Clean Energy Challenge Winners Announced

The Clean Energy Trust has finally revealed the winners of its second annual Clean Energy Challenge. So without further ado, the winner in the business competition is: Hyrax Energy. Hyrax took home the $100,000 prize and the first place title in the business competition. The student-lead team, NuMat Technologies from Northwestern University in Illinois was awarded first place in the Student Challenge and was also awarded a  $100,000 prize.

Hyrax Energy, the early-stage winner, develops bio-refineries that utilize ionic liquids to break down corn stover and waste plant materials into fermentable sugars, which are sold to renewable plastics, chemical and fuel manufacturers. NuMat Technologies, a materials-based startup, has developed a proprietary computational screening tool for rapidly identifying and testing metal-organic frameworks (MOFs). NuMat also developed a complimentary, low-cost approach to synthesize, purify, stabilize and experimentally evaluate MOFs.


image via Stephen Pasture Seeds

“These prizes will help the winning clean energy entrepreneurs move their technology out of the laboratory and into the marketplace, creating new high-tech jobs along the way,” according to Amy Francetic, Clean Energy Trust executive director. “The Challenge is designed to commercialize innovation by identifying and rewarding the most promising clean energy businesses. It was a tough competition and these winners represent the best of the Midwest’s new entrepreneurs in clean energy.”

Competitors in the this year’s challenge included businesses from across the Midwest in states such as Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio and Wisconsin. New this year was the Student Challenge. The student competition was designed to increase the number of student-run start-ups and accelerate the commercialization of clean energy technologies from Midwest universities.

In addition to the Student Challenge’s first place winner, five $10,000 prizes were handed out to the following university teams: Missouri Washington University in St. Louis with Saturnis, The University of Michigan with Michigan Regenerate USA, The University of Akron with Design Flux Technologies, Purdue University with  Convolutus and Northwestern University with NuMat Technologies.

This isn’t the end of the line for NuMat Technologies, who will go on to compete in the Department of Energy’s National Student competition Washington D.C. in mid-June. The national initiative, sponsored by the Department of Energy, was created to help students to come up with solutions to solve the nation’s energy challenges and spur business creation.

“The National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition is engaging the next generation of America’s energy leaders,” Energy Secretary Steven Chu said of the event. “The winning teams have developed effective strategies for commercializing new clean energy technologies that will help American businesses lead in the global economy.”

More than 100 early-stage and student-led companies with a wide range of clean energy solutions submitted applications for the Challenge. Ten early-stage and eight student finalists presented their business plans to a a panel of  investors, corporations and entrepreneurs at the Clean Energy Challenge, held March 1 in Chicago.

Kristy Hessman is a writer and native Oregonian who currently resides in California. Before starting her own company, she worked as a reporter covering business and politics for daily newspapers and The Associated Press.

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