Chicago is home to the largest single day business plan/clean energy pitch competition in the nation, the Clean Energy Trust Challenge. This challenge is a nationally recognized accelerator program, and its winners have moved on to become successful contributors to clean technology. The challenge has jumpstarted 80 startups in the Midwest alone and is a premiere clean-tech networking event.

In attendance are 400 entrepreneurs, investors, business executives, students, and university faculty. These people all have a common goal of presenting and funding the best solutions to humanity’s clean energy issues. Along with the competition are presentations by leading clean energy thinkers and doers. Among these speakers have been giants such as investor Nancy Pfund of DBL Partners and solar pioneer Jigar Shah.

Successful past winners include LuminAid Solar Lights, a student company that went on to be a Shark Tank season six success story after winning $100,000. LuminAid is a solar powered, inflatable light that has applications ranging from backpacking to relief efforts in developing countries. Detroit’s GreenLancer, which raised $5 million in Series B funding after winning, facilitates the design and fulfillment of permit-ready sets for the solar power industry enabling efficiency for customers and businesses alike. Chicago’s AMPY launched a national Kickstarter campaign raising $309,000 and was featured in Forbes Magazine, the Today Show, CBS This Morning, Fast Company, and CNET after winning. AMPY is a portable wireless device charger utilizing kinetic motion to generate power. A tough bunch to follow; however this year’s winners are just as impressive.

After a lively day competing for a total of 1 million dollars in funding, the following were awarded prize money:

  • SPLT, a Detroit-based, enterprise-first ridesharing platform connecting employees with organizations to share their commute, was awarded $100,000 by the Pritzker Foundation.
  • Nexmatix, a St. Louis-based company dedicated to making pneumatics more efficient by creating directional control valves used for actuation systems and air leak detection products that can recycle compressed air in non-actuated systems, was awarded $240,000 by Wells Fargo. Nexmatix also won the United Airlines and Boeing Sustainable Energy award for $45,000, as well as the ComEd Female CEO award for $25,000 leaving them with a grand total of $310,000 in prize money.
  • NovoMoto, a Madison-based company aiming to empower communities in Sub-Saharan African by providing renewable, sustainable electricity with its MicroPlant technology, was awarded the $20,000 Power Clean Cities Award. They also won the $50,000 U.S. DOE Cleantech UP Student Award and the $20,000 Hanley Family Foundation award, making their total winnings $90,000.
  • Hazel Technologies, an Evanston-based company that makes a drop-in product for produce retailers and distributors that extends the shelf life of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants by two-to-four times, called FruitBrite, was awarded Illinois Clean Energy Fund award for $500,000.

Hazel Technologies accepting the biggest award of the day

These winners are all contributors to a growing cooperate conscious dedicated to making human life more sustainable. The possibilities for these companies are exciting and are now made possible by the prestigious awards won during the Clean Energy Trust Challenge.