Student startups compete for $100,000 in DOE-sponsored CU Cleantech challenge

(Above: an animation explaining one of the CU-Boulder technologies that has been entered into the challenge.)

Regional student commercialization projects -- ranging from an advanced manufacturing technique that prevents the clogging of whey-producing machines to an unmanned aircraft that helps farmers reduce their energy and water use -- will be recognized at the CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge this week.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at the University of Colorado Boulder on April 18 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the lobby and Butcher Auditorium of the Jennie Smoly Caruthers Biotechnology Building. Special guest Douglas Campbell, president and CEO of Solid Power Battery -- a company that spun off from CU-Boulder -- will give the keynote address. The first-place team will receive $100,000 and go on to the national competition in June in Washington, D.C.

CU Cleantech, a program of CU-Boulder’s Deming Center for Entrepreneurship at the Leeds School of Business, was selected in 2011 for part of a national three-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to host the regional competition.

Competing at this year’s regional semifinal at CU-Boulder are seven groups. Five of them are from CU-Boulder with one including students from the University of Colorado Denver. The other two teams are from Iowa State University and the University of New Mexico.

Other business plans entered in the challenge use technology to: purify water and generate electricity from agricultural byproducts; clean and recycle industrially produced wastewater while generating electricity; collect and analyze data to reduce energy costs in buildings; capture carbon dioxide from natural gas plants to produce biofertilizer, or fertilizer containing living microorganisms; and capture carbon dioxide -- a brewery byproduct -- and convert it to algae-based nutraceuticals and biofuels.

“This competition brings out some of the best and brightest student entrepreneurs who are looking to tackle some of our world’s most pressing issues,” said Justin Seymour, competition manager of the CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge. “Through mentorship, expert feedback and a possible $100,000 in seed funding, we help these innovative entrepreneurs identify a commercialization pathway and possibly bring their technology to market.”

Students of all academic disciplines and levels, from undergraduate to doctoral, are eligible to enter the challenge. Contestants are supported throughout the competition with guidance and training.

Six industry leaders -- including founders and directors of technology companies and venture capital and consulting firms, as well as the senior associate dean of the Leeds School -- will serve as judges for Friday’s CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge. The program also will include a poster session, team pitches and a reception.

The CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge shares its preliminary round with another, separate set of competitions called the CU New Venture Challenge, co-hosted by the Deming Center and the Silicon Flatirons Center. The CU New Venture Challenge, which is not part of the Energy Department grant, offers competition tracks in business, information technology, music and social impact, in addition to the cleantech track. It will be held on April 22.

Registration to attend the CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge is requested at For more information about the CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge visit

Justin Seymour, CU Cleantech
Remy Arteaga, Deming Center, 303-492-3490
Elizabeth Lock, CU-Boulder media relations, 303-492-3117