Monday, November 20, 2006

Group offers $150k sustainable energy innovation prize

A new Cambridge coalition of energy investors and academics being launched today is sponsoring a business-creation contest with a $150,000 prize for new ventures promoting sustainable energy technologies.

The New England Energy Innovation Collaborative has been set up by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Entrepreneurship Center and three venture capital firms: Advanced Technology Ventures and Atlas Venture of Waltham and General Catalyst Partners of Cambridge.

General Catalyst partner Hemant Taneja said the group hopes the collaborative will "harness the tremendous innovation and entrepreneurship that this region has to offer and formally recognize its cluster of high-tech energy businesses and leadership," much as Eastern Massachusetts is known for biotechnology, financial services, life sciences, telecommunications, and other industries. Taneja said the founding partners are looking for other companies and organizations to join.

In this fall's gubernatorial campaign, both Governor-elect Deval L. Patrick and the unsuccessful Republican candidate, Lieutenant Governor Kerry M. Healey, said they were eager to promote the state's fast-growing cluster of wind-power, solar-electric and other kinds of "green power" and innovative energy companies. The state also runs a $250 million Renewable Energy Trust funded by a 25-cent-a-month electric-bill tax that was set up by the 1997 electric utility restructuring law.

The business plan contest, which is taking submissions through Jan. 22, is open to entrants who have any kind of innovative energy technology or business service idea, plan to launch their company in New England, and have not received venture capital, Taneja said. Firms that have received so-called angel funding from private investors are eligible. Winners will get $100,000 in funding from the three venture firms, free office space, and legal and public relations services valued at at least $50,000 from Boston law firm Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky and Popeo PC and Fama, a Cambridge public relations firm.

Winners are to be announced at a March 10 MIT energy conference.

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