Got a bright idea? How about an energy-saving one? GE announced today a $200 million "open innovation challenge" that invites inventors, entrepreneurs, and startups of all stripes to compete to develop the next-generation of power grid technologies. Called the Ecomagination Challenge, this huge investment comes only weeks after GE announced a $10 billion injection into its own eco-R&D projects.
Along with four VC firms that have pledged half of the $200 million to the challenge, GE is asking the public for innovative ideas in clean technology. From now until September 30, you can head to the Ecomagination homepage to submit a proposal or vote for other user-generated ideas. Winners from the first round of voting will move on to a second round judged by a panel of GE reps, who are granting awards from $50,000 up to $500,000, depending on three criteria: originality, feasibility, and impact.
In San Francisco this morning, GE chair Jeff Immelt and his VC partners stressed the importance of scalability. "This is about bringing ideas to the marketplace," said Chuck McDermott, founder of Rockport Capital, one of the challenge's investors. "What attracted us to this was that this was not a contest—this was not a run-to-the-finish-line contest. This is about scaling."
"The ideas and technology exist now to make this transformation," said Immelt, of the need for a 21st-century smart grid. "We just need to develop them and put them to use.”
GE explained earlier today that the $200 million investment could lead to acquisition or co-development opportunities, and even trademark and licensing deals. "This is wide-open," said another investor in the challenge, who commented that the challenge should serve as a catalyst for novel ideas, regardless of who comes up with them, whether an individual or well-funded start-up.
Check out the video below to learn more.