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Enertia Wins 2009-2010 Clean Energy Prize

2/15/2010 --

Team earns $50,000 with patented device to replace batteries in small electronics.

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Enertia, featuring Ross MBA student Adam Carver and two colleagues at the U-M College of Engineering, won the top prize of $50,000 in the 2009-2010 Clean Energy Prize business plan competition Feb. 12 at Blau Auditorium.

Team Enertia wowed the judges with its plan for a device that can harness vibrations to generate electricity to power small electronics, such as remote sensors and surgically implanted medical equipment. The small generators can extend the lifetime of wireless electronic devices tenfold, while at the same time replacing toxic electrochemical batteries.

The technology upon which Enertia based its business plan was developed within the U-M College of Engineering's Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems, and the company is presently in negotiations with the University on the licensing of intellectual property.

Carver, a dual-degree student at U-M's Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, said the top prize money "enables us to advance our research and development and business expansion." He added that the Clean Energy Prize had intangible benefits as well.

"The competition encouraged us to carry out the hard work necessary to develop our ideas," he said. "Winning the prize also enhances our brand as we seek to connect with various partners and business advisers in the future."

The other members of Enertia are Tzeno Galchev and Ethem Erkan Aktakka, both Ph.D. Fellows at the Center for Wireless Integrated Microsystems.

The Clean Energy Prize competition was established by DTE Energy and the University of Michigan to encourage entrepreneurship in Michigan and the development of clean-energy technologies. The Masco Corporation Foundation and The Kresge Foundation were Clean Energy Prize founding sponsors and they continue to support the competition. Additional sponsors include UBS Investment Bank, Google and Nth Power, a clean-tech venture capital company.

The 2009-2010 competition was open to all Michigan colleges and universities and began with 32 teams representing six schools. The field was pared down to four finalists through four rounds of judging, the first of which was held last November. The teams were competing for shares of a $100,000 prize pool.

"We see the competition as a catalyst for students and faculty at Michigan's universities to bring new energy technologies out of the labs and into the marketplace," said DTE Energy President Gerry Anderson. "And in doing that, it helps create a culture of innovators and the venture capitalists that support them. What (the competitors) did as part of this Clean Energy Prize competition is exactly what we need more of in Michigan.

Algal Scientific, which won last year's Clean Energy Prize, exemplifies the goal of the competition. The team has gone on to secure additional funding and has started operations in an Ann Arbor-area lab with eight employees. Its technology uses algae to clean wastewater and provide a feedstock for biofuel. The company expects to deploy its system on a commercial scale later this year in mid-Michigan.

This year's competition was organized largely by students. The Ross Energy Club along with the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship organized the competition. Several other U-M entities also provided support, including the Ross School's Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, the College of Engineering's Center for Entrepreneurship, the U-M Business Engagement Center and MPowered Entrepreneurship.

Ross MBA Jeff Caveney, one of the student organizers of the competition, said the Clean Energy Prize has earned significant standing with students.

"What brought students to our competition was its reputation as a springboard for moving ideas from the labs into the marketplace," he said. "Students understand that this is not a business case competition---it's a business competition. This reputation was established by the likes of Algal Scientific. This year's class of clean-tech entrepreneurs surely will solidify that reputation."

The other finalists were:

--Second place: Advanced Battery Control, which offers a proprietary smart battery management system that will radically enhance battery utilization in electric vehicles. It received $25,000 in prize money.

--Third place: Green Silane, which provides a low-cost, environmentally benign method for on-site production of silane gas that is used in semiconductor, flat-screen display and photovoltaic panel production. It received $10,000.

--Fourth place: ReGenerate, which manufactures and leases modular anaerobic digestors to institutional food service operators, transforming food waste into onsite renewable energy as well as nutrient-rich fertilizer products. It received $7,000.

In addition to the prize money, the top teams also will share $60,000 in in-kind business services including legal advice, office space and accounting services. The remaining $8,000 in prize money was distributed to the teams as they advanced in earlier rounds.

For details of the competition, see http://www.dtecleanenergyprize.com.



For more information, contact:
Bernie DeGroat, (734) 936-1015 or 647-1847, bernied@umich.edu