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Left to right: Oded Distel, Mike Freeman, Wayne McFarland and Gili Eklin

Innovation is alive and well in the energy industry according to panelists organized by the Daniels College of Business for Denver Startup Week. About 80 people gathered in downtown Denver at the Commons on Champa to hear “Energy, Clean Tech and a Secure Energy Future in the U.S. and Israel.”

“There is a misconception that there is a lack of innovation in the energy sector,” said Gili Elkin, managing director at SynTech Bioenergy in Denver. “There are many global initiatives taking place. Innovation is happening!”

Elkin moderated the panel which also featured the Head of the New Tech Program for the Ministry of Economy of Israel Oded Distel, CEO of Innosphere Mike Freeman and CEO of SynTech Bioenergy Wayne McFarland.

“We’re the world’s leading distributor of clean energy technology,” said SynTech’s McFarland, “And, we do that from right here in Denver. People are producing more and more waste and people need more and more power. The globe will be a worse place to inhabit if we don’t do something about it. We have to be innovative and bold.”

SynTech Bioenergy is launching operations in Israel. McFarland said Israel has a tremendous waste problem due to the fact the country is one of the largest exporters of fruits and vegetables to Europe. This creates big greenhouse waste and they don’t have anywhere to put it.

SynTech Bioenergy is one of 350 multinational companies operating in Israel according to Distel, the Head of the New Tech Program in Israel. He met with Ft. Collins Mayor Wade Troxell and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper this week.

Distel said that his office is paying attention to the cooperation between Israel and Colorado and it will be on their agenda for the next several years.

“Israel is a country of 8 million and it’s isolated,” he said. “So, this is the market. None of the Israeli companies that develop something new can rely on a local market, so they have to think about the global market from day one.”

Helping companies expand nationally and globally is what Colorado nonprofit Innosphere does.

“Colorado is uniquely positioned to have credibility in the clean tech sector,” said Freeman, CEO of Innosphere. “We’re [Colorado] fourth in the U.S. for a concentration in traditional energy and fifth in the U.S. in the concentration of employment in clean tech.”

Freeman explained that his organization relies on companies to bring their tech skills to the table, but his group focuses on bringing the right team together to raise capital and expand the business.

Several Daniels’ students came to listen to the panelists including full-time MBA student Jenna Schmitt.

“It’s really exciting to see what’s happening in Denver and in Israel,” she said. “I’m glad I’m in an MBA program willing to expose us to a bigger sphere.”

Daniels Professor Kerry Plemmons, who helped organize the panel, will lead a group of students to Israel in the fall. Six full-time MBA students in the Enterprise Solutions GO Israel class will work on a project for SynTech Bioenergy. The exchange is funded by a gift given to Daniels by Michael and Kathy Azeez, who both graduated in 1980 with a bachelor’s of science in business.

“The country has become a wonderful hub for creativity and commerce,” Plemmons said. “Daniels has a rich history of taking students to Israel to learn from their innovators. We hope to share that spirit with the Denver community.”

As McFarland noted at the end of the discussion, “There is no more focused place on earth at cultivating innovation than in Israel.”

If the Denver Startup Week panel was any indication, it seems the sharing has begun.