Team earns $50,000 with patented device to replace batteries in small electronics
Enertia, a team of three University of Michigan graduate students with a plan to harness vibrations to power small electronics, won the top prize of $50,000 in the 2009-2010 Clean Energy Prize business plan competition.
The final rounds of competition were held Friday at U-M’s Ross School of Business.
Enertia impressed the judges with its plan for a device that can harness vibrations to generate electricity to power small electronics, such as remote sensors and surgically implanted medical equipment. The small generators provide renewable electrical power while replacing toxic electrochemical batteries.
The Clean Energy Prize competition was established by DTE Energy and the University of Michigan to encourage entrepreneurship in Michigan and the development of clean-energy technologies. The Masco Corporation Foundation and The Kresge Foundation were Clean Energy Prize founding sponsors and they continue to support the competition. Additional sponsors include UBS Investment Bank, Google and Nth Power, a clean-tech venture capital company.
The 2009-2010 competition was open to all Michigan colleges and universities and began with 32 teams representing six schools. The field was pared down to four finalists through four rounds of judging, the first of which was held Nov. 23, 2009. The teams were competing for shares of a $100,000 prize pool.
Enertia team member Adam Carver, a dual MBA/MS student at U-M’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainability, said the top prize money “enables us to advance our research and development and business expansion.” He added that the Clean Energy Prize had intangible benefits as well. “The competition encouraged us to carry out the hard work necessary to develop our ideas. Winning the prize also enhances our brand as we seek to connect with various partners and business advisors in the future.”
The other members of Enertia are Tzeno Galchev and Ethem Erkan Aktakka, both PhD Fellows at the NSF Engineering Research Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems (WIMS) at the U-M College of Engineering.
Gerry Anderson, DTE Energy president and COO, said the goal of the Clean Energy Prize is to spur innovation and entrepreneurship in Michigan. “We see the competition as a catalyst for students and faculty at Michigan’s universities to bring new energy technologies out of the labs and into the marketplace,” he said. “And in doing that, it helps create a culture of innovators and the venture capitalists that support them.”
Anderson told the competitors, “What you did as part of this Clean Energy Prize competition is exactly what we need more of in Michigan.”
Algal Scientific, which won last year’s Clean Energy Prize, exemplifies the goal of the competition. The team has gone on to secure additional funding and has started operations in an Ann Arbor-area lab with eight employees. Its technology uses algae to clean wastewater and provide a feedstock for biofuel. The company expects to deploy its system on a commercial scale later this year in mid-Michigan.
This year’s competition was organized largely by students. The U-M Ross School of Business’ Ross Energy Club along with the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship organized the competition. Several other University of Michigan entities also provided support, including the College of Engineering’s Center for Entrepreneurship, the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, the U-M Business Engagement Center and MPowered Entrepreneurship.
Jeff Caveney, one of the student leaders, said the Clean Energy Prize has earned significant standing with students. “What brought students to our competition was its reputation as a springboard for moving ideas from the labs into the marketplace,” he said. “Students understand that this is not a business case competition; it’s a business competition. This reputation was established by the likes of Algal Scientific. This year’s class of clean-tech entrepreneurs surely will solidify that reputation.”
The other finalists were:
- Second place: Advanced Battery Control, which offers a proprietary smart battery management system, which will radically enhance battery utilization in electric vehicles. It received $25,000 in prize money.
- Third place: Green Silane, which provides a low-cost, environmentally benign method for on-site production of silane gas that is used in semiconductor, flat-screen display and photovoltaic panel production. It received $10,000.
- Fourth place: ReGenerate, which manufactures and leases modular anaerobic digestors to institutional food service operators, transforming food waste into on-site renewable energy as well as nutrient-rich fertilizer products. It received $7,000.
In addition to the prize money, the top teams also will share $60,000 in in-kind business services including legal advice, office space and accounting services. The remaining $8,000 in prize money was distributed to the teams as they advanced in earlier rounds.
Details of the competition are available on the Clean Energy Prize Web site: www.dtecleanenergyprize.com.
DTE Energy Ventures is a DTE Energy company that invests in emerging energy technologies and to date has invested more than $100 million in energy-related companies and funds, making us one of the largest Michigan-based venture capital operations. Information about DTE Energy Ventures is available at www.dteenergyventures.com.
DTE Energy (NYSE: DTE) is a Detroit-based diversified energy company involved in the development and management of energy-related businesses and services nationwide. Its operating units include Detroit Edison, an electric utility serving 2.2 million customers in Southeastern Michigan, MichCon, a natural gas utility serving 1.3 million customers in Michigan and other non-utility, energy businesses focused on power and industrial projects, gas midstream, unconventional gas production and energy trading. Information about DTE Energy is available at www.dteenergy.com.
The Ross Energy Club is a group of talented business students who share an interest in energy. REC promotes career development by providing a forum for education about all aspects of business in the energy sector.
The Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute develops, coordinates and promotes multidisciplinary energy research and education at U-M. Some 75 faculty in disciplines ranging from engineering to policy to environmental science to urban planning are a part of the institute.
The Kresge Foundation is a $2.8 billion private, national foundation that seeks to influence the quality of life for future generations through its support of nonprofit organizations in six fields: health, the environment, arts and culture, education, human services and community development. In 2009, it awarded 405 grants totaling $167 million. For more information, visit www.kresge.org.
Masco Corporation is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of brand-name consumer products for the home and family. A Fortune 500 company, Masco’s products include faucets, kitchen and bath cabinets, bath and shower units, spas and hot tubs, shower and plumbing specialties, electronic lock sets and other builders’ hardware, air treatment products, ventilating equipment and pumps. Through its foundation, the Masco Corporation Foundation, Masco actively supports a number of very specific arts, cultural, educational (through our matching gifts program), human service and civic initiatives in the cities where it does business or where a long-term relationship exists.
SOURCE DTE Energy
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