Student-led, game-changing clean energy technologies highlighted in Houston

June 28th provided the culmination of a months-long process targeting university partners and innovators, sourcing cleantech business plan applications, and providing student entrepreneurs with funding and exposure to develop their businesses.

June 28th provided the culmination of a months-long process targeting university partners and innovators, sourcing cleantech business plan applications, and providing student entrepreneurs with funding and exposure to develop their businesses. The Rice Alliance for Technology & Entrepreneurship, a bridge between multiple Rice University departments devoted to the support of technology commercialization and entrepreneurship education, played host to the Department of Energy’s Cleantech University Prize (Cleantech UP) business plan competition late last month in Houston, Texas.

The 2018 National Competition brought together 23 student-led cleantech ventures from 18 universities nationwide and 8 regional partners, including Clean Energy Trust. Teams participated in two days of intensive training modules, due diligence consultations, investment feedback sessions, and business plan pitches. Clean Energy Trust was once again excited to attend and participate alongside our regional partners which include Caltech, Carnegie Mellon University, MIT, Rutgers University, University of California-Berkeley, University of Central Florida, and the aforementioned Rice University.

2018 marks the third installment of DOE’s Cleantech UP program — in 2016, NovoMoto, a University of Wisconsin-Madison company bringing solar-powered microgrid technologies to sub-Saharan Africa, won CET’s $50,000 Cleantech University Prize competition, then placed third and received an additional $20,000 at the DOE National Competition in Denver. In 2017, CET was represented by RVS Rubber Solutions, a startup that converts rejected tire components into environmentally-friendly rubber sources based out of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and Wattcoin Labs, an Illinois Institute of Technology/University of Wisconsin-Madison joint team that has used blockchain technology to create a payment platform for energy transactions. RVS and Wattcoin delivered strong pitches and gained valuable mentorship and exposure at the DOE National Competition in Austin, however, the top prizes ultimately went to well-deserved teams representing other regional partners.

The 2018 DOE National Competition was unique in that it offered additional award opportunities to teams, including the DOE $35k Building Technologies Prize and the Department of Defense $35k Operational Energy Prize. These funds bolstered the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place prizes already presented by DOE at the $50k, $30k, and $20k levels, respectively. CET was represented by Aerospec Technologies, a Northwestern University venture performing drone inspection services that won our $50k regional grand prize. Following Aerospec were our runners-up Aelios Technology, a University of Minnesota company creating emerging grid services to optimize energy consumption at healthcare facilities, and Beltech, a University of Chicago/Northwestern University joint team producing new lithium-ion battery technologies that significantly reduce cost and increase energy density.

Aerospec and Aelios, unfortunately, came up just short in gaining additional funds, as the 1st, 2nd, 3rd-place, and Building Technologies prizes were awarded to ETC Solar (Caltech), NUMiX Materials (Northwestern University), PolarPanel (University of Houston), and Hearth Labs (Princeton University), respectively. However, Aerospec and Aelios were able to take advantage of individual mentoring from energy industry leaders and entrepreneurial training from Cleantech UP partner VentureWell. As for Beltech, they went on to win the DOD’s first $35k prize to further validate their emerging advanced battery technologies. Over the past several months, Aerospec, Aelios, and Beltech have all exemplified Cleantech UP’s mission to provide aspiring student entrepreneurs with the mentorship, business development training, and investor feedback they need to turn their clean energy ideas into viable businesses offering real-world solutions. Clean Energy Trust looks forward to promoting the continued progress of these companies and build on the game-changing successes of Cleantech UP.

For more information on the 2018 DOE National Competition and Cleantech UP program, visit: http://www.cleantechup.org/

By George Johnson | July 11, 2018