Clean Energy Trust Challenge 2017

Entries Open
December 2 – January 23
Evaluation Period
January 24 – February 28
Finalists Announced
March 1
Winners Announced
May 9
Entries Closed
View Important Dates

Finalists Announced

We're pleased to announce the finalists for the 2017 Clean Energy Trust Challenge!


Chicago, IL | AgTech

Aker is an in-season crop monitoring and analytics platform for large farms. Aker enables proactive field observation to alert of adverse environmental conditions impacting crop health. Aker collects and analyzes high-resolution aerial images and other field indications. Results are delivered to Ag retailers and suppliers to help match crop protection products based on field evidence while reducing the environmental footprint of the planet.

Applied Particle Technology

St. Louis, MO | Air Filtration

APT is developing world’s first intelligent air sterilization system. Current filtration systems rely on media based technologies which have limited filtration capabilities and significant ventilation cost due to a high-pressure drop across these filters. APT’s patented technology is based on photoionization enhanced electronic air purification system which can remove and inactivate all airborne pollutants, including pathogens, noxious fumes, ultrafine particles, and combustion emissions in a single integrated step. This technology has applications in automotive emissions, standby power generation, HVAC systems, aerospace, and industrial systems.

Idle Smart

Kansas City, KS | Advanced Transportation

Idle Smart provides fleet efficiency and real-time remote vehicle management solutions to Class 8 fleets in the US and Canada. They reduce vehicle idle time by at least 50% and provide fleets the ability to remotely manage vehicle and in-cabin technology to maintain vehicle uptime.

Lotic Labs

Chicago, IL | Finance / Natural Resources

Lotic Labs develops financial products and risk management solutions for industrial and natural resource-intensive businesses facing the threat of volatile environmental conditions. The first product set is focused on helping water and wastewater utilities manage financial stresses due to droughts, extended wet periods, and unplanned maintenance.

PowerTech Water

Lexington, KY | Water Technology

PowerTech Water has developed a disruptive technology platform to clean and purify the water we rely on for our everyday lives. The platform is based on inverted capacitive deionization technology that more effectively and reversibly removes salts, corrosive minerals, and toxic metals without the need for costly membranes, high-pressure pumps, chemicals, or any consumables. The end result is up to a 60% reduction in water treatment costs.

Sun Buckets

Champaign, IL | Renewable Energy

Sun Buckets are portable, stored solar energy cookstoves that allow users to cook without fire, fuel, or emissions. Sun Buckets offers the 700 million energy impoverished households the opportunity to save some of the $100 billion they spend annually on cooking fuels. This technology helps maintain local cooking traditions by emulating the temperature of fire and allowing users to cook where and when they wish, even when the sun is not shining.

SurClean, Inc.

Wixom, MI | Efficiency Technology

SurClean manufactures laser coating removal and surface preparation machine tools. Leveraging the laser ablation process, SurClean systems remove surface coatings, debris, and oxides in the most precise, safe, energy efficient, cost-effective and environmentally friendly way available today. SurClean proprietary laser beam delivery systems and patented sensor system are integrated with OEM laser sources and mounted on robots for an autonomous system or contained within a mobile cart for portable handheld devices.

Switched Source, LLC

Chicago, IL | Advanced Grid Technology

Switched Source has developed a suite of solutions that offer a new level of control over energy supply, enhancing the last mile of electricity delivery. This technology leverages the existing distribution infrastructure to provide a more efficient and reliable electrical grid. With this operational flexibility comes an unparalleled ability to tie more distributed renewable energy resources into the distribution system.

The Challenge

What began in 2010 as a simple business plan competition to jumpstart the local ecosystem with cash prizes totaling $140,000 has now grown into the most competitive and high-profile investment opportunities for cleantech startups in the Midwest. Since the first competition, startups have received $3.7M in funding, raised an additional $112M in follow-on-funding, and created over 300 new jobs. The Challenge has jumpstarted more than 95 startups in the Midwest to date, including LuminAID, a then-student company who after winning $100,000 at the Challenge went on to become a Shark Tank Season 6 success story and Detroit’s GreenLancer, who has since gone on to raise $5 million in Series B funding.

The Event

The Clean Energy Challenge event is the premiere cleantech networking event in Chicago. Over 400 entrepreneurs, investors, business executives, students, and university faculty attend each year. The event combines a business plan competition with presentations by leading clean energy thinkers and doers. Last year’s event featured keynote addresses by Adam Lowry, CEO of Ripple Foods and Co-Founder of Method, Katherine Hamilton, Principal at 38 North Solutions, and Jim Rogers former CEO of Duke Energy. Additional past speakers include Tom Steyer, NRG’s David Crane, and Governor Bruce Rauner.

The Challenge is a nationally recognized accelerator program and the largest single-day clean energy pitch competition in the nation.


Department of Energy
Wells Fargo
Hanley Family Foundation
Pritzker Foundation
State of Illinois
AGL Resources / Nicor
American Electric Power
Archer Daniels Midland
Energy Foundation
Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation
The Joyce Foundation
Schneider Electric
Solar City
True North Venture Partners
Argonne National Laboratory
Hubbell Lighting
Northwestern University
Peoples Gas
Purdue Foundation
University of Chicago
West Monroe Partners
Advanced Energy Economy
ARCH Venture Partners
Avison Young
Baker & McKenzie
Baxter International
Coalition: Energy
Hitachi Chemical
MidAmerican Energy
Mintz Levin
Plante Moran
S&C Electric
Case Western Reserve University
Freshwater Advisors
Gas Technology Institute
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP
Environment & Energy Publishing
Green Building & Design
Midwest Energy News
MI Tech News
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