After four months of diligence sessions, 3,800 ideas, and 70,000 voices from 150 different countries, GE and its venture capital partners –RockPort Capital, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Emerald Technology Ventures announced on Tuesday in New York the five winners of the innovation Challenge award:
- WinFlex from Israel, a company that produces rotors for wind turbines from light cloth sheets that reduce installation costs by more than fifty percent;
- New Hampshire’s IceCode, whose technology –developed in collaboration with Dartmouth College– removes ice from wind turbines;
- Capstone Metering from Texas, that developed an intelligent self-powered water meter (the “IntelliH2O”) that eliminates the need for manual meter-readings;
- New Hampshire’s Electric Route, a cyber-secure network infrastructure that allows transmission and distribution from wind and solar farms;
- and Israel-based GridON, whose technology –developed in collaboration with Bar-Ilan University and Ricor Ltd– protects the electric grid from disruptions and power outages, enabling load growth and generation expansion from alternative energy sources.
The companies will each receive an “innovation grant” of $100,000 to develop their ideas.
Also yesterday, twelve concepts from companies and academic partners were selected for partnerships and commercial agreements with GE. These companies will receive an investment of $45 million from GE and $10 million from GE’s venture capital partners:
- ClimateWell, a Swedish company that makes energy-efficient cooling and heating systems that run on solar-powered hot water. GE will use the technology on its appliances business
- Consert, from Raleigh, NC created an energy management solution that allows utilities, municipalities and co-ops to manage load curtailment, increase operations efficiency and act as a virtual power plant. GE plans to apply the technology to its Digital Energy business
- FMC-Tech, Ltd., an Ireland-based company whose power line monitoring system for medium voltage networks helps detect and locate faults in the smart grid, and manage distribution communications. GE plans to use the system on its Smart Grid Delivery Optimization business
- The Fu Foundation School for Engineering and Applied Science, Columbia University, a collaboration with GE, Columbia Engineering, FedEx Express, and Con Edison to enable the conversion from hydrocarbon to electric delivery vehicles in New York City. GE will supply expertise from its Digital Energy division and GE’s Global Research Center
- JouleX, based in Atlanta, GA developed a single, network-based, energy-management solution. Its monitors analyze and automatically adjust the energy usage of connected devices and systems, and can potentially reduce energy consumption by 30-60 percent. GE could incorporate it to its data center solutions and GE’s Digital Energy business
- OPOWER, from Arlington, VA integrates consumer demographics, energy consumption data and behavioral analytics to encourage households to make intelligent choices around power consumption in their homes. The average user reduces consumption by about 2.5 percent per month. With GE’s global work in Smart Metering and Automatic Metering Infrastructures, OPOWER can help utilities secure buy-in from consumers and public utility commissions
- Scientific Conservation, from San Francisco, CA developed a platform that monitors and manages energy drift in commercial buildings through predictive maintenance of core energy systems: heating, ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration, lighting, controls and renewable sources. GE could incorporate this platform to the Intelligent Platforms building management software and use it on its real estate portfolio
- SecureRF Corporation, from Westport, CT provides security solutions that address lower-powered embedded devices that will be used throughout the Smart Grid. Its Algebraic Eraser™ is a public-key cryptography method designed for resource-constrained devices like meters and sensors. The technology would be used on GE’s Digital Energy business
- Sentient Energy, from Burlingame, CA developed advanced grid monitoring solutions that consist of modular intelligent monitoring devices and software applications, enabling cost-effective distribution automation. GE plans to apply the technology to its Energy’s Digital Energy offerings
- Soladigm, from Milpitas, CA has a window technology that electronically switches glass from clear to tinted, enabling control of heat and glare. It can reduce energy usage for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems by 25 percent and reduce the HVAC peak load by 30 percent. It could be applied to GE’s green homes and green hospitals ecomagination programs
- SustainX, from West Lebanon, NH developed a technology that provides isothermal, compressed-air energy storage technology to enable cost effective, grid-scale energy storage. GE could use the technology on GE’s Global Research Center and its Energy business
- SynapSense Corporation, from Folsom, CA measures and manages the environmental conditions and power usage throughout data centers through its wireless sensor network, resulting in a 10 percent reduction in overall energy consumption. GE would apply the system to its Digital Energy business and Intelligent Platforms.
RockPort Capital and Foundation Capital –two of the venture capital partners– will respectively co-invest with GE in SustainX’s energy storage technology and Sentient Energy. Steve Vassallo, Foundation Capital’s general partner said that “the role of venture capital is to take great ideas and turn them into great companies”.
The funds will be provided by GE and its partners in the next 12 to 18 months. As one of the venture capital partners mentioned yesterday on a conference call following the event, the investments will have the best structure “for the company, for the shareholders of the company and of course for GE”.
In words of the organizers, the ecomagination challenge represents “the largest participation on an open innovation challenge that a company has ever generated”. The first months of the challenge have been a success, and the enormous amount of data generated by consumers on energy-related issues will certainly help GE to better understand consumers’ needs and provide innovative solutions that help create the next generation grid.