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Following the success of last year's inaugural Clean Energy Prize competition – conceived to help move clean energy technologies from the laboratory to commercial production – DTE Energy and the University of Michigan have broadened the scope of the competition. For Year 2, the rules have been changed to encourage participation from more Michigan colleges and universities.
This year, teams are not required to include a U-M student. Any team with student representation from a Michigan college or university is eligible. The teams still are being challenged to develop the best business plan for bringing a new clean energy technology to market. And again, the teams with winning ideas will share $100,000 in prize money, to be awarded in the spring of 2010.
Applications and details of the competition are available on the Clean Energy Prize Web site: www.dtecleanenergyprize.com.
The competition was established by DTE Energy and the University of Michigan, with support from the Masco Corporation Foundation and The Kresge Foundation, to encourage entrepreneurship in Michigan and the development of clean-energy technologies.
Algal Scientific Corporation, comprised of business and engineering students from U-M and Michigan State University, won the inaugural competition and earned the top prize of $65,000. Algal's winning business plan was based on a process that would use algae to simultaneously treat wastewater and produce raw materials for biofuels. Algal and the Clean Energy Prize's second and third place teams, Husk Insulation and Ikanos Power, went on to also win prize money at several national clean technology business plan competitions.
"Our goal for the Clean Energy Prize is to drive promising ideas and technologies from the research lab to commercialization," said Knut Simonsen, president, DTE Energy Ventures. "Algal Scientific Corporation is now well on the way to achieving that goal. We think their example, and the continuing progress of the other teams that competed against them, will encourage a strong field of teams to participate this year."
Simonson added, "Algal's decision to locate its business in Michigan supports the competition's other goal of helping to reinvigorate a culture of entrepreneurship in the state."
The U-M Ross School of Business' Ross Energy Club along with the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship are organizing the competition. The prize organizers are receiving support from several other University of Michigan entities, including the college of engineering's Center for Entrepreneurship, the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies and MPowered Entrepreneurship. The competition is open to students from all Michigan colleges and universities.
Gary Nye, one of the student leaders with the Ross Energy Club, said a key development for the competition's second year is expanding its reach throughout the state. "Modifying the rules this year to allow competition from all Michigan universities provides two key advantages," Nye said. "First, it helps provide a focused alliance within Michigan around clean energy. Second, it provides an intensified competition to draw out the best talent and ideas that Michigan has to offer."
Jeff Caveney, another Ross Energy Club student leader, said the competition challenges students with divergent skill sets to work together to move technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. "The Clean Energy Prize is the perfect avenue for business and engineering students to gain experience turning thought into action," Caveney said.
The competition requires that teams focus on business ideas that support renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grid technologies, environmental control technologies, plug-in electric vehicles or energy storage.
The business plan entries will be judged by independent panels that will include leaders from the venture capital, business, industry and academic communities. The prize money rewards the winning teams with resources that can help them further develop their ideas and ultimately start new businesses that can contribute to Michigan's emerging role as a leader in clean energy.
DTE Energy Ventures is a DTE Energy company that invests in emerging energy technologies and to date has invested more than $100 million in energy-related companies and funds, making it one of the larger Michigan-based venture capital operations.
DTE Energy is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Its operating units include Detroit Edison, an electric utility serving 2.2 million customers in Southeastern Michigan, MichCon, a natural gas utility serving 1.3 million customers in Michigan and other non-utility, energy businesses focused on power and industrial projects, gas midstream, unconventional gas production and energy trading.
The Ross Energy Club is a group of talented business students who share an interest in energy. REC promotes career development by providing a forum for education about all aspects of business in the energy sector.
The Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute develops, coordinates and promotes multidisciplinary energy research and education at U-M. Some 75 faculty in disciplines ranging from engineering to policy to environmental science to urban planning are a part of the institute.
Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship is a consortium of all 15 Michigan public universities acting together strategically to foster a new Michigan knowledge economy based on entrepreneurship and innovation. By using the considerable resources of Michigan's institutions of higher education, MIIE seeks to enhance the State's economic competitiveness and stimulate growth.