Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Student clean-tech entrepreneurs will compete in energy venture challenge

Sixteen student teams from six universities across Michigan will present their green technology solutions and vie for more than $100,000 in prizes at the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge next week.

The challenge, established by U-M and DTE Energy, encourages students from Michigan colleges and universities to grow clean-energy solutions into thriving businesses.


Bob Lutz, retired General Motors vice chairman, will speak at the event at 2 p.m. Feb. 17 in Blau Auditorium at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business.

"All of the teams participating this year have done a tremendous job in moving their clean energy business ideas forward," says Doug Neal, executive director of the Center for Entrepreneurship at the College of Engineering. "It is exciting to see teams from all over the state of Michigan working together, learning together and pushing each other to create the next cohort of clean energy entrepreneurs that will have a significant impact on our economy and the nation."

In addition to U-M, students from these universities are involved: Lake Superior State University, Michigan State University, Michigan Technological University, Wayne State University and Western Michigan University.

Eight teams from U-M are among the finalists. They are:

• PicoSpray, which is building cleaner, cheaper and more efficient small engines for motorcycles, lawnmowers and mopeds.

• Arbor Solar Technology, which is developing a hybrid solar lighting solution.

• Reversible off the Grid Heated Blankets, which is developing non-electric blanket aimed at preventing hypothermia in premature infants in the U.S. and in developing nations.

• NusKu Energy Applications, which has come up with a way for companies to reduce their power consumption in computer data centers.

• Torch Hybrid Marine, which is creating a hybrid electric propulsion systems for boats.

• Arborlight, which is commercializing better LEDs that could replace fluorescent light bulbs.

• EVStation, which is working to overcome range anxiety in electric vehicles.

• BooCycle, which is developing lightweight bicycles made of bamboo.

Pitch videos from these teams and many of those from other universities are posted at this YouTube playlist.

At the start of the competition, business ideas ranged from a sketch on a napkin to a fully formed, pre-revenue company. This year, each team competed for the full six-months of the challenge and received assistance identifying their business model as well as mentoring and discussion opportunities with venture capital and angel investors.

This year, for the first time, this competition is part of a national effort encouraging young entrepreneurs to develop greener energy solutions through President Obama's Startup America campaign. The winner of the Michigan contest will advance to a regional competition in the spring, and eventually could have a shot at a national grand prize in Washington, D.C., this summer.

In addition to a first- and second-place prize at the Michigan contest, judges will give awards in six categories, including best resource conservation, increased energy efficiency and green building. They will give five special achievement awards to best prototype, most disruptive, best team assembled, best pivot(s) and judges' choice.

Clean Energy Venture Challenge sponsors include DTE Energy, MASCO Corporation Foundation, The Kresge Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, Google, UBS Investment Bank, Eisbrenner Public Relations, U-M, Western Michigan University, Wayne State University, Michigan State University and Michigan Technological University. Partners include the U-M Ross Energy Club, Energy Institute, Center for Entrepreneurship and MPowered.

Feb. 17 will be a big day for entrepreneurship at U-M. In addition to this contest, the Ross School will hold its semifinal and final rounds of the Michigan Business Challenge. Hosted by the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, the competition is in its 28th year. More than $60,000 in cash prizes will be awarded. The semifinal round begins at 9 a.m. Winners will be announced at an awards reception at the Ross School from 5-7 p.m. New Dare to Dream student startup grant recipients for the winter term also will be announced. For more information on the event, and the semifinalist teams, go to or