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Published on October 30th, 2014 | by Sandy Dechert


Cleantech Open Honors Innovators At 5th Midwest Summit

October 30th, 2014 by  

Summit logoThe Cleantech Open, a 501(c)(3) nongovernmental organization, catalyzes global cleantech. It runs a rigorous one-of-a-kind accelerator program for start-up cleantech companies over a period of five months per year.

Rooted in the efforts of volunteers (many of whom are top professionals in their fields), the organization has fostered over 900 emerging businesses since 1996. This week I attended the innovation summit meeting for the Midwest and had a chance to preview some jaw-dropping developments in clean technology.

To set the scene, here’s background on the Open from the event hosts:

The business world is experiencing disruption around the use of natural resources. New products and services that maximize resource efficiency and minimize environmental impact are the wave of the future. And this goes beyond so called ‘green products and technologies.’ Organizations, both large and small, recognize that to be competitive and meet the needs of their clients it makes sense to employ new innovative business models, technologies, and products that are more resource efficient.

The two-day event convened over 400 regional entrepreneurs, inventors, and influencers from across the Midwest business community, including investors, corporate managers, university officials, and civic leaders involved with green, information technology, and smartgrid ventures. This year, 17 companies graduated from the five-month program in the central part of the country.

Justin Kaster, co-founder and Executive Director of the Open, told the assembled meeting:

As we mark the fifth year of the Summit, we’re excited to welcome this year’s accelerator graduates to our list of accomplished ‘alums.’ The event attracted such a wealth of experience this year, enabling incredible discussions about everything from financing and private-public partnerships to sector-specific shifts in areas like water, advanced manufacturing, and computing technologies.

Award winners at the Cleantech Open Midwest Innovation Summit (Sandy Dechert)Of the group of 17 innovators, five won conventional awards. The midwest branch of the Open chose its regional finalists from the group of 17 innovators on Tuesday evening:

  • Igor, of Johnston, Iowa, a software-only company enabling, powering, and controlling LED fixtures and sensors using only a simple Ethernet wire.
  • 75F (75 Fahrenheit), of Mankato, Minnesota, developers of an HVAC platform for the commercial market that helps save energy and increase comfort.
  • SurClean, of Novi, Michigan, providers of precise and cost-effective laser coating removal systems for industrial markets.

More about these companies and their products later. Their next stop will be the national Cleantech Open Global Forum November 12 and 13 in San Francisco. Each of the winners will compete at the forum for $200,000 in investment and in-kind services. All graduates of the Cleantech Open program can attend the global forum, where they’ll make valuable connections with investors, partners, and prospective customers.

In addition to the regional awards, the Open gave prizes for breakthrough technology (an event first) and sustainability. Black Pine Engineering, of Midland, Michigan, makers of low-cost, corrosion resistant, modular turbomachinery, took home the tech award.

Neuvokas Corporation, from Calumet, Michigan, a producer of novel fiber-reinforced rebar at price parity with steel rebar, captured the sustainability award.

Finally, the audience chose a “People’s Choice” prize via electronic tally for best two-minute presentation. It went to 75F.

The Cleantech Open partners with Chevron and the University of Phoenix, Wells Fargo, PARC, and Arrow Electronics. The Midwest division has additional annual sponsors. For more about the Midwest Innovation Summit, visit here.

We’ll be offering a closer look at the innovations displayed at the Open during the coming week, including detailed information on the winners. Stay tuned! 


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About the Author

covers environmental, health, renewable and conventional energy, and climate change news. She's currently on the climate beat for Important Media, having attended last year's COP20 in Lima Peru. Sandy has also worked for groundbreaking environmental consultants and a Fortune 100 health care firm. She writes for several weblogs and attributes her modest success to an "indelible habit of poking around to satisfy my own curiosity."

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