads to commercial applications – and vice versa.  According to the APC’s Business Director, Patria Lawton, “Our Members range from small businesses that have worked with the DoD for years, to those who are really energized by the way in which our Partners can help explain this challenging market to them.”

The ultimate goal remains bringing value and innovation to the nation’s power and energy needs, particularly for defense applications, and to help foster regional economic growth through job creation.  Learn more about the APC at

Chip Laingen is the Executive Director of Defense Alliance and is teaching faculty in the Master of Science in Security Technologies program at the Technological Leadership Institute.

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