DoE Selects UMD as One of Six Lead Universities For National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition

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The University of Maryland and its Atlantic Coast Conference partners will launch a new, conference-wide Clean Energy Business Challenge in fall 2011, encouraging students throughout the southeastern United States to develop successful business plans and create new clean energy companies.

As part of the Obama Administration's effort to support and empower the next generation of American clean energy entrepreneurs, the Department of Energy's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) awarded $360,000 for the ACC Clean Energy Challenge and a total of $2 million to the ACC and five additional regions in the U.S. as part of its inaugural nationwide network of student-focused clean energy business plan competitions over the next three years. A national grand prize competition will be held in Washington, D.C., in summer 2012.

"By promoting innovation at our nation's universities and cultivating America's next generation scientific and technical leaders, we will ensure our nation's competiveness in the clean energy economy of tomorrow," says U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu. "The awards announced today support the Administration's continued effort to ensure that America has the workforce we need to secure our energy future, create jobs here at home, and win the future."

The ACC Clean Energy Business Challenge combines the technology, business, and student strengths of all the ACC schools in the Southeast region, including Clemson, Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Maryland, Miami, North Carolina, North Carolina State, University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Wake Forest.

Together, these schools conduct more than $4 billion in cutting-edge research each year, with clean energy a clear focus in organizations such as UNC's Solar Energy Research Center, the University of Maryland Energy Research Center and Georgia Tech's Strategic Energy Institute. ACC schools are also home to hundreds of student researchers in the energy field and numerous student energy clubs, including Duke's Fuqua Energy Club, Virginia's Darden Energy Club, the Energy Club at Georgia Tech, and Maryland's Smith Energy Club.

The ACC Clean Energy Challenge targets and is open to all ACC schools, as well as other universities in the southeastern United States. The ACC Clean Energy Challenge finals event will rotate among three sub-regions with nearby ACC schools co-hosting each year. Maryland, Virginia, and Virginia Tech co-host in Washington, D.C., in year one; Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, and Wake Forest co-host in the Research Triangle region in year two; and Clemson, Florida State, Georgia Tech, and Miami will co-host in Atlanta in year three.

All full-time undergraduate and graduate students registered for the current semester at any university listed above are eligible to enter the competition.

Judging for the ACC Clean Energy Challenge will be conducted by external parties from relevant professional industries with the appropriate skill sets and understanding of entrepreneurship and commercialization. Executive summary and semifinal rounds will be judged online, while the finals will be judged live, in-person.

Details about the ACC Clean Energy Challenge will be made available shortly at including information for organizations interested in partnering with or sponsoring the ACC Clean Energy Challenge.

"We often see the most determined efforts and most spectacular achievements in sports in conference rivalries, and this ACC Clean Energy Challenge harnesses that competitive but friendly spirit and directs its potential and power towards solving some of this nation's toughest challenges," says Mtech Ventures Director Dean Chang. "Just about every single one of the Deans of the engineering schools in the ACC thought this was a perfect way to show pride in our individual ACC schools while also working together in a collegial and impactful way to unite the best and most promising faculty innovations in clean energy with entrepreneurial students and student groups from across the ACC and the Southeast."

Additional regional winners included the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Northeast Region; the California Institute of Technology in the Western Region; Rice University in the Western Southwest Region; Chicago-based Clean Energy Trust in the Eastern Midwest Region; and the University of Colorado in the Western Midwest Region.

The University of Maryland's Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute (Mtech) was selected as the principal lead for the Southeast competition. Part of the internationally ranked and acclaimed A. James Clark School of Engineering, Mtech has had a $25.7 billion impact on the Maryland economy since 1983 through its three-part mission to: offer programs, courses, workshops and competitions to help aspiring entrepreneurs learn how to bring their ideas and products to the world; help faculty, student, and regional entrepreneurs create successful startup ventures; and help companies solve critical technical challenges and develop top-selling products that improve and save lives by connecting them with resources to succeed.

Mtech has built an entrepreneurship ecosystem at Maryland that encompasses entrepreneurship education from middle school through executive education, 30 entrepreneurship courses in 2010, two living-learning programs and one transfer program, an early stage lab, a venture accelerator and incubator, product development funding, free intellectual property services and entrepreneur office hours, as well as additional support for companies throughout their lifecycles.

The success of Mtech's 12-year-old University of Maryland $75K Business Plan Competition, which has yielded two Inc. 500 companies, several multi-million-dollar ventures, an Entrepreneur magazine Top 5 College Entrepreneurs of the Year recipient, and a Fast Company 100 Most Creative People in Business recipient, makes it ideally suited to lead the ACC Clean Energy Challenge.

The Princeton Review and Entrepreneur magazine recently named the University of Maryland as one of the nation's top schools for entrepreneurially minded students. Their latest ranking of campus entrepreneurship programs puts Maryland at No. 18 for undergraduate and No. 22 for graduate entrepreneurship programs.

Published September 28, 2011