Published: June 19, 2013

Regional student commercialization projects, ranging from a cooling system for data centers to a rooftop system that captures carbon dioxide -- a brewery byproduct -- and converts it to an algae-based nutraceutical, 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 April 19 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the club level of Folsom Field. Special guest U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel B. Poneman will give remarks and announce the winners of the competition. The first-place team will receive $100,000 and go on to the national competition, June 11-12, 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 five groups including students from CU-Boulder, the University of Colorado Denver, Iowa State University, the University of Utah and Brigham Young University. Other business plans entered in the challenge involve technology that biodegrades all types of plastic found in landfills; a process that converts crude glycerol -- a byproduct of biodiesel plants -- into valuable chemicals; and a treatment that cleans and recycles industrially produced wastewater while also generating electricity.

“While some of these technologies have already been invented, it takes entrepreneurs to identify commercial potential, develop business plans and shepherd innovative startups into the marketplace,” said Steve Herschleb, program manager of the CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge. “This competition supports that spirit and the entrepreneurial side of expanding our nation’s renewable energy and energy efficiency efforts.”

Students of all academic disciplines and levels, from undergraduate to doctoral, are eligible to enter the CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge. Contestants are supported throughout the competition with mentorship and training.

Other institutions supported by the Energy Department grant include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Maryland, Rice University, the California Institute of Technology and Clean Energy Trust.

Five industry leaders, including CEOs, a venture capitalist and a research analyst are serving as judges for Friday’s CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge. The program also will include a poster session 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.

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