Student entrepreneurs developing clean energy solutions

Some of the nation's most promising student entrepreneurs showcased their innovative technologies in Austin for the Department of Energy's second annual Cleantech University Prize business plan competition.

Late last month, student entrepreneurs converged in Austin, Texas for the Department of Energy’s Cleantech University Prize (Cleantech UP) business plan competition. The DOE National Competition stems from 8 regional program partners, including Clean Energy Trust, and brings together top teams from each organization’s competition to pitch their cleantech business solutions for $100,000 in potential grant funding.

This year marked the DOE’s second annual cycle of the Cleantech UP program. In 2016, NovoMoto, a University of Wisconsin-Madison company bringing solar-powered microgrid technologies to sub-Saharan Africa, won CET’s $50,000 Cleantech University Prize then placed third and received an additional $20,000 at the DOE National Competition in Denver.

CET’s 2017 Cleantech UP Midwest Showcase was held this past February at the University of Chicago. Eight finalists competed for the $50,000 grand prize and a chance to pitch again at the DOE National Competition. RVS Rubber Solutions, a startup that converts otherwise rejected tire components into environmentally-friendly rubber sources for a variety of applications, won the top prize. RVS, based out of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, was joined by Wattcoin Labs, an Illinois Institute of Technology/University of Wisconsin-Madison joint team that has used blockchain technology to create a payment platform for energy transactions.

RVS and Wattcoin competed alongside 17 other innovative, university-based teams from around the country. Over the course of 2 days, the 19 teams underwent rigorous mentorship sessions and intensive startup training. The DOE National Competition was also held in conjunction with the Smart Cities Connect Conference & Expo, allowing students the opportunity to connect with hundreds of government leaders and successful entrepreneurs. Teams were judged by a panel of investors and energy industry leaders on various criteria, including their business’s value proposition, go-to-market plan, customer traction, scalability potential, and impact on the energy economy.

RVS and Wattcoin delivered strong, compelling pitches but ultimately, the top 3 prize winners came from well-deserved Cleantech UP regional partners MIT, Rice University, and the University of Central Florida, respectively. While CET’s representing teams did not win further funding, they gained valuable mentorship and exposure towards scaling their ideas into viable commercial solutions. CET is excited for RVS, Wattcoin, and all the Cleantech UP student entrepreneurs to continue innovating and leading the charge for a globally sustainable future.

For more information on the 2017 DOE National Competition and Cleantech UP program, visit:

By George Johnson | July 11, 2017