This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

October 05, 2011

DOE Backs University Clean Energy Business Competitions

DOE announced on September 27 that it has awarded $2 million over three years for six regional awardees to create and administer a network of student-focused business creation competitions. The goal is to inspire young entrepreneurs to found innovative, clean energy companies. The six regional competitions will encourage college students from across the country to develop successful business plans and join a new generation of clean energy leaders. This national initiative will provide student participants with the skills needed to create new businesses, and transform promising energy technologies from U.S. universities and national laboratories into innovative energy products.

The winners represent DOE's first ever funding for regional competitions that will funnel into a DOE national competition. The new regional competitions build on DOE's history of supporting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Clean Energy Prize to establish broader innovation and commercialization efforts, and to build a nationwide energy entrepreneurship "ecosystem."

Each of the following selected regional competitions will receive $360,000 over three years to host their respective regional competition. The Northeast region winner is MIT, which has successfully run the MIT Clean Energy Prize, co-sponsored by DOE and NSTAR utility, for the past four years. In the Southeast region, the University of Maryland will base its ACC Clean Energy Challenge on a collegiate sports conference—the Atlantic Coast Conference—as a model to build on an existing foundation of clean energy research and entrepreneurship programs. The Eastern Midwest region winner, the Clean Energy Trust of Chicago, will capitalize on experience from three existing competitions, including the Clean Energy Challenge, the Cleantech Open, and the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge. The Western Southwest region winner, Rice University, will take its Rice Business Plan Competition and create the DOE Clean Energy Prize, institutionalizing a sustained clean energy track within the Rice Business Plan Competition. The Western Midwest region winner, the University of Colorado Boulder, will support its Cleantech New Venture Challenge, an annual student-based cleantech competition that helps develop partnerships between regional entrepreneurs and innovators. And, the Western region winner, the California Institute of Technology, in partnership with the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles, will stage the First Look West event and adopt the best practices of other existing regional competitions.

The regional competitions will be completed by May 1, 2012. Panels of expert judges will select a winning team from each region to advance to the finals. The six regional winners will each receive $100,000 in DOE prize money and a chance to compete for the National Grand Prize at a competition held at the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. in early summer 2012. See the DOE press release and the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Commercialization website.