Clay Phillips

Clay is an experienced executive in the fields of open innovation, business development, strategic planning and alliance management. Since early 2014, he has been an independent innovation and growth strategy advisor, VP for LaunchPad Central (a San Francisco-based innovation SaaS firm), and an adjunct instructor for the NSF’s Innovation Corps program with the University of Michigan and NextEnergy (a Detroit non-profit accelerator / incubator focused on transportation and energy). He specializes in applying lean and disruptive innovation methodologies with startups, large corporations and non-profits to achieve faster insights and better investment decisions for Horizon 2 and 3 innovation concepts involving new products, services, markets and business models. Cumulatively he has completed over 100 innovation project team cases.

He was an executive at General Motors, spending a significant part of his career at the R&D Center where he led corporate, advanced technology, energy intelligence and strategy, alliance management, and innovation commercialization. He was a founding member and VP of GM’s corporate venture capital arm, GM Ventures, and led commercialization strategy and planning for the R&D Center’s open innovation and internal startup program. Earlier in his career he managed international product and portfolio development and new business development initiatives.

Before joining GM he served as an intelligence officer with the U.S. Navy. Clay holds degrees from Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut, and Columbia University in New York City. For fun, he is an amateur musician and composer, and enjoy sailing on big water whenever possible.


In 2008 I was a founding member and leader of the Global Energy Intelligence Center (GESIC) at GM R&D. We established the center to build comprehensive systems level knowledge and insights about the sources, processing and uses of energy worldwide. Our motivation was driven by the increasing technical feasibility and economic viability of alternative fuels and propulsion systems for vehicles, including biofuels, battery electric hybrids, pure electric plug-ins, and hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles. This inevitably took us to the “distribution edge” as that is where vehicle customers interfaced with alternative fuels from the demand side, while energy companies, distributors and utilities had to comprehend new supply infrastructure. The Volt development and launch team, the advanced hydrogen and EV concept vehicle development teams, and GM’s public policy staff used GESIC research and analysis to guide policy input and partnership strategies with the energy ecosystem.

From 2010 to 2012, I led the automotive and modeling analysis teams for a comprehensive Department of Energy commissioned study led by the National Petroleum Council. The study, “Advancing Technology for America’s Transportation Future,” focused on identifying future fuels, technologies, industry practices, and government policies that would reduce CO2 emissions from the US transportation fleet by 50% by 2050, contribute to energy security and be economically viable. As a cross-industry study team, we had to address the myriad of technical, economic and policy issues throughout the energy and transportation ecosystem including the distribution edge.


I would like to offer the teams an insider’s view of the automotive and mobility industry combined with the discipline and rigor of intelligence and lean innovation best practices. My role as a constructive provocateur can challenge assumptions and biases, identify blind spots, stimulate and contribute to creative thinking about ecosystem driven opportunities and threats, and how to turn insights into actionable strategies and plans.


This area is a critical topic that cuts across industries, functions, countries, politics and generations. In the developed world we assume energy will be available as a right; elsewhere, not so much. For the transformation and disruption taking place in the automotive and mobility industries, efficient and safe energy flows between supply systems and individual or fleet consumers is a critical part of the solution. There remain many plausible scenarios, but in my view, no body has sorted it out. So innovation and creative thinking amongst the various stakeholders is essential to chart a course and take steps toward a better future.