Google sponsors UW Environmental Innovation Challenge

The Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Washington Foster School of Business has been awarded $20,000 from the Google Community Grants Fund of Tides Foundation. The grant will support the UW Environmental Innovation Challenge.

The UW Environmental Innovation Challenge was launched by the Center in 2009 with a goal to inspire students to develop clean technology innovations to solve environmental problems. The annual event is open to student teams from any college or university located in Washington State.

To select the grant recipients, Google’s Community Affairs Board evaluated a number of criteria including impact on carbon footprint reduction, sustainability, green education efforts and other key environmental focus areas, as well the direct impact on the greater Puget Sound community.

“We believe that the impact of the Environmental Innovation Challenge is two-fold—we’re educating students to recognize the connection between environmental innovation and market opportunity and, to take what they’ve learned from the challenge, and what they’re passionate about, into our local start-up and corporate communities,” said Connie Bourassa-Shaw, director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. “Google’s support is welcome validation of our efforts and our success.”

In the competition, interdisciplinary student teams define a clean-tech problem, design and develop a solution, produce a prototype and write a business summary that demonstrates market opportunity. Teams vie for prizes totaling $22,500.

Prototypes presented during the first two years of the competition have included:

  • a novel manufacturing process utilizing 100% post-consumer glass, regardless of color and contaminants
  • a highly efficient, LED lighting solution for nurseries and greenhouses
  • a device to track real-time water use in homes, including the ability to automatically detect leaks
  • a water-cooled catalytic converter for gasoline marine engines that eliminates most of the harmful emissions.

To date, 12 of the 35 teams that have taken part in the challenge have gone on to the UW Business Plan Competition with the intention of starting companies based on their ideas, and the inaugural grand-prize winner licensed its technology to a major international company.

In correspondence received during the grant process, representatives from Google wrote, “We are looking forward, with great optimism, to being able to advance your work and ours through this grant.”

The 2011 UW Environmental Innovation Challenge takes place on March 31.