GE launches US$200m contest for smart-grid tech development

14 Jul 2010

GE ecomagination Challenge seeks breakthrough ideas from technologists, entrepreneurs and start-ups globally to help create a cleaner, smarter, next-gen power grid.

With GE rapidly expanding its presence in the smart-grid electrical systems marketplace, Jeffrey Immelt, GE’s chief executive and chairman, launched the challenge yesterday, which will be known as the GE ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid.

GE will place US$100m into the fund, with venture capital firms Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and RockPort Capital giving the remaining US$100m cash injection.

Over the course of 10 weeks, those who feel they have promising ideas can submit them via

The challenge seeks proposals in three broad categories:

– Renewables

– Grid and Eco Homes

– Eco Buildings

According to GE, entries will be evaluated as candidates for both a potential future commercial relationship as well as a $100,000 innovation challenge award that acknowledges their entry as an example of outstanding entrepreneurship and innovation. People can submit ideas until 30 September 2010.

GE said the $200m commitment will help bring these new ideas to market by providing businesses and individuals with the opportunity to secure growth capital through GE investment and/or investment by participating venture capital firms.

Members of the public will also be able to review and comment on entries and show support for the idea that they believe will have the most impact on the smart grid of the future.

Speaking in San Francisco yesterday, Immelt explained: “At GE, we have invested broadly and deeply in digital energy solutions and see this as a substantial market for us, but we can’t do it alone. We want to work with our partners to make sure we have a comprehensive digital energy offering. This challenge is about collaboration and we are inviting others to help accelerate progress in creating a cleaner, more efficient and economically viable grid.

“We want to jump-start new ideas and deploy them on a scale that will modernise the electrical grid around the world.”

GE CMO Beth Comstock added: “The Smart Grid is a new platform and a new market that is just beginning to be explored. Great ideas on how to do this can come from anywhere, so this competition is designed to tap the widest possible range of innovators, from big companies to entrepreneurs to students.”

GE also introduced its use electric vehicle (EV) charging station, the GE WattStation, yesterday.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic