Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge Now Underway

The revamped Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge (MCEVC) is now accepting applications, the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship announced this week. The MCEVC is a business competition designed to help Michigan students turn cleantech ideas into thriving businesses. New this year is the contest’s six-month format, which includes skill-building and acceleration phases in addition to training from industry and serial-entrepreneur mentors.

Formerly called the Michigan Clean Energy Prize, the program used to provide resources to only those teams that advanced through later rounds of the competition. This year, all teams are competing for the duration of the six-month program. Each team receives a mentor, training and up to $5,000 in grants to build upon their idea. They’re ultimately competing for micro grants and other prizes totaling more than $100,000.

“In the past, students who had really good ideas would get eliminated in later rounds of the competition,” says Amy Klinke, assistant director of small business iniatives for U-M’s Center for Entrepreneurship. “This year, we’re just telling students to come with clean-energy ideas and we’ll provide the intensive mentorship to turn those ideas into businesses.”

Klinke says applicants will be narrowed into 25 teams through interviews meant not only to vet clean-energy ideas, but to determine each student’s entrepreneurial chops.

“Do they have enough passion? Can they pivot? Have they talked to their customer? We want to make sure they haven’t created a solution for something that isn’t an actual problem,” Klinke says.

The MCEVC is part of the Obama administration’s Startup America campaign and is led by U-M’s Center for Entrepreneurship and DTE Energy. The winner of the Clean Energy Venture Challenge will have the opportunity to present their business idea at the Clean Energy Trust regional competition to be held in the spring. Regional winners will go on to compete for a national grand prize in Washington, D.C. in early summer 2012.

To volunteer as a mentor or apply to participate in the competition, email Amy Klinke at amyklink@umich.edu.

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