DOE regional clean energy competition open to Purdue students

November 16, 2011

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University students are invited to participate in the first Clean Energy Challenge, a first-in-class business competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy to recognize the top clean-tech entrepreneurs in the Midwest.

Eligibility for the Eastern Midwest region is limited to applicants from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Kentucky and Wisconsin. The winning Midwest team will receive the $100,000 grand prize and advance to the National Grand Prize competition, organized by the DOE in Washington, D.C., next summer.

The deadline for applications is Dec. 5. For more information, go online to the Clean Energy Challenge iStart submission portal at The three flagship institutions for the Midwest region are Purdue along with the University of Michigan and Washington University in St. Louis. 

Jonathan Gortat, project manager for the Purdue Research Foundation's Office of Technology Commercialization, said student teams are encouraged to work closely with their university technology transfer office or the appropriate national laboratory-licensing officer to identify a technology around which to build their application.

"This national initiative will provide entrepreneurially minded students with the skills needed to create new businesses and transform promising energy technologies from U.S. universities and national laboratories into innovative energy products," Gortat said. "The goal is to help create jobs, boost our state and nation's business competitiveness and strengthen our economy."

Students compete in two tracks: Early Stage Business and the Student Challenge reserved for best-in-class university spinouts from top tier Midwest research institutions. Early stage companies will compete for $100,000 in prizes. The Student Challenge offers an additional $100,000 grand prize and five $10,000 runner-up prizes for student teams.

Applicants must provide a brief executive summary describing the problem, the solution, the market and a preliminary commercialization plan. Teams also are asked to include a link to a 3-minute investor pitch, as well as a brief resume of each team member. Preference will be given to teams that demonstrate clear commitment to entrepreneurship and energy innovation. 

By Dec. 16, the three highest scoring applicants from Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio and Missouri will be selected to advance to the semifinals. Another three wild-card slots will be open for the top applicants in the region. Eighteen companies will be selected to move onto the semifinals.

Beginning in January, semifinalists will be matched with experienced entrepreneurs and technical experts who will work with teams to assess commercialization strategies and investor pitches. Each team will be assigned two mentors - one generalist and one specialist - matched specifically to complement their needs. Mentors will be asked to meet with their teams for a minimum of 1 hour per week for the duration of this phase.

Each week throughout the mentorship period, semifinalists must update their three-minute investor pitch. Mentors will score semifinalists weekly until the final competition in March. Eight teams with the highest scores during the mentorship period will advance to the finals and compete for $100,000 in cash at the national competition next summer in Washington, D.C.

The Chicago-based Eastern Midwest region is designed to capitalize on experience from three existing competitions, including the Clean Energy Challenge, the Cleantech Open and the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge. The competition also will draw heavy support from regional researchers, venture capitalists, industry leaders and entrepreneurs.

The other five regions are the Northeast at Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Southeast at University of Maryland in College Park, Md.; Western Southwest at Rice University in Houston, Texas; Western Midwest at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo.; and Western Winner at California Institute of Technology in Los Angeles.

The six regional competitions are expected to be complete by May 1, 2012.

Writers: Phillip Fiorini, 765-496-3133,

                Steve Martin, 765-588-3342,

Source: Jonathan Gortat, 765-588-3485, 

Related websites:
Purdue Research Park

Purdue Research Foundation

Office of Technology and Commercialization

Discovery Park