Department of Energy taps CU-Boulder for cleantech competition

By Staff

The University of Colorado Boulder has been selected as one of six recipients that will receive a total of $2 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy to create a network of student-focused cleantech regional competitions as part of a broader strategy to expand the nation’s renewable energy efforts.

Trent Yang, director of the CU Cleantech Program at the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship in CU-Boulder’s Leeds School of Business, says the award reaffirms the university, as well as the Deming Center, as a leader in the commercialization and research of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

CU Cleantech has a business board of seven cleantech companies that provide market guidance and research collaboration with the university, as well as serving as a steadfast partner via student internships and an incubation program. College students are the bridge to commercialization for researchers in many ways because they have the time and energy to commit to the demands of challenging yet promising renewable energy and cleantech startups, according to Yang. CU-Boulder has a student body interested and active in this arena; in fact, the CU Energy Club is the fastest growing club in CU history, with more than 1,500 members in less than three years.

“We are bridging science and business in many ways here at CU Cleantech and the Deming Center,” Yang said. “Clean renewable energy is profoundly important for the next 20 to 50 years as we seek new ways to reduce our carbon footprints and our dependence on foreign oil. We’re in great company with the other universities that were selected as well. It’s a great opportunity for our students to be active participants and leaders in the next generation of cleantech companies coming out of the nation’s universities.”

CU-Boulder will focus its competition on the western Midwest region, which includes Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Iowa. Students with cleantech business plans from these states will compete in the DOE-sponsored regional competition, which will work in conjunction with CU-Boulder’s annual cross-campus business plan competition, the New Venture Challenge.

The other awardees are Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, Mass.; University of Maryland in College Park; Clean Energy Trust in Chicago; Rice University in Houston; and California Institute of Technology in Los Angeles. These academic institutions will host regional competitions to increase clean energy businesses coming out of universities and research labs, create a new generation of entrepreneurs to serve the nation’s energy mission, and elevate the nation as a secure and strong leader in the global marketplace.

The funding will be distributed during a three-year period. Winners of the regional competitions will receive $100,000 to start their businesses and go on to compete for a national grand prize at the Department of Energy competition in Washington, D.C., in May 2012.  Students interested in participating in the CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge should email

“We are immensely pleased that CU-Boulder has been selected as a host for this DOE-sponsored competition,” said Paul Jerde, director of the Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business. “This represents the next stage of opportunity after years of commitment by the Deming Center in promoting new student ventures in the cleantech sector. The Deming Center was an early leader in this mission when, in 2006, it launched the Cleantech Venture Challenge, a cleantech business plan competition for students from around the world.

“As student interest in cleantech career opportunities has increased, we have increasingly dedicated our efforts to this mission. This award from the Department of Energy helps us and our many colleagues to advance that mission in a more powerful way to the benefit of students.”