For the first time, the U.S. Department of Energy is throwing some money towards a few university-based business plan competitions. The DOE has awarded a total of $5.3 million ($1.05 million each) to five projects designed to “accelerate the movement of cutting-edge energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies from university laboratories into the market.” Among their other proposed activities, at least three of these “innovation ecosystems” will use the funding to support clean-tech business plan competitions.
- The Clean Energy Trust in Chicago, in collaboration with the Illinois Institute of Technology, Northwestern University, University of Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, will be running the “Clean Energy Business Plan Competition” in which Illinois scientists and entrepreneurs will compete for $100,000 in seed funds and business services.
- The University of California, San Diego’s William J. von Liebig Center for Entrepreneurism and Technology Advancement and Rady School of Management will partner with San Diego State University to plan and hold an annual Regional Energy Innovation Challenge. Three winning teams will be offered fellowship opportunities and connections to potential sources of capital.
- The University of Central Florida will hold the “MegaWatt Ventures” event, incorporating a technical showcase with a business plan competition. For the first two years, ten teams from Florida universities will be awarded $10,000 each, and will be given six months to complete a prototype and assemble a start-up team to compete for $100,000. In its third year, MegaWatt Ventures will be expanded to include all universities in the southeastern United States.
The other two winners, the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy Systems in Cambridge, Mass. and the University of Utah, do not mention business plan competitions in their project summaries.
The Obama administration has strongly encouraged federal agencies to use competitions as a means to reach their goals, and this DOE initiative clearly demonstrates that effort.
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