Earlier this month at the Midwest Energy Forum held in Chicago, the Clean Energy Trust (CET) handed out cash prizes to up and coming innovators in clean energy. The CET sponsored the inaugural Clean Energy Challenge business plan competition, offering a total of $140,000 in cash prizes. Over 70 young companies involved in all aspects of clean energy competed for the prizes this year. Of them, the most promising were given the opportunity to present their plans to a panel of investors, entrepreneurs and corporations.
Chicago based Clean Urban Energy won the top prize of $75,000 by designing a plan that they say “turns buildings into batteries” by optimizing the way HVAC systems are integrated with grid and energy markets. NextGen Solar walked away with the second place award of $25,000 for commercializing a three-dimensional thin-film solar technology. Additional prizes were awarded to Thermal Conservation Technologies for producing a high performance vacuum insulation panel and to Lotus Creative Innovations for its scaled-down version of a commercial turbine designed for workforce and classroom training.
The Midwest Energy Forum was an event of the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. This challenge served to show how innovation in clean energy is alive in the Midwest. “Clean energy entrepreneurship is clearly thriving in Illinois,” said Amy Francetic, Clean Energy Trust executive director. “There is no shortage of early-stage technology ready for the right mix of minds and money to move it out of the laboratory and into the marketplace. These winners – 30 – are the very best of the new clean energy firms in this state, and we look forward to watching them grow into sustainable businesses.”
The Clean Energy Challenge was funded in part by a $1.05 million “Innovation Ecosystem Development Initiative” by the U.S. Department of Energy. Support for the grant is provided by state and local government, research partners, corporations, investors, foundations, and trade groups.