Cleantech to Market Drives Student Achievements

The Haas School's interdisciplinary Cleantech to Market course has been powering several student accomplishments in recent months, including two competition victories.

Last month, second-year Berkeley MBA student Ryan Hanley's Cleantech to Market project won $30,000 in the regional finals of the Cleantech Open Business Plan Competition, the world's largest business competition for cleantech entrepreneurs, organized by the nonprofit Cleantech Open.

Hanley's SmartSense project, which involves commercializing sensors for underground power lines, will compete against 18 other finalists – culled from an initial pool of 280 entries — for a $250,000 grand prize in San Jose on Wednesday, Nov. 17.

Hanley says the Energy Institute@Haas' Cleantech to Market (C2M) course that he took last spring was "critical" to his success. "The purpose of the class is not to create startups, but that opportunity does exist. You can find great partners and great technology."

C2M teams up Berkeley MBA students and graduate students from engineering, science, law, and energy programs to help commercialize new clean-energy inventions. C2M began as a program with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory scientists but has evolved into a course that has built a strong relationship with the College of Engineering as well.

Another C2M project called Imprint Energy (formerly FreeForm Power), was recently named among the winners of the Berkeley Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (CET) Venture Lab Competition. As a winner, Imprint Energy partners Brooks Kincaid, MBA 11, and Christine Ho, PhD 10 (Materials Sciences and Engineering), receive one year of space in the center's incubator as well as access to mentors and potential investors.

Kincaid and Ho are working together to commercialize Ho's PhD research in printable batteries, which are rechargeable, non-toxic, and made from inks. "It's a fabulous opportunity," Kincaid says of the project. "I was lucky that I met Christine, who had a compelling technology and who was a rock-star engineer who needed a business-minded partner."

Ho also embarked on study of intellectual property strategies, published today (Nov. 15), which is designed to help academics navigate the often complicated IP landscape. The study grew directly from Ho's experience with C2M.

"In one particularly memorable meeting, a group of venture capitalists painted a grim picture of my project’s future because of its lack of an intellectual property strategy," Ho recalls in the study's forward. "I began to ask, “What are the ‘right IP strategies’ that have been employed by successful Berkeley inventors and entrepreneurs?”

That questioning led Ho to co-author the study, titled "Intellectual Property Strategies for New UC Berkeley Ventures: A Framework," with Beverly Alexander, director of Cleantech to Market, and Professor Ikhlaq Sidhu, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology in the College of Engineering.

The study includes accounts and opinions of nearly 30 Berkeley faculty, students, and professionals as well as oral histories from four ventures. Those ventures include a biofuels startup founded by Naveen Sikka, MBA 09, who is also one of the original Haas students that helped create C2M in 2008.

Although intended as a resource for UC Berkeley graduate and faculty, the study also may serve as a resource for entrepreneurial communities like Silicon Valley.

Learn more about Cleantech to Market.