Wave Power Program Links MBAs, Start Ups

Bringing a renewable-energy innovation to life presents a dual challenge: there’s the engineering side of it, and the business side of it. Recognizing this, the Oregon Wave Energy Trust (OWET) is working with Portland State University to match up wave power start ups and MBA students.

OWET is a nonprofit group, aided by the state-funded Oregon Innovation Council, that sees wave energy as a key part of a comprehensive alternative energy solution for Oregon, and is pushing public-private collaboration to get wave energy projects in the water. Executive Director Jason Busch told Sustainable Business Oregon the Oregon Wave Energy Commercialization Program answers a need a lot of start ups have.

wave power, Oregon Wave Energy Trust

image via NOAA

“Many of the entrepreneurs we work with are engineers,” Busch said. “Recently I talked to an engineer from Google who came up with a wave-energy device. He’s tested it out at a small scale, but he doesn’t know anything about forming a business or developing a business plan or financing. We wanted to provide some early services.”

On the flip side, Portland State sees the program as a chance for its MBA students – many of whom are interested in alternative energy development, and wave energy in particular – to get real-world experience in the nascent industry. In the program, the business students will develop business and marketing plans, review strategies, perform financial analysis and modeling, conduct regulatory reviews … all the things MBAs do for businesses.

The program is getting started at Portland State, but Busch told Sustainable Business Oregon that OWET hopes to broaden it to bring in engineers at Oregon Institute of Technology and Oregon State University, as well as law students at the University of Oregon.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.