$200 Million “ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid” Competition Announced by GE, Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and RockPort Capital

Earlier this month GE announced the ecomagination Challenge. This is a $200 million innovation competition launched in partnership with Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, RockPort Capital, and Chris Anderson (Editor-in-Chief, Wired).


The ecomagination Challenge seeks breakthrough ideas to create a smarter, cleaner, more efficient electric grid, and accelerate the adoption of more efficient grid technologies.  Proposals are sought in three categories — Renewables, Grid and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings. This competition is open from now until September 30, 2010 to anyone aged 18 years or older and all legally formed entities.  Entries may be submitted via the ecomagination Challenge website


Selected entrants will be offered the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship with GE through:

  • Investment: The $200 million capital pledge of GE and its partners will be invested globally into promising start-ups and ideas
  • Validation: Evaluate entrant’s business strategy through in-depth discussions with GE’s technical and commercial teams
  • Distribution: Explore partnership opportunities with GE to scale a business and create global reach
  • Development: Leverage GE‘s technical infrastructure and GE Global Research Centers to accelerate technology and product development
  • Growth: Explore opportunities for utilizing existing GE customer to take Challenge products to market

In addition, five entrants will receive a $100,000 “innovation challenge award” acknowledging their entry as an example of outstanding entrepreneurship and innovation.


“Innovation is the engine of the global effort to transform the way we create, connect and use power,” said GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt. “At GE we have invested broadly and deeply in digital energy solutions and see this as a substantial market for us, but we can’t do it alone. We want to work with our partners to make sure we have a comprehensive digital energy offering. This challenge is about collaboration and we are inviting others to help accelerate progress in creating a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid. We want to jump-start new ideas and deploy them on a scale that will modernize the electrical grid around the world.”


GE CMO Beth Comstock said, “We took on a challenge when we launched ecomagination five years ago and we have learned about the power of partnerships to deliver clean energy solutions today. The challenge announced today is about collaboration and harnessing the promise of fledgling ideas and businesses to transform our energy future. We are confident in people’s willingness to change the way the world uses energy and in the ideas that will make this possible.”


“The Smart Grid is a new platform and a new market that is just beginning to be explored. Great ideas on how to do this can come from anywhere, so this competition is designed to tap the widest possible range of innovators, from big companies to entrepreneurs to students,” said Chris Anderson, who is serving as an advisor on the Challenge. 


“Modernization of global electricity transmission and distribution systems have simply not kept pace with our society’s growing demand for clean and highly reliable power,” said Gina Domanig, Managing Partner of Emerald Technology Ventures. “Smart Grid innovation has been a significant area of investment focus for Emerald over the past decade and we are pleased to be a partner in the GE ecomagination Challenge.”


Foundation Capital General Partner Paul Koontz said, “Global power grids make up the largest networks in the world. In most cases, the technology on which they are based is essentially 100 years old. The opportunity to reinvent how energy is produced, distributed and consumed is extraordinarily large and is critical in the battle against climate change. We’re pleased to support GE’s initiative to engage the entrepreneurial community, and the powerful innovation engine it represents, in this effort.”


“Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers is committed to a sustainable energy environment and are working to reduce the world’s dependency on fossil fuel-based energy through our growing portfolio of innovative Greentech companies,” said Ray Lane, Managing Partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. We believe the Smart Grid is the information technology backbone that will enable faster scaling of energy innovations. Kleiner Perkins is proud to be a part of the GE ecomagination Challenge, and we are committed to working closely with GE and other investor partners to help commercialize the best Smart Grid innovations.”


RockPort Capital General Partner Chuck McDermott said, “The electric power grid is the central nervous system of the global economy. Though today’s grid is a 20th century engineering marvel, the smart grid of tomorrow promises to revolutionize how we manage our homes, offices and factories and to maximize the use of next-generation clean energy resources. Through this challenge, we will match the best ideas and best entrepreneurs with GE’s commitment to innovation, unparalleled technical knowledge and its deep penetration into the most vital areas of the world’s energy infrastructure. Working together we can transform yesterday’s grid into a 21st century marvel.”


A video of the formal announcement of the ecomagination Challenge follows below.