Crowdsourcing Green Innovation – The GE Ecomagination Challenge

GE announced a $200 million effort in crowdsourcing green innovation, the GE Ecomagination Challenge.  Running for ten weeks from July 13 through September 30, 2010, it is an open call for “breakthrough ideas to create a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid, and (to) accelerate the adoption of smart grid technologies” http://challenge.ecomagination.com/ct/a.bix?c=ideas.

While the language seems to initially emphasize the grid, it is much broader in scope, and the Challenge is broken down into three parts.  The first part, “Challenge 1: Generate Renewable Energy”, seeks to elicit technologies and processes that will increase the utilization of renewable energy.  The second part, “Challenge 2: Connect – Grid Efficiency” draws attention to the waste inherent in the current functioning of the grid, from transmission and distribution to interface with customer’s real needs.  The last part, “Challenge 3: Use – EcoHomes/EcoBuildings” targets how energy is used, giving potential examples ranging from “smart meters and appliances that let consumers’ appliances “talk” to their power utility; home area networks; demand response systems; home energy use monitoring; time-of-use pricing; plug-in hybrid electric vehicle integration; and neighborhood micro grids.”  While the boundaries of the categories of ideas being solicited seem intentionally porous, it is interesting to note that in addition to “technologies and processes” the word “policy” is added to Challenge 2, and “business model” to Challenge 3.  This supports the vision of the breadth and openness of the Challenge.

In addition to GE’s commitment, the Ecomagination Challenge includes four venture capital firms as partners to help accelerate promising ideas: Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, and Rockport Capital.

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