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GE announced a $200 million open innovation challenge that seeks breakthrough ideas to create a smarter, cleaner, more efficient electric grid, and accelerate the adoption of more efficient grid technologies. GE chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt unveiled the challenge, the “GE ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid,” in San Francisco on July 14.
The global challenge invites technologists, entrepreneurs and start-ups to share their best ideas and come together to take on one of the world's toughest challenges - building the next-generation power grid to meet the needs of the 21st century. The challenge is one of the largest ever and is open immediately at www.ecomagination.com/challenge.
"Innovation is the engine of the global effort to transform the way we create, connect and use power," Immelt said. "At GE we have invested broadly and deeply in digital energy solutions and see this as a substantial market for us, but we can’t do it alone. We want to work with our partners to make sure we have a comprehensive digital energy offering. This challenge is about collaboration and we are inviting others to help accelerate progress in creating a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid. We want to jump-start new ideas and deploy them on a scale that will modernize the electrical grid around the world."
The Challenge, launched in collaboration with leading venture capital firms Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer and RockPort Capital, and Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief, Wired magazine, is part of GE’s ecomagination initiative, a global commitment to build innovative clean energy technologies and will help fund the most promising ideas. Proposals are sought in three, broad categories: Renewables, Grid and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings. Select Challenge entrants will be offered the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship with GE through:
The $200 million commitment will help bring these new ideas to market by providing businesses and individuals with the opportunity to secure growth capital through GE investment and/or investment by participating venture capital firms. It is open to anyone aged 18 years or older and all legally formed entities.
GE CMO Beth Comstock said, “We took on a challenge when we launched ecomagination five years ago and we have learned about the power of partnerships to deliver clean energy solutions today. The challenge announced today is about collaboration and harnessing the promise of fledgling ideas and businesses to transform our energy future. We are confident in people’s willingness to change the way the world uses energy and in the ideas that will make this possible.”
"The Smart Grid is a new platform and a new market that is just beginning to be explored. Great ideas on how to do this can come from anywhere, so this competition is designed to tap the widest possible range of innovators, from big companies to entrepreneurs to students," said Anderson, who is serving as an advisor on the Challenge.
Over the course of 10 weeks, entrants will be able to submit their ideas via ecomagination.com. Entries will be evaluated as candidates for both a potential future commercial relationship as well as a $100,000 innovation challenge award acknowledging their entry as an example of outstanding entrepreneurship and innovation.
The candidates for a future commercial relationship with GE will be evaluated by a committee of representatives of GE businesses and the challenge partner firms. A separate, independent judging panel including challenge advisor Chris Anderson, GE executives and leading academics and technologists will also provide input on the commercial relationship candidates, as well as select the five recipients of the $100,000 innovation challenge award. Members of the general public will also be able to review and comment on entries and show support for the idea that they believe will have the most impact on the smart grid of the future. To view the full terms and conditions, visit ecomagination.com/challenge.
Modernizing the world’s aging electrical infrastructure is critical to meet ever-increasing demands on the power grid, support more renewable energy and increase energy efficiency. Full smart grid implementation could reduce U.S. carbon emissions through efficiency and enable further reductions through new source management, make the most of current assets, and support thousands of new jobs.
“Modernization of global electricity transmission and distribution systems have simply not kept pace with our society’s growing demand for clean and highly reliable power,” said Gina Domanig, managing partner of Emerald Technology Ventures. “Smart Grid innovation has been a significant area of investment focus for Emerald over the past decade and we are pleased to be a partner in the GE ecomagination Challenge.”
Foundation Capital general partner Paul Koontz said, “Global power grids make up the largest networks in the world. In most cases, the technology on which they are based is essentially 100 years old. The opportunity to reinvent how energy is produced, distributed and consumed is extraordinarily large and is critical in the battle against climate change. We’re pleased to support GE’s initiative to engage the entrepreneurial community, and the powerful innovation engine it represents, in this effort.”
"Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is committed to a sustainable energy environment and are working to reduce the world's dependency on fossil fuel-based energy through our growing portfolio of innovative Greentech companies,” said Ray Lane, Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. We believe the Smart Grid is the information technology backbone that will enable faster scaling of energy innovations. Kleiner Perkins is proud to be a part of the GE ecomagination Challenge, and we are committed to working closely with GE and other investor partners to help commercialize the best Smart Grid innovations."
RockPort Capital general partner Chuck McDermott said, “The electric power grid is the central nervous system of the global economy. Though today’s grid is a 20th century engineering marvel, the smart grid of tomorrow promises to revolutionize how we manage our homes, offices and factories and to maximize the use of next-generation clean energy resources. Through this challenge, we will match the best ideas and best entrepreneurs with GE’s commitment to innovation, unparalleled technical knowledge and its deep penetration into the most vital areas of the world’s energy infrastructure. Working together we can transform yesterday’s grid into a 21st-century marvel.”