The U.S. Department of Energy hopes to foster clean energy entrepreneurship across the nation through a National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition, part of President Barack Obama's Startup America initiative.
"Inspiring some of the country’s best and brightest students to become the next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs is crucial to supporting an economy that is built to last," U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a statement.
Six regional competitions served as qualifying rounds for a national one, which took place from June 12 to 14. The winners of first and second place were alumni of the 2012 Rice Business Plan Competition (RBPC) in April, which drew 42 teams from across the globe to pitch ideas and compete for more than $1.55 million in cash prizes.
Now in its 12th year, the Rice event has become the world's largest and richest graduate-level business plan competition.
NuMat Technologies, Inc., a concept created by Northwestern University graduate students, was awarded grand prize (totaling $875,000) at the Rice competition. Then the NuMat team scored first place in the Department of Energy's national competition, accruing $180,000 more in seed money, which will be put toward a plan to commercialize a material that can store gasses like a sponge stores water.
SolidEnergy from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which took away fourth place and the $100,000 U.S. Department of Energy Clean Energy Prize at the Rice competition, has a plan for improving the safety and energy density of rechargeable lithium batteries. That group took second place overall in the Department of Energy's national competition.
The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship puts on the RBPC, and the U.S. Department of Energy served as a sponsor for the 2012 event (alongside a number of private companies). Now in its 12th year, the Rice event has become the world's largest and richest graduate-level business plan competition — boasting more than its fair share of success stories.
Future competitors, take note.