The Cleantech Open launched its 2010 challenge today and it will be interesting to see how things shake out this year. One of the premier clean tech and green jobs programs of its kind, the Cleantech Open came on the scene in 2006 with the mission of jumpstarting sustainable tech startups through mentoring, training, and competitive cash awards. It’s established quite a track record since then. More than 80% of Cleantech alum are still viable and the organization expects that 1,200 new jobs will have been created through the end of 2009.
So far 125 teams have gone through the Cleantech program, raising more than $130 million in private capital for an eclectic mashup of new tech ventures including some of our personal favorites such as Nila, the energy efficient lighting company behind last year’s James Bond adventure, Quantum of Solace.
Nila and Energy Efficient Lighting
Lighting for film, TV and stage is notorious for its use of heavy metals, and for giving off heat. In addition to wasting energy in the form of heat, those hot lights have a ripple effect. They suck up more energy in air conditioning and related equipment needed to control temperatures on sets, stages, and performance spaces. Nila’s solution is an energy efficient LED-based light that requires 75% less electricity and spits out 80% less heat. The company also designed its light “bricks” to comply with the European Union’s Restriction of Hazardous Substances Directive that reduces the amount of lead, cadmium and other heavy metals entering the market. In another sustainable business maneuver, Nila also designed the fixtures to swap out for easy recycling, and it offers a buyback program to encourage customers to take advantage of it. At the manufacturing end Nila engages in basic green business practices such as leaning on its hardware suppliers to cut down on their shipping materials.
The Cleantech Open and the New Green Economy
By focusing on green workforce development, the Cleantech Open is helping to create a new economy with more opportunities for workers at every level to create, preserve and improve. This has lead to some rather interesting new ventures. Among the companies involved with Cleantech in past years is Hydrovolts, Inc. which has developed a small turbine that can draw hydrokinetic energy from the ambient current in canals and other waterways, potentially including the waste stream from industrial sites and sewage treatment plants. Speaking of sewage, another Cleantech alum, Micromidas, Inc., is developing a way to convert sewage into a high performance bioplastic. As for this year’s group, the sky’s the limit.
Image: Launch button by stevendepolo on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.