The grand prize winners at the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) proved to judges that gardening and innovation go together naturally. BioPots took home the $15,000 Wells Fargo prize with their biodegradable planter pots made from biomass waste like spent beer grains. The University of Washington team included three engineers from the Bioresource Science and Engineering program and a student from the Foster School of Business.
This year marked the 10th Anniversary of the EIC, hosted by the Foster School’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. The competition also set a record with student teams from five different schools and universities in the Pacific Northwest taking home prizes. The $10,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation second place prize went to BeeToxx from Washington State University. The team of Bioengineering, Biology, Communication, and Entrepreneurship students developed a carbon-based microparticle solution that protects Honey Bee colonies exposed to harmful pesticides.
The Starbucks $5,000 third place prize was awarded to Feros Freight Innovations for its EV freight trailer technology system that aims to reduce diesel fuel consumption, while also lowering costs and emissions. The team includes MBA students from the University of Oregon and a Mechanical Engineering graduate student from the University of Colorado.
Judges awarded the $5,000 UW Clean Energy Institute clean energy prize to Battery Informatics from the University of Washington. The team of Business and Chemical Engineering students created valuation algorithms to give customers the ability to increase the life and performance of their energy storage projects involving lithium-ion batteries.
The $1,000 “Judges Also Really Liked” (JARL) awards were sponsored for the first time by Pithia—a Seattle-area venture capital firm focused on blockchain-based businesses. The first Pithia $1,000 JARL award went to 4th-Phase from the University of Washington. The team of MBA, Business, Bioengineering, and Materials Science and Engineering students developed a water technology that boosts plant yields up to fifty percent. A second award went to WOLF Solutions from Presidio Graduate School-Seattle. The MBA in Sustainable Systems students created an automatic composting unit that reduces the amount of dog waste bagged in plastic and sent to landfills every year.
Teams that did not receive prizes were given in-person feedback by the more than 120 judges representing cleantech entrepreneurship, investment, and advocacy from across the region. During the program portion of the event, students also heard from speakers including Alaska Airlines sustainability manager Jacqueline Drumheller, Foster School Dean Jim Jiambalvo, Alaska Airlines VP of External Relations Diana Birkett Rakow, and Microsoft Datacenter Sustainability Director Jim Hanna.
The Buerk Center would like to thank the other Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge sponsors including: The Foster School of Business, the UW College of Engineering, the UW College of Built Environments, the UW College of the Environment, Cairncross & Hempelmann, the Perkins Coie Foundation, Puget Sound Energy, Christensen O’Connor Johnson Kindness, McKinstry, the UW Department of Biology, Amazon Catalyst, and E8. Special thanks also go to Alexandria Nicole Cellars, Der Blokken Brewery, Madres Kitchen, Urban Sprouts, and Macadons for their hospitality and services.
Competition season continues this year on Wednesday, April 25 with the Investment Round of the UW Business Plan Competition. The multi-stage competition continues with the Sweet 16 and Final Round on Thursday, May 24. For more details, please visit bpc.washington.edu.