$100,000 competition to stimulate innovative clean technology

UC Berkeley is encouraging students with game-changing ideas in clean energy technology to compete for a four-month-long campus bootcamp designed to shepherd the technology into the marketplace.

BERC poster session

Poster session at last year’s BERC Innovation Expo, where students presented cleantech ideas.

Between six and eight student-led groups will be chosen from around the country for the Berkeley Cleantech University Prize (CUP), which will fund the teams during the fall semester as they take advantage of the campus’s incubators and accelerators, which are now primarily helping UC Berkeley students launch start-ups.

“We will help the teams develop business plans, connections, mature their technologies in our fabrication spaces, provide legal, policy and business expertise that our community has to offer,” said Sean Wihera, the competition’s program director and an analyst with the Berkeley Energy and Climate Institute (BECI). “We are opening up the Berkeley community to national participation to accelerate, stimulate and facilitate collegiate cleantech entrepreneurship.”

The teams will work with UC Berkeley throughout the semester and then pitch their business plans to a panel of entrepreneurs in February 2016, with the winning team getting a $100,000 infusion to advance their technology further. The final competition takes place during UC Berkeley’s annual BECI Philomathia Forum and the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC) Energy Summit.

BECI is the coordinating hub for energy and climate research at UC Berkeley, encouraging collaboration inside and outside the university. BERC is a multidisciplinary network of UC Berkeley students, alumni, faculty, industry professionals and advisors who foster innovation to tackle the world’s energy and environmental challenges.

The Berkeley CUP

The Berkeley CUP competition is funded for three years by the U.S. Department of Energy as part of a national, $2.5 million program announced in June to commercialize new technologies that reduce carbon pollution and grow the clean energy economy. UC Berkeley is one of eight universities hosting competitions like this, with cash prizes that aim to equip students with business skills to take clean-energy technologies from the laboratory to the marketplace.

“We really want the best collegiate cleantech teams from all over the country to apply to UC Berkeley’s program, and we want to get as many of these technologies into the marketplace as possible,” Wihera said.

The Cleantech University Prize program aims to inspire the next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs and innovators by providing them with competitive funding for business and commercialization training and other educational opportunities.

UC Berkeley already offers a wealth of services to aspiring student entrepreneurs, prominent among them the Haas School of Business’s Cleantech to Market (C2M) program, the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBNL) Cyclotron Road incubator, the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) Foundry, the American Jobs Project (AJP) and the BECI Energy Challenge.

UC Berkeley was selected as one eight collegiate hubs as the result of a joint proposal from BECI and BERC. UC Berkeley is seeking partners to support this and other collegiate cleantech entrepreneurship and innovation programs, both on campus and around the U.S.

“The Berkeley Cleantech University Prize (CUP) is an exciting opportunity for students across the U.S. to engage with Berkeley’s innovation ecosystem as part of the greater push to stimulate collegiate cleantech entrepreneurship,” Wihera said.

In addition to the eight local competitions run by universities, a national competition, the Cleantech UP National Hub, will be hosted by Spark Clean Energy, a national nonprofit focused on engaging students in clean energy.

The other DOE Cleantech UP Collegiate Competition hosts are the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Clean Energy Trust, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rice University, Rutgers University, The State University of New Jersey and University of Central Florida.

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