MIT $100K Competition, Ignite Clean Energy Prize Will Combine Resources

The leaders of two major New England business competitions announced today they will join forces and create a new prize to encourage faster development of the region’s clean-energy sector. Clark Waterfall, chair of the three-year-old Ignite Clean Energy Business Presentation Competition (ICE), and Jeffrey Sabados, lead organizer this year for the 18-year-old MIT $100K Entrepreneurship Competition, said their two groups will collaborate on promoting the $100K competition in 2008 and will also offer a new “MIT Energy Prize” for clean-energy startups.

The two competitions will remain separate. But by “aligning resources,” the two groups will create “a better overall platform for energy entrepreneurs,” Waterfall said in a statement. “Our two organizations have already had an impact on energy innovation in New England and we see this as a positive step in further developing the cluster.”

With ICE’s help, the $100K competition will be able to raise its profile on the MIT campus, Sabados told me. The competition, which is open to any team that includes at least one MIT student, is designed to help get worthy technology out of research labs and build management teams and companies around them—but Sabados says it’s a resource that most MIT departments never tap into. “We have visibility at the student level but it’s not really on the radar of professors at the 800-odd labs across the campus,” he says. “ICE has the bandwidth and the infrastructure to help us expand, and by putting them alongside the 100K we can connect to labs to professionals and start building great teams.”

The ICE competition was the country’s first business-plan competition focused on clean energy; the 2007 winner was Westborough, MA-based RSI Silicon, which is commercializing a low-cost method of manufacturing silicon photovoltaic cells. The $100K competition, meanwhile, has helped give birth to more than 85 companies around the world with a total market capitalization of more than $10 billion. This year’s winners, announced in May, were Robopsy, creator of a robotic assist device for tumor biopsies, and Bagazo, which is marketing a process to convert agricultural waste into cooking fuel. Organizers of the two competitions say they’re working on details such as the amount of the new MIT Energy Prize.

An event kicking off the 2007-2008 prize season this weekend may signal a gradual opening of the $100K competition to non-MIT participants. The MIT $100K Elevator Pitch Contest, which will be held Saturday, October 13, at MIT’s Stata Center (Xconomy’s Bob Buderi was a judge at Monday’s practice session), is open to all hopeful entrepreneurs, with over $10,000 in prizes to be handed out.

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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