Aerospec Wins $50,000 Cleantech Startup Award From Clean Energy Trust and the U.S. Department of Energy

Eight university teams from all over the Midwest competed at Switched On: Student Innovations in Cleantech.

Yesterday, Clean Energy Trust, held its annual business plan competition for student cleantech startups. Eight university teams with innovative technologies and business ideas in solar, wind, biofuels, energy storage, and pollution control pitched in front of a live audience and a panel of expert judges. 

The student startups were finalists for the Cleantech University Prize, a $50,000 grant provided by the U.S. Department of Energy. The Cleantech University Prize aims to inspire and equip the next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs by providing them with competiative funding for business development and commercialization training.

Clean Energy Trust is one of eight particpating institutions around the country that administers this prize on a regional level. The winner of the grant, plus two runner up teams, will go on to compete against the other regional winners in a national competition in June.

A panel of expert judges made up of professionals in VC, energy, and corporate venture determined that Aerospec Technologies, a company out of Northwestern University, would win the grand prize. Aerospec impressed with their patented infrared imaging solar inspection technology and initial progress with their first customers.

Aelios Technology from University of Minnesota and Beltech from University of Chicago were also recognized as runner ups.

At the event Sonny Garg, Energy Solutions Lead, for Chicago-based unicorn Uptake Technologies gave a keynote address where he spoke about the immense importance of the challenge we are up against in figuring out solutions to address climate change. Ben Hernandez, the final speaker of the day, addressed his journey from winning this student grant in 2012 to now leading a successful, internationally-operating startup today.

“All of the teams who participated yesterday are to be commended for their ingenuity and dedication to addressing some of society’s most gripping challenges with entrepreneurial zeal,” noted Clean Energy Trust CEO Erik Birkerts.


By Emily Achler | February 9, 2018