Category Archives: Sustainability

Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge awards $37,500 to student innovators

“Alaska Airlines wants to get better and better at being a leader in environmental responsibility, so today we’re here to learn from you,” said Joe Sprague, Alaska Airlines’ senior vice president for communications and external relations, in his welcome address at the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

The “you” he was speaking to was a group of 22 student teams from 7 colleges and universities across the state of Washington, gathered at the Seattle Center to pitch their innovations in clean technology, renewable energy and water resource management.

IMG_4148 (1)Throughout the afternoon these innovative and entrepreneurial students demonstrated their prototypes and fielded questions on everything from technology issues to market viability from a room full of 160+ judges and another 100 guests.

While all in attendance undoubtedly learned something from every team, only five teams went home with a portion of the $37,500 in prize money.

Congratulations to the winners of the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge!


 

$15,000 Grand Prize & $5,000 Clean Energy Prize

(sponsored by Wells Fargo and the UW Clean Energy Institute)

FireBee (University of Washington)

Student Team members:
Ryan Ahearn, undergraduate, mechanical engineering
Aaron Owen, undergraduate, mechanical engineering
Daniel Parrish, undergraduate, mechanical engineering

FireBee is a portable thermoelectric generator that turns cooking fires into personal power stations,  creating an alternative energy source for people in countries that are otherwise off the grid.
FireBee





$10,000 Second Place Prize

(sponsored by the Herbert B. Jones Foundation)

Hook (University of Washington)

Student Team Members:
Rahil Jain, graduate, electrical engineering
Robert Moehle, graduate , Foster School of Business
Hoolk_2ndPlace_EIC2015

Hook is a home automation hub that allows customers to convert existing electronics  to smart devices, decreasing energy consumption, improving home safety, and reducing the amount of electronics that are routinely discarded in landfills.


$2,500 Honorable Mentions

(sponsored by Starbucks,  UW CoMotion, and Puget Sound Energy)

EcoStream (University of Washington)

Student Team Members:
Michaela Byrne, graduate, Foster School of Business
Tianchi Liu, undergradaute, computer science & engineering
Ryan Osher, graduate, Foster School of Business
Shon Schmidt, graduate, bioengineering
Wenxuan Wu, undergraduate, electrical engineering
Han Ye, undergraduate, electrical engineering

IMG_0899 (1)

EcoStream builds awareness and lifelong habits to conserve our most valuable resource by helping people conserve water and change their usage habits in a fun and inexpensive way.

 

Ion Informatics (University of Washington)

Student Team Members:
Charles Daitch, graduate, Foster School of Business
Brendan Erickson, undergraduate, chemical engineering
Daniel Gilbert, undergraduate, chemical engineering
Matthew Murbach, graduate, chemical engineering
Uttara Sahaym, graduate, Foster School of Business
Arianna Whitten, undergraduate, chemical engineering

IMG_0942

Ion Informatics is developing a proprietary technology that provides critical information to battery operators, optimizing asset utilization and prolonging the useful life of the battery. The end effect is a dramatic increase in value that can be extracted from each battery by enabling viable second use battery systems.

 

 Bettery (University of Washington Tacoma)

Student Team Members:
Brendan Crawford, undergraduate, computer engineering
Chris Dejarlais, undergraduate, finance & computer science
Vishaal Diwan, undergraduate, computer science

Bettery provides a better model for battery use: a reusable subscription service that gives consumers unlimited access to reusable batteries with a monthly subscription.

The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge is presented by the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business, University of Washington.

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Environmental Innovation Challenge receives $150,000 Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation Grant

Seattle, WA—December 18, 2014

The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business has received a $150,000 grant from the Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation grant program in support of the 2015 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

In mid-December 2014, Members of the Buerk Center and Foster School community, including Dean Jim Jiambalvo and Buerk Center director Connie Bourassa-Shaw, met with representatives from Wells Fargo to accept the grant and share a few words on their mutual commitment to clean technology and the “green economy.”

The Environmental Innovation Challenge, now in its seventh year, provides a platform for students to explore the scalability of innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to environmental problems—a market that has grown exponentially in recent years.

“The focus on ‘green’ is exploding,” said Jiambalvo, noting dramatically increased efforts by large, established institutions to “green up” every aspect of what they do.

Marco Abbruzzese, Wells Fargo senior regional manager, agreed, saying, “We want to be a leader in clean technology and innovation because it’s the right thing to do, because the problems are so big, and because a positive impact on the environment also positively impacts our bottom line.” He went on to list some of Wells Fargo’s recent accomplishments, including granting over $3 million to 64 environmental programs. “We love what you are doing with the Environmental Innovation Challenge,” he said, “and we’re delighted to be able to support it.”

Wells Fargo Check Presentation 2015_4
$150,000 Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation grant presentation.
About the Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation Grant Program

The Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation grant program funds clean technology incubator and accelerator programs, along with research and development projects involving universities and colleges. It supports building a framework for entrepreneurs seeking to provide scalable solutions in the low carbon economy.

About the Environmental Innovation Challenge

The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) at the University of Washington sparks creative thinking, innovative approaches to problems of environmental significance, and encourages cross-disciplinary teams. EIC student teams define an environmental problem, develop the solution, build a prototype, and write a business summary that defines the market opportunity and potential for impact. The next challenge will take place on April 2, 2015.
Learn more about the EIC.

Tweet: Environmental Innovation Challenge @UW receives $150,000 grant from @WellsFargo http://ctt.ec/5ACfx+

InTheWorks: minimizing motor emissions

IntheWorks CTO, Todd Hansen (left) with CEO David Endrigo.
IntheWorks CTO, Todd Hansen (left) with CEO David Endrigo.

“I didn’t really expect to start my own business,” says Todd Hansen, looking back to his time as an undergraduate studying biochemistry at the University of Washington. But he had always been interested in clean technology and the reduction of fossil fuels, so when he discovered a really interesting concept for reducing emissions, he decided to pursue it. “Lo and behold,” says Hansen, now the co-founder and CTO of InTheWorks, an engineering and design development company, “that concept turned out to have a lot of potential.”

InTheWorks’ patented product is “essentially a unique emissions control system,” says Hansen. The company holds a total of 4 patents on a catalytic converter that can be used with any type of gasoline-fueled internal combustion engine to significantly reduce emissions, increase fuel economy by 4% to 5%, and increase horsepower 4% to 6%. And where other ways to improve fuel economy and power (aerodynamics, tire redesign, weight reduction) are costly, installing InTheWorks’ converter actually lowers manufacturing costs by 12%, due to reduced precious metal content.

InTheWorks’ technology was impressive from the get-go (the company won a prize in the 2009 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge by focusing on marine engines), but it’s in the past few years that Hansen and his team—CEO and co-founder David Endrio and executive vice president John Gibson—have seen tremendous progress. In 2011 InTheWorks’ prototype passed both EPA and CARB tests with flying colors, and further, more extreme testing in 2013 validated the 2011 results. The company has three full time employees, has raised $1.5 million in funding, and recently formalized a partnership with ClaroVia Technologies (known for its OnStar vehicle navigation system).

So what’s next for InTheWorks? “We’re primarily focused on licensing our technology,” says Hansen, “and we’re ready to reach out to OEMs [original equipment manufacturers] and Tier 1 suppliers.” At the same time, InTheWorks plans to pursue in-house manufacturing and distribution of marine applications of its technology. “And we’re always looking for additional technologies to add to our portfolio,” says Hansen, so his focus is already on the next innovation: “Diesel is on the horizon,” he says, “and we’re optimistic that we will be noticed by game changing companies.”

Foster students manage the business end of the UW’s EcoCAR Challenge

UW's eco carA team of UW students recently took second place in the EcoCAR 2 Challenge. Its modified Chevy Malibu traveled 48 miles on an electric charge before switching to its biodiesel engine—making it the most energy-efficient car in the 15-school international competition. A brilliant feat of engineering.

Behind that engineering was some savvy business support from Foster School students. Nicholas Wilson (MBA 2012), Tyler Rose (MBA 2013) and Taj Matthews (MBA 2013) served as business managers for the first stages of the three-year project. Alex Ong, a senior studying finance, took the engineering and design team through to the finals earlier this year at General Motor’s Milford Proving Ground.

The son of engineers, Ong has no formal technical training of his own. “But I’m interested in cars and I knew a few things,” he says. “Enough to get the conversation going.”

His role was to manage the project’s six-figure budget, cultivate and communicate with sponsors, and provide financial reporting to funders and competition organizers—GM, the US Department of Energy, and a wide range of transportation and renewable energy firms and organizations.

In Detroit, the team finished first in eight categories, including quickest acceleration, lowest energy consumption and least greenhouse gas emissions. While his colleagues put the car through its paces, Ong presented the team’s financials to a panel of judges representing the sponsor organizations.

It was a unique experience, this working collaboration of engineering, business, communications and visual arts.

“There’s nothing like it at the UW,” Ong says. “It was an incredible interdisciplinary learning experience where you had to work together with people who have no knowledge of your expertise and vice-versa. Otherwise, the whole project falls flat.

“That’s about as real world as it gets.”

The UW has been selected to compete in EcoCAR 3 beginning this fall. Ong plans to recruit fellow Foster students to better distribute the workload and formalize procedures to ensure continuity over the project’s four-year run.

The team just learned that they get to play with a Camaro this time around.

Senioritis? Bah. Count Ong in.

Sustainable Big Macs: The plan for a leaner, greener McDonald’s

McDs_Langert1Imagine going into a McDonald’s and learning that all of the beef used in their hamburgers was sustainably sourced. Not only that, but the restaurants were using less energy, recycling more and adding more fruits and vegetables to their menu. Seem far-fetched? Not when you learn that the company, famous for its fast, low-cost food items, has been developing sustainability initiatives for the past three years. Enter Bob Langert, McDonald’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility and keynote speaker at Foster’s Fourth Annual Idea Lab. Speaking to an audience full of MBA students and Puget-sound area business leaders, Langert talked about supply chain, consumer buy-in, and championing sustainable beef at the home of the Big Mac.

Having labeled McDonald’s as a company in transition, Langert hopes that their involvement in the sustainability movement– which he thinks is “too small [and] too niche”– will jumpstart supplier and consumer buy-in. McDonald’s has developed a plan, dubbed “Our Journey Together. For Good”, to make their menu both healthier and sustainable. The plan’s goals include:

  • To begin serving sustainably sourced beef by 2016
  • Add more fruits and vegetables by 2020
  • Reduce fat, sugar and overall calories in their food
  • Provide 100 percent sustainably sourced coffee
  • Reduce restaurant energy consumption by 20 percent
  • Increase in-restaurant recycling by 50 percent.

To achieve these goals, McDonald’s first priority is to address the supply chain—which Langer believes accounts for 80 percent of the corporation’s environmental impact. While aggressive, this certainly isn’t the first time the Golden Arches has addressed food sourcing.McDs_audienceClose

Dressed in chicken suits, Greenpeace activists staged protests in European McDonald’s restaurants with the hopes of raising awareness of deforestation in Brazil due to soya production in the Amazon. As it turned out, Amazonian soya was a major source of soy for McDonald’s food products. Surprising cynics (and probably a few Greenpeace protestors), Langert met with the activists, even traveling to the Amazon with them to get a first-hand picture of the devastation. Within three months, Langert says, McDonald’s was able to negotiate a moratorium on Amazon soya. Reflecting on the experience, Langert said, “[I’m] proud of the work, not proud that it came through a crisis.” The soya-based deforestation problem was a watershed moment for McDonald’s, driving the company’s other environmental initiatives like responsibly sourcing their coffee and their fish—100 percent of which comes from sustainable fisheries. With a focus now placed squarely on their beef suppliers, McDonald’s hopes to do the same for the millions of hamburgers they sell each day.

From enlisting the consulting expertise of famed animal science doctor and autistic activist Dr. Temple Grandin to honing in on their message, McDonald’s approach to the beef industry has been multi-pronged. Recalling his keynote speech at the first annual Ranch Sustainability Forum earlier this year, Langert reiterated the importance of coming together as a community to be more environmentally responsible and forward-thinking. “I kept saying we’re on the same page. We want sustainable beef to sell more beef.” However, Langert knows that sustainability isn’t limited to suppliers. Pointing to the trouble their European restaurants are having convincing their customers to recycle (crew members are manually separating garbage from recycling), Langert acknowledges there’s still a long way to go. When asked if it’s possible that customers are fatigued by sustainability messaging, Langert half agreed, stating that while McDonald’s Chief Brand Officer is coming up with “disruptive ways to reach consumers” he knows that what they’re doing right now is not enough. He added, “The plan right now is not consumer-centric. Our time now is being spent within the supply chain.” That’s not for nothing. Langert said that he continues to be astounded by the progress made on the supply side, stating that “suppliers discussing sustainability is a big deal.”

McDs_qaThere’s no doubt for Langert that McDonald’s has a challenging road ahead to achieve total supplier and consumer buy-in, stating, “When you try to develop something bold, there’s a lot of resistance.” However, Langert maintains that the folks at the Golden Arches are committed to taking sustainability beyond the “small and niche.” Within a few short years, McDonald’s may evolve in to paragon of environmental stewardship in the business world and possibly beyond. We’ll all just have to wait and see.

This event was co-sponsored by Foster’s Net Impact MBA club. Net Impact is a new generation of leaders who use their careers to tackle the world’s toughest problems. They put their business skills to work for good throughout every sector. By doing so, they show the world that it’s possible to make a net impact that benefits not just the bottom line, but people and planet too. Learn more about the club here.

$27,500 Awarded to Entrepreneurial Student Innovators

UW EIC 2014 Winners Korvata and NOVA Solar Window
UW EIC 2014 Winners Korvata and NOVA Solar Window

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