General Electric and a number of leading venture capital firms announced today what some have already dubbed “the biggest quest for ideas in history.” GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt unveiled the “GE ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid,” an open innovation challenge that will give $200 million to smart grid ideas submitted through GE’s ecomagination website.
The challenge is global and targeted at technologists, entrepreneurs, and startups “to share their best ideas and come together to take on one of the world’s toughest challenges – building the next-generation power grid to meet the needs of the 21st century.”
GE and its partners – leading venture capital firms Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins, RockPort Capital as well as Wired magazine’s Chris Anderson – will evaluate the ideas and invest the $200 million capital into promising startups and ideas.
With this challenge, GE wants to “make cleantech a reality,” said Immelt in front of media and guests at the LEED-certified Bently Reserve in San Francisco this morning. The grid is the “key to the future,” and GE’s ecomagination challenge “will only open up digital investment” and allow GE to be at the forefront of the smart grid movement, said Immelt. By working “shoulder to shoulder with some of the smartest venture capitalists” Immelt plans to “use GE’s assets to move [the smart grid] quickly” to scale.
“Innovation is the engine of the global effort to transform the way we crate, connect and use power,” Immelt said. “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.”
Immelt acknowledged that GE’s not going to have all the good ideas itself but that it has the assets to move and commercialize the smart grid quickly. “There’s nobody who does commercialization better than GE,” said Immelt.
GE made two more important announcements. It introduced the Wattstation, an electric vehicle charger that is smart-grid compatible. Designed by Yves Behar – the creative mind behind Mission Motor’s electric motorcycle One – the Wattstation is said to on average decrease electric vehicle charging time from 12-18 hours to as little as four to eight hours compared to standard charging “level 1”, assuming a full-cycle charge for a 24 kWh battery. GE further unveiled Nucleus, a communication and data storage device that provides consumers with secure information about their household electricity use and costs so they can make more informed choices about how and when to use power.
GE has been investing heavily into green yet scalable products over the last few years, and the latest introductions will surely add to GE’s continued strong positioning in the future.