The annual UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC), now in its sixth year, challenges interdisciplinary student teams to define an environmental problem, develop a solution, produce a prototype, and create a business summary that demonstrates the commercial viability of their product, process or service.
23 teams were selected to compete in the 2014 UW EIC. Each of these teams proved that students have the potential to address our most pressing environmental needs—alternative fuels, recycling, solar power, water treatment—with novel solutions that have market potential. After pitching their innovations to a group of 170+ judges—investors, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and experts from across sectors—the six teams with the highest scores were awarded up to $10,000 in prize money. Congratulations to this year’s winners:
$10,000 Grand Prize Korvata (University of Washington)
Korvata has created a cutting edge alternative energy product that allows companies to mitigate their environmental impact by replacing the use of nitrous oxide as a whipped cream propellant. (sponsored by the UW Center for Commercialization)
$5,000 Second Place Prize and $5,000 Clean Energy Prize NOVA Solar Window (Western Washington University)
NOVA Solar Window combines the power producing capabilities of a solar panel with the utility of a traditional window. The utilization of transparent solar energy technology allows solar windows to provide renewable energy where traditional solar panels cannot. (sponsored by Puget Sound Energy the UW Clean Energy Institute)
$2,500 Honorable Mentions Loopool (Bainbridge Graduate Institute, Seattle Central Community College, University of Washington)
Loopool is reinventing the garment industry business model by creating a closed-loop supply chain, transforming reclaimed cotton garments and textiles into high-quality, bio-based fiber. (sponsored by Starbucks)
Salon Solids (University of Washington)
Salon Solids reduces the amount of plastic waste and hazardous chemical consumption that occurs with most hair products. Its six-ingredient shampoo and conditioner comes in solid form, eliminating the need for the preservatives necessary for a product with water in it, and its packaging is recyclable, biodegradable and does not contain plastic, further reducing waste. (sponsored by Fenwick & West)
Ionometal Technologies (University of Washington)
Ionometal Technologies has created a metal plating technique that allows for precise metal-on-metal deposition which can be used to repair gold test boards. The Ionometal printer prints metal plates that are smaller than can be seen with the naked eye. (sponsored by WRF Capital)
Check out what guests, judges, and teams had to say about the 2014 UW EIC on Twitter: #UWEIC2014
The U.S. Department of Energy recently held its fifth Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Innovation Summit—an annual event that brings together academics, entrepreneurs, innovators, and thought-leaders to discuss our most pressing energy issues, the technologies being developed to address them, and the market potential of innovative energy technologies.
A central message of the three-day summit was the importance of entrepreneurship. Keynote speakers like U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas Friedman stressed the importance of commercializing new technologies. Their message was clear: it’s one thing to develop a breakthrough technology. It’s another thing to turn that brilliant technology into something commercially viable. If you want to advance energy innovation and solve our energy crises, you have to think and act like an entrepreneur.
For the past five years, the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) has been delivering that same message to innovative and entrepreneurial students from colleges and universities throughout the Pacific Northwest. Each year, interdisciplinary student teams are challenged to define an environmental problem, develop a solution, produce a prototype, and create a business summary that demonstrates market potential. The quarter-long process culminates in a large, DemoDay-like event where a select group of teams pitch to a group of 150+ judges—investors, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and experts from across sectors. The top teams are awarded up to $10,000 in prize money, and everyone comes away with valuable feedback and experience to help them realize the market potential of their innovations.
The 23 teams selected for this year’s UW EIC run the gamut of clean technology and environmental innovation: Loopool is addressing waste in the garment industry by creating a closed-loop supply chain that transforms reclaimed cotton garments and textiles into high quality, bio-based fiber; NOVA Solar Window combines the power-producing capabilities of a solar panel with the utility of a traditional window, providing renewable energy where traditional solar panels cannot. Korvata, in response to the harmful environmental effects of greenhouse gas emissions, has created a mixture of proprietary gasses to replace the use of nitrous oxide as a whipped cream propellant.
For the next month, these competitors, along with 20 others, will refine their prototypes, perform market analyses, hone their pitches, and prepare to prove that their innovation has the potential to succeed in the marketplace—and transform our world.
Follow the progress of the 2014 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge:
Many students at the University of Washington are working on science and technology-based innovations that have potential for commercialization. The annual Science & Technology Showcase (co-hosted by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship and SEBA) is a tradeshow-like event where students have the opportunity to share these innovations with an audience of fellow scientists and engineers, as well as to business students interested in working on the marketability of new technologies.
STS participants also have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges—Seattle-area entrepreneurs and investors—who give awards to the most commercially viable ideas, along with prizes for categories like “Best Poster” and “Most Enthusiastic Pitch.”
Congratulations to this year’s award winners:
$1,000 Grand Prize: Flu Finder
The Flu Finder is an inexpensive, easy-to-use, rapid and accurate flu test that operates similarly to a home pregnancy test, providing a yes/no answer from a swab of the patient’s nose.
$500 Second-Place Prize: ElectroMetal Solutions
ElectroMetal Solutions has developed a new approach to plating metals onto surfaces using metal ions dissolved in water—a technology that may be of use to industrial manufacturers who require precise applications of high-cost metal materials (think gold).
$300 Third-Place Prize: Find Nano FindNano has developed a rapid, simple, affordable and portable technology to assess the presence of nonparticles in liquid samples (e.g. blood, rivers), solid surfaces (e.g. soil, food), and textiles.
Best Poster: Terra Mizu TerraMizu’s goal is to design an environmentally-friendly and cost-effective clay-pipe irrigation device for use in developing nations.
Most Innovative: Seahorse Robotic
In order to more accurately develop oceanographic weather forecasting models there needs to be a higher density and quality of measurements supplied by observation platforms on the ocean’s surface. Seahorse Robotic oceanographic platform was created as part of an ongoing attempt to design energy-independent surface vehicles.
Most Enthusiasm: GO+OD
GO+OD is a process and program developed to encourage millenials—the most civic-minded age group—to “go + do good.”
Best Communicator: H2.O
H2.O is developing a patent-pending technology that uses water as a medium to convert ambient infared radiation energy into electricity.
Best Marketing Strategy: ElectroMetal Solutions
May 23, 2013 – Seattle’s Bell Harbor buzzed with energy as a record $68,220 in seed funding was awarded to winners of the 2013 UW Business Plan Competition.
Over 250 Judges, coaches, and team members gathered at the 16th annual Business Plan Competition Awards Dinner. After a celebration of Artie and Sue Buerk’s $5.2 million naming gift for the Center, Kabir Shahani, CEO of Appature, gave a funny and heartfelt keynote speech, offering these words of wisdom: “Entrepreneurship is a platform for your life, and that platform lets you do anything you want to do. If you want to change the world, you can do it. The only question is ‘how many times over?’”
Shahani’s words were taken to heart, especially by the winning teams, who will be using their seed funding to move their business a few steps closer to reality.
The UW Business Plan Competition is produced by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business.
$25,000 Grand Prize – Pure Blue Technologies (UW) Fossil fuel production generates 882 billion gallons of contaminated “produced water” per year in the US alone. On average, for every barrel of oil extracted in the US, 8 barrels of contaminated water are extracted to the surface. Pure Blue Technologies has developed a contaminated water treatment system that uses visible light photo disinfection technology to produce disinfected water for beneficial reuse.
Pure Blue Technologies won second place at this year’s UW Environmental Innovation Challenge.
Team:Jaffer Alali, MS Environmental Engineering; Adam Greenberg, BA Finance and Entrepreneurship; Michael Lee, MS Mechanical Engineering; Alan Luo, PhD Physics; Sep Makhous, PhD Electrical Engineering; Ryan Vogel, BA Finance and Entrepreneurship; Ian Tan, BA Finance; Nicholas Wang, BA Chemical Engineering
$13,220 Second Place Prize – Z Girls (UW) Studies show that adolescent girls who participate in sports are more self-confident, get better grades, are less likely to engage in at-risk behaviors, and are more likely to go to college. Unfortunately, by age 14, girls drop out of sports at twice the rate of boys. Z Girls has developed a sports-based curriculum that gives girls ages 11-14 the opportunity to develop skills like goal-setting, positive self-image, and healthy nutrition habits through team programs and summer camps.
Final Round Judge Steve Singh, CEO of Concur, remarked, “Z Girls is an inspiring business lead by some amazing founders that could be doing anything in life. Incredible.”
Team: Libby Ludlow, JD and Technology Entrepreneurship Certificate; Jacob Dudek; Jilyne Higgins
$5,000 Finalist Prize – Poly Drop (UW)
Conductive coating is used to move electrostatic charge across a surface (like the surface of an aircraft), so that it does not accumulate and interfere with electronic equipment or cause sparks that can lead to fire. PolyDrop has created a conductive polymer additive for paints, primers and coatings that is lighter, more affordable, longer lasting, and has better adhesion than other products on the market.
Team: Michele Chaffee, MBA; Olga Hrechka, BS Chemical Engineering; Heather Milligan, BS Chemical Engineering
$5,000 Finalist Prize – NIA Wheel (SPU) NIA Wheel found that 5,596,000 people in the US are paralyzed. 360,000 of those are quadriplegic – confined to a wheelchair with very limited control over their mobility. The NIA (Neurological Impulse Actuator) wheelchair is activated and controlled by the brain function of the user, eliminating the disconnect between mental capability and physical disability of quadriplegics and others who have lost mobility.
Team: Sergey Kisel, BS Electrical Engineering; Clarence Rieu, BS Electrical Engineering; Aryn Schatz, BA Business Administration; Jessica Way, BA Economics
Best Idea Prizes
$2,500 Best Technology Idea – PolyDrop (UW) PolyDrop offers conductive polymer additives for paints, primers and coatings with a significantly lower level of particle loading. Integration of PolyDrop into current production lines of existing formulations is simple and dramatically improves usage lifetime, adhesion and mechanical properties of your product. Team: Michele Chaffee, MBA; Olga Hrechka, BS Chemical Engineering; Heather Milligan, BS Chemical Engineering
$2,500 Best Service/Retail Idea – Z Girls (UW) Z Girlsmeasurably improves girls’ participation rates in sports by teaching young female athletes skills like positive self-talk, goal-setting, and body image through coaching and camps. Team: Libby Ludlow, JD Law; Jacob Dudek; Jilyne Higgins
$2,500 Best Sustainable Advantage – Pure Blue Technologies (UW) Pure Blue Technologiesis developing a novel industrial water treatment solution that’s more efficient at a lower cost. Team: Jaffer Alali, MS Environmental Engineering; Adam Greenberg, BA Finance and Entrepreneurship; Michael Lee, MS Mechanical Engineering; Alan Luo, PhD Physics; Sep Makhous, PhD Electrical Engineering; Ryan Vogel, BA Finance and Entrepreneurship; Ian Tan, BA Finance; Nicholas Wang, BA Chemical Engineering
$2,500 Best Innovation Idea – InsuLenz (UW) InsuLenz is developing a “smart” polymer contact lens to provide a bio-responsive and needle-free insulin delivery platform for diabetics. Team: Nick Au, PhD Medicinal Chemistry; Karen Eaton, PhD Bioengineering; Caleb Gerig, MBA; Craig McNary, MBA; Mohammed Minhaj, MBA; Renuka Ramanathan, PhD Bioengineering
$2,500 Best Consumer Product Idea – iHome3D (UW) iHome3Dis a mobile app that allows realtors to create a virtual tour and floor plan of a property, in minutes. Team: Nelson Haung, MBA; Aditya Sankar, PhD Computer Science/Engineering
$2,500 Best Cleantech Idea – Biomethane (BGI/WWU/UW) Biomethanecreates greenhouse-gas-negative vehicle fuel from dairy waste. Team: Jessica Anundson, MBA; Branden Audet, MA Policy Studies; Kathlyn Kinney, MBA; Colby Ochsner, MBA
$5,000 AARP Prize for low-income senior service – NIA Wheel (SPU) NIA Wheelproduces and sells a brain wave controlled power wheelchair.Team: Sergey Kisel, BS Electrical Engineering; Clarence Rieu, BS Electrical Engineering; Aryn Schatz, BA Business; Jessica Way, BA Economics
On April 4, twenty student teams from colleges and universities throughout the Pacific Northwest pitched their innovations at the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge. Now in its fifth year, the UW EIC challenges students to develop prototypes that solve today’s biggest environmental problems. Teams address today’s energy, urban agriculture, recycling, built environment and water-related problems with novel solutions that have market potential. Each year, five teams are awarded prizes ranging from $2,500 to $10,000. Congratulations to this year’s winners:
$10,000 Grand Prize: PolyDrop (University of Washington)
PolyDrop manufactures additives that transform regular coatings (think paint) into conductive coatings that open up a world of opportunity for carbon fiber composites in transportation industries. The transportation industry is looking to move towards using light-weight carbon fiber materials to reduce fuel consumption and decrease carbon dioxide emissions. However, carbon fiber composites accumulate a static charge that will interfere with a vehicle’s sensitive electronics. PolyDrop solves this problem by providing a means to dissipate static electricity with a viable conductive technology.
The $10,000 Grand Prize was sponsored by the UW Center for Commercialization.
$5,000 Second Place Prize: Pure Blue Technologies (University of Washington)
One barrel of extracted or spilled oil generate an average of seven barrels of contaminated water, or produced water. Produced water must be disinfected to meet EPA regulations, even if it is just going to be disposed. In the U.S. alone, 353 billion gallons of highly contaminated produced water are treated and disposed each year – that’s enough water to fill Lake Washington 4 1/2 times! Pure Blue Technologies has developed a unique water disinfection technology that is safer, smaller, and more cost-effective than existing solutions.
The $5,000 Second Place Prize was sponsored by Puget Sound Energy.
Three $2,500 Honorable Mention Awards
Sunscroll (Western Washington University)
Sunscroll is a solar charged LED light and USB charging station.
EcoMembrane (University of Washington) EcoMembrane is developing a new technology for preventing scaling and fouling of desalination and wastewater treatment membranes using ultrasound.
Upcycle (University of Washington) Upcycle has an enhanced version of a bio-briquette maker that transforms bio-waste into fuel for cook stoves.
Guest post by Daniel Schwartz, Chair, UW Department of Chemical Engineering
When I think Cleantech, my mind goes straight to the triangular logo on my waste container at work: “reduce, reuse, recycle.” These three words are central to most enduring cleantech innovations, though sometimes in paradoxical ways. “Reduce” is the most prone to paradox, since reducing one thing generally happens by increasing another. Let’s explore this “reduce” paradox via two well-known examples in that space.
In recent years, Washington has done a good job of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. Today, the average American emits 41% more greenhouse gas than the average Washingtonian (2012 State Energy Strategy report). We reduced our emissions by increasing our reliance on hydropower. Here’s where the “reduce” paradox comes in. Increases in hydropower have led to fewer salmon in our waters. Thinking long term, if we want to grow our economy and further reduce our emissions while avoiding consequences like this, we’ll need major innovations in the cost and performance of solar energy and grid-scale batteries. And we’ll need to make sure those innovations don’t lead to a depleted Earth.
The same “increase-to-reduce” paradox holds in transportation. Hybrid and all-electric cars reduce emissions by increasing efficiency. The 787 Dreamliner reduces its fuel use, in part, by adopting the “more electric-aircraft” approach. Innovations in transportation electrification are largely tied to electrochemical energy storage and conversion (batteries, super-capacitors, and fuel cells) as well as control systems that enable vehicle-scale “grids” to operate reliably on their own and when plugged into a utility’s grid. Transportation electrification is currently going through painful growing pains. Have no doubt, we are just seeing the tip of the iceberg in transportation electrification, but as transportation electrification increases, we need to use foresight to adapt our current electrical infrastructure, or we’ll break it.
My colleagues at the UW Institute for Molecular Engineering and Science are among the leaders charting a sustainable energy pathway that balances technical innovation with the economic and social dimensions of scalable energy. Students, too, are looking at the paradoxes – the potential Achilles heels of cleantech – and finding potential for enduring innovations. I am looking forward to seeing how students at the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge apply their understanding of cleantech and “reduce, reuse, recycle” – paradoxes and all— to innovations that will improve our world.
This month’s innovation blog focuses on an organization: Craft3. Craft3 is an old organization with a new name. Once known as Enterprise Cascadia, Craft3 is a financial institution that operates as a non-profit, lending capital to help businesses, communities, and consumers unable to secure regular financing.
Since 1995, Craft3 has invested $233 million in over 2,800 business and individuals in Pacific Northwest communities. Based in Ilwaco, Craft3 also has offices in downtown Seattle, Port Angeles, Astoria and Portland. In 2013, Craft3 will open new offices east of the mountains in both Washington and Oregon.
“This means that Craft3 can more effectively serve both rural and urban customers,” says Sue Taoka, Craft3’s Executive Vice President in Seattle. “In urban areas, we are more focused in helping targeted areas, like depressed neighborhoods and communities of color. With our strategy to expand in rural, regional centers, Craft3 will serve broader areas that have a potential for growth.”
As a “triple bottom line” organization, Craft3 measures its success in terms of economic, social and environmental outcomes. Its mission, to “strengthen economic, ecological and family resilience in Pacific Northwest communities,” is great news for those who have suffered during this economic downturn.
Craft3 fulfills this mission by offering loans to entrepreneurs to start or grow their business, and conservation organizations to acquire sensitive lands and restore habitat. It also makes loans to individually-owned tribal businesses, tribal enterprises, tribal government and non-profit organizations. Energy efficiency retrofit loans are available to homeowners and small businesses in Seattle and Portland.
And it doesn’t stop there. Craft3 also provides support to its customers by referring them to other sources, and making connections. For example, Craft3 was able to help a Quinault fisherman connect his caviar products with an urban store that also benefits from Craft3 services. Craft3 financed an Oregon organic creamery so that it could place its products in urban markets. Craft3’s loans to The Freshwater Trust, helped to plant trees along the Rogue River, to cool industrial effluent.
“We make loans to innovators of all kinds, to those who have difficulty getting loans from a for-profit financial institution,” says Sue. One of her favorite success stories? In the late 1990’s few babies were being born in the Shoalwater Bay Tribe. Most were stillborn. Craft3 helped fund a new health clinic, and when Sue visited 18 months ago, a healthy baby had just been born.
Small business entrepreneurs, small industry, human service agencies and farmers have all benefited from Craft3. And so has the environment, the community, and our future. For more information, go to www.craft3.org.
Rita Brogan is the CEO of PRR, a public affairs and communications firm based in Seattle, one of Washington’s 50 largest minority-owned businesses. Brogan was a recipient of the Foster School’s Business and Economic Development Center Asian/Pacific Islander Business Leadership Award. She writes the BEDC Brogan blog series monthly. Previously, she covered green economy issues with an emphasis on ways that businesses owned by people of color or women can create a competitive advantage.
Competitions were king in 2012 when it comes to which blog posts were most popular. Other reoccurring themes in the top blog posts: entrepreneurship, social entrepreneurship and cleantech. Check out the five most read blog posts of 2012, starting with number five.
Fifth most read blog post Social entrepreneur people and investor choice winners 2012
Who won the 2012 University of Washington Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition trade show prizes of people’s choice and investors’ choice awards? Take a look at the top solutions to lifting people out of poverty.
Fourth Clean-technology winners awarded $22,500 in 2012
If our future will be driven by clean-tech innovation, universities are the laboratories for a green economy. University of Washington engineering and business teams won all five prizes at the 2012 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge, with 23 teams from 5 Pacific Northwest universities competing. Teams displayed prototypes and plans for clean-tech ventures that address market problems with forward-thinking, scalable solutions.
Third Video: Starbucks VP Ben Packard on social entrepreneurship
Starbucks VP of Global Responsibility Ben Packard (Foster MBA 1998) spoke at the 2012 University of Washington Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition award banquet, emphasizing the significance of social justice. Companies are evolving to address issues typically handled by NGOs such as microfinance, economic opportunity and sustainable, earth-friendly ventures. Packard says, “Social entrepreneurship is nothing more than the future of business.”
Second $68,000 for winners of UW Business Plan Competition 2012
The 2012 University of Washington Foster School of Business’ Business Plan Competition had a record amount of seed funding and record participation. Winning start-ups are innovating in sectors like hyper-local agriculture, functional fashion, health care patient tracking technology and alternative forms of mobile advertising. UW Foster School Dean Jiambalvo says, “If you look at the basis for having a free and prosperous nation, it’s job creation. And where are jobs created? They are created by entrepreneurs.”
Most read blog post of 2012 on Foster Unplugged $34,000 for best social entrepreneur ideas of 2012
What do bee farmers, deaf people, jewelry artists, mature women and cataract sufferers have in common? Their lives will be improved by budding social entrepreneurs who traveled from as far away as Rwanda and Bangladesh to compete in the 2012 Global Social Entrepreneurship Competition.
Student innovators have the potential to solve some of our world’s most pressing environmental crises. But in order to bring about change, these students need to bring their innovations out of the lab and into the marketplace.
Since 2009, the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) has challenged interdisciplinary student teams to define an environmental problem, develop a solution, produce a prototype, and create a business summary that demonstrates market potential. The quarter-long process culminates in a large, DemoDay-like event where a select group of teams pitch to a group of 150+ judges—investors, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, and experts from across sectors. The top teams are awarded up to $10,000 in prize money, and everyone comes away with valuable feedback and experience to help them realize the market potential of their innovations.
Why are “challenges” so crucial in driving innovation? We asked Connie Bourassa-Shaw, the director of UW’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship about this, specifically in relation to the Center’s annual Environmental Innovation Challenge. Here’s what she had to say:
We launched the Environmental Innovation Challenge in 2009 because we believe that “challenges” drive innovation, and we were looking to engage smart, passionate students in the quest to produce real, market-conscious solutions to environmental problems. My story at the time was the Solar Car Challenge, which has been going on for the last decade or so. Most people know it. But the point is that we’re still not driving solar cars. That’s what I didn’t want to see. I wanted to see market results with the EIC.
So we narrowed it down to this: Tell me what the environmental problem is, tell me about your solution, show me that it works, tell me about the market opportunity, and demonstrate the potential for impact. Now, what we’re asking students to do is hard. Designing and building a prototype is hard. Getting it to work is even harder. And we’re not interested in the $5,000 solution to the $500 problem. It’s got to be appropriate technology, especially when you’re looking at technologies targeted for third-world countries.
The Challenge is run by CIE (which is in the Foster School of Business), in partnership with the College of Engineering and the College of the Environment. We want cross-disciplinary teams–from undergrads to PhD students. We start the process with a fall quarter class–the Environmental Innovation Practicum. Those students walk through the process of thinking about and planning for the Challenge, which happens late March or early April. We get $25,000 from the College of Engineering to provide small grants ($500 to $5,000, but generally under $2,000) to teams that need prototype funding. We give all the money away.