Clean Energy Trust Challenges 14 Finalists

Clean Energy Trust Challenges 14 Finalists

by JOHN GREGERSON | March 4, 2016

Fourteen Midwest enterprises, from student start ups to early-stage companies, are looking to clean up, vying for slices of a $1-million pie dedicated to driving innovation in the clean tech industry. They all answered the annual Clean Energy Trust Challenge and have now advanced to the finals.

Sponsored by the nonprofit Clean Energy Trust (CET) and focused on the Midwest, the competition embraces advances in transportation, renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage, and information technologies. On April 12, venture capitalists, industry executives, civic leaders, media and the public all will gather at Chicago's Spertus Institute to watch finalists pitch their businesses at what CET describes as "a nationally recognized accelerator program and the largest single-day clean energy pitch competition in the nation."

  • For more details about the April 12 event, including ticket information, click here.  

“CET believes in the powers of science, innovation and entrepreneurship to bring about better and cleaner energy solutions,” said CEO Erik Birkerts. “Our 2016 class of 14 of the most promising student and early stage companies in the Midwest exemplifies such human ingenuity.”

Finalists were selected from a field of about 80 applicants following evaluations by more than 75 subject-matter and industry experts. Ventures among finalists range from a rides-haring app for busnesses to micro solar grids for the Democratic National Congo.

On their way. Last year, the Challenge probideded eight enterprises in categories including “Clean Energy Prize Fund” and “Emerging Growth Award, Clean Energy Prize Fund.” Cash awards ranged from $20,000 to $300,000

On their way. Last year, the Challenge probideded eight enterprises in categories including “Clean Energy Prize Fund” and “Emerging Growth Award, Clean Energy Prize Fund.” Cash awards ranged from $20,000 to $300,000

Prior to the Challenge, finalists will receive commercialization assistance, mentorship, and access to a partner network, among other forms of support.

This year's finalists in the Student Track are:

  • CrystalE, Cleveland OH - Internet of Things/Smart Cities - CrystalE uses piezoelectric tech to create self-powered sensors for building envelope monitoring;
  • Hazel Technologies, Evanston IL - Efficiency Technologies - Using an ethylene inhibitor delivery system that prevents food spoilage, Hazel claims it can extend the shelf life of produce for retailers, and ultimately reduces customer waste by up to 40%;
  • INjoo Networks, Evanston IL - Internet of Things/Smart Cities - INjoo has developed AI software to optimize resources in any building without additional hardware or sensors;
  • NovoMoto, Madison WI - Microgrids/Smart Grids - NovoMoto uses solar panels, batteries, mobile money services, and local entrepreneurs to deliver electricity reliably, particularly for use in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

This year's finalists in the Early Stage (Entrepreneurs) Track are:

  • 10x Technology, Libertyville IL - Efficiency Technologies - 10x produces micro- and nano-structured materials for high-value applications such as increasing the efficiency in lighting buildings and enhancing the sustainability in delivery drugs;
  • AMF Nano, Ann Arbor MI - Internet of Things/Smart Cities - Using unique nano-packing technology, AMF Nano fits proprietary wireless sensors to the outside of tanks to measure the volume of liquids and solids in real time;
  • Current Motor, Ann Arbor MI - Advanced Transportation - Using  electric cargo motorcycles housed and transported in a containerized solar charging station with on-board battery storage, Current Motor has developed an energy-independent mini-fleet-in-a-box;
  • DATTUS, Indianapolis IN - Efficiency Technologies - Returning after winning the CET Challenge in 2013, DATTUS says its hardware and software systems for data collection, aggregation, visualization, and analytics now also include failure-predicting smart machines for operations;
  • Innova EV, Burr Ridge IL - Advanced Transportation - Innova EV has developed the DASH electric vehicle to address the growing demand for environmentally responsible first-to-last mile transit needs in urban and university settings;
  • ThermoLift, Ann Arbor MI - Efficiency Technologies - ThermoLift is developing a cold-climate natural gas air-conditioner and heat pump technology that incorporates space heating, air-conditioning, and water heating into a single appliance;
  • Nexmatix, St. Louis MO - Efficiency Technologies - Its platform of products makes pneumatics more efficient, including directional control valves used for actuation systems and air-leak detection products that can recycle compressed air in non-actuated systems; 
  • Renewance, Chicago IL - Energy Storage - The firm provides one-stop-shop, cradle-to-grave regulatory compliance and asset management for industrial batteries; 
  • SonicLQ, Chicago IL - Efficiency Technologies - Employs sound waves to detect and measure air leaks in buildings, thereby saving money and energy on heating and cooling;
  • SPLT, Detroit MI - Advanced Transportation - A ridesharing app that aims to alleviate the burden and demand on every transportation system among enterprises.

A self-described “impact investor,” CET is dedicated to promoting environmental innovation and has invested in 29 regional startups that subsequently secured $86 million in backing and created 300 jobs.

To date, the Challenge has provided a boost to more than 60 startups in the Midwest, 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; Detroit’s GreenLancer, who has since gone on to raise $5 million in Series B funding; Chicago’s AMPY, who after winning at the Challenge launched a national Kickstarter campaign which raised $309,000 and was featured in Forbes magazine, The Today Show, CBS This Morning, Fast Company, CNET and others.

This year, prize sponsors include the U.S. Dept. of Energy, Illinois Dept. of Commerce, Socore Energy, Northwestern University, Purdue University, University of Chicago, BP, Wells Fargo, The Pritzker Foundation, Boeing, United Airlines, Exelon, and Schneider Electric, among othersBuiltWorlds is a media sponsor for the event.

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