Green Technology Innovation Fellows Pitch Environmental Startups

By Katharine Downey

By: Staff
17 students and program director Gregory Ray pose for a group photo.

2023-24 Green Technology Innovations Fellows (photo by Paige Tolan)

Cornell University’s 2023-24 cohort of Green Technology Innovation Fellows  gathered in Statler Hotel’s amphitheater on April 27 to showcase their green technology startups and to celebrate the conclusion of the program’s core course, Green Tech Entrepreneurship in Practice. Each team, consisting of MBA students paired with PhD candidates from across Cornell University, pitched startups based on Cornell research to an audience of their peers, entrepreneurs, mentors, and prospective 2024-25 fellows.

a man holding a microphone stands at the front of a room, with a screen in the background, speaking and gesturing.
Green Technology Innovation Fellows Program Director Greg Ray, PhD ’14, welcoming guests to the showcase (photo by Paige Tolan)

“There is a lot of growth in research, innovation, sustainability, energy, and related businesses,” said Gregory Ray, PhD ’14, Green Technology Innovation Fellows program director, in his opening remarks at the showcase event. “And it turns out Cornell is a very special place—because the amount and quality of the research happening here is truly the best in the world. As a university, we have an obligation to do what we can to translate that into things that go out to the world.” Ray is also an instructor at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management and an entrepreneur in residence at the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

two women speaking at the front of a tiered room with people sitting at rows of built-in wooden tables with a screen that says “green harvest” in the background.
GreeneAcres Processing teammates Hailee Greene, MBA ’24, and Maylin Murdock, PhD ’25 (photo by Paige Tolan)

Among the presenters pitching their startups were Green Technology Innovation Fellows Hailee Greene, MBA ’24, and Maylin Murdock, PhD ‘25, who say they gained invaluable insights into the industrial hemp processing business as they navigated pitfalls and developed a plan to persevere and move forward with GreenAcres Processing. “The Green Tech Innovation Fellowship was one of the most rewarding experiences while at Johnson,” said Greene. “I found the level of discourse during the program to be invigorating. To be in a room with scientists and hear about the potential climate-saving work they are doing was just an awesome opportunity.”

Empowering green-tech workshops

Funded and offered by the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, the Green Tech Innovation Fellows program aims to instill participants with the entrepreneurial judgment they need to commercialize clean energy and climate technology startups, thereby developing the next generation of C-suite “green” startup leaders.

This year, the program paired nine MBA students at the Johnson School with 10 PhD candidates and post-doctoral associates from across Cornell University to collaborate on designing startups based on Cornell research. Throughout the program, fellows crafted and tested their business models.

The program’s core course, Green Tech Entrepreneurship in Practice, is a six-month (September through March) workshop series designed to introduce teams to Cornell’s green technology community. The aim is to broaden fellows’ networks and perspectives regarding the green-tech landscape while they work on validating their business models. Fellows discuss product discovery, iteration, testing, scaling, and strategy, and they develop and refine their startup ideas as they interact with green tech industry leaders, investors, experienced entrepreneurs, and Cornell faculty. Faculty or advisory panel members review each team’s progress between workshops.

The instructors for Green Tech Entrepreneurship in Practice are Buz Barstow, PhD ’09, assistant professor of biological and environmental engineering in Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, and Melissa Cohen, visiting lecturer in the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and chief innovation and transformation officer at Cayuga Health System. They advise students on how to advance their developments while sharing their own entrepreneurial journeys’ successes and failures.

“We are at the beginning of a green tech innovation that might last for decades to come,” said Barstow, a physicist who uses synthetic biology to build sustainable energy technologies. “Society really needs that.” Addressing students directly at the showcase event, he said: “All of you are a huge inspiration to me, and I hope I get to see all of you succeed wildly in the years to come; I hope to see some of those technologies working in the real world. It’s been a real privilege to get to teach you.”

“I am deeply grateful for the generous support from our teaching staff, and I was also incredibly impressed by the array of distinguished guest speakers who shared their lifelong entrepreneurial journeys with us,” said Eve Qian, MBA ’24, cofounder of Agrivoltaic Design Studio. “Their insights are not only crucial for anticipating potential roadblocks we may face in our startup venture, but also serve as a source of inspiration, encouraging us to innovate continuously and pursue our North Star with passion.”

After teams pitched their startups at the showcase event, the Green Technology Innovation Fellows joined audience members to answer guests’ questions and provide more insights about their business ideas.

The Green Technology Innovation Fellowship program is recruiting its 2024-25 cohort now.


Katharine Downey is a marketing and communications coordinator at the Center for Regional Economic Advancement.

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