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July 14, 2010

GE Launches $200 Million "Ecomagination Challenge" to Promote Clean-Energy Innovation



The electrical major, General Electric (GE) has an illustrious track record of investing in energy research and development. To keep with this tradition, GE, which has a large stake in the electricity industry, announced the creation of a $200 million clean-energy contest.  Christened "GE ecomagination challenge", the contest is meant to stimulate innovation in clean energy. Entrepreneurs, technologists and startups from throughout the world are invited to submit entries for the challenge fund via www.ecomagination.com.
 
In the same event, GE has also announced the opening of a sleek electric vehicle charging station. The world's one of the biggest electrical companies hopes that the concept will soon be sprouting along city streets like parking meters.
A model of GE's new electric vehicle charging station was showcased in the event. Named, the GE WattStation, the charging station is as tall as a bar stool and features a sleek silver column equipped with a retractable cord. It is topped by a Frisbee-shaped consumer interface tilted at a jaunty angle. Wireless technology will enable the stations to communicate their location and availability to motorists.
 
The designer of the charging station, Yves Behar predicted that GE WattStations are soon to be integrated into the 21st-century urban landscape. EV charging stations, envisioned as a vital extension of a 'smart' power grid, are being rolled out as carmakers ranging from Tesla to Nissan to General Motors (News - Alert) prepare production of more all-electric cars. Coulomb Technologies, a Silicon Valley startup, is already installing its EV charging stations.
 
GE announced that its GE ecomagination challenge will feature venture capital firms. These firms will be collaborating on the project, which is going to promote production of clean energy and energy efficiency.
 
GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said the goal is to marry the entrepreneurial creativity of the venture capital community with GE's ability to deploy systems on a global scale.
 
Immelt said, the new fund is needed 'to jump-start' innovation.
"We can get things going with massive distribution. We have 50,000 salespeople and 50,000 engineers," he said.
 
Over a 10-week period, GE and participating venture capitalists will evaluate candidates for funding as well as a "potential commercial relationship" with GE. The company said it would include "leading academics and technologists" in selecting winners.
The role of venture capitalists will be to "bring entrepreneurial DNA to this effort," Paul Koontz of Foundation Capital explained.
 
For venture capitalists, this GE initiative offers some money making opportunities as it allows them to find new ways to generate, transmit and store energy, as well as to encourage efficient use by consumers.
 
RockPort Capital and Emerald Technology Ventures are also partnering on the fund. Chris Anderson, editor-in-chief of Wired magazine, is an adviser to the effort and moderated the opening panel in GE's "ecomagination" showcase, which included displays of its innovations in turbine engines, wind power and water sanitation.
 
The panelists of the contest are of the opinion that Asia is ripe for swift innovation because its power systems are mostly new or underdeveloped. America's 100-year-old power grid, they said, poses a different set of challenges.

Madhubanti Rudra is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Alice Straight

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