New Cleantech Startup Competition Offers $100K Prize & Mentoring

There’s a new startup competition underway on campus: entrepreneurs pursuing environmentally friendly technologies are vying for the $100K Berkeley Cleantech University Prize (CUP).

Seven teams—which include four Haas MBAs—have been accepted into the competition, which includes 15 weeks of entrepreneurial training, mentoring, and access to UC Berkeley expertise and facilities. The winner will be announced at the Berkeley Energy & Resources Collaborative (BERC) Energy Summit on Feb. 19.

The competition is the result of a winning proposal to the Department of Energy by MBAs and other students in BERC—a multidisciplinary, cross-campus network started by Haas students—along with the Berkeley Energy & Climate Institute (BECI), which is managing the new program.

“We expect that the competition will highlight UC Berkeley’s tremendous capacity to promote and stimulate innovation,” says BECI Analyst Sean Wihera, the competition program director.

UC Berkeley is one of eight schools around the country chosen by the DOE to host competitions for aspiring clean energy entrepreneurs. The regional winners will go on to the national University Prize competition, which carries another $100,000 award.

Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have long been at the forefront of clean technology development, and Haas is a key part of efforts to promote innovation and commercialization of new technologies. In addition to BERC, which is co-led by MBAs, the Cleantech to Market Program (C2M) assigns teams of student consultants to help nascent technologies break out of the lab.

“There’s nothing like the UC Berkeley ecosystem and the people within it to launch cleantech initiatives,” says Brian Steel, co-director of C2M, which is housed at the Energy Institute at Haas. “Increasingly, they are doing this by leveraging an array of commercialization resources, from programs like C2M and Cyclotron Road to organizations like BERC and BECI.”

BERC co-president Katie Pickrell, MBA 2016, says one of the seven finalist teams includes three Haas MBAs; one other Haas MBA is on another team.

The teams will make their final pitches at the BERC Innovation Expo on Feb. 18; winners will be announced at the BERC Energy Summit the next day. The events also coincide with the BECI Philomathia Forum.

Photos: campus cleantech leaders, clockwise from top left: BECI Analyst Sean Wihera; BERC Co-president Katie Pickrell, MBA 2016; and Brian Steel, co-director of the Cleantech to Market Program