I recently attended a San Diego Meetup to hear Greg Cominos speak about GE’s Ecomagination Challenge. As a senior leader for GE’s Energy Services’ Digital Energy business Greg called the challenge a $200 million experiment in innovation focused on developing new smart grid technology.
In a creative partnership arrangement, GE has teamed up with venture capital firms Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, KPCB and Rockport Capital, who will help back the most promising ideas submitted in one of three categories.
- Challenge 1: Create – Renewable Energy
- Challenge 2: Connect – Grid Efficiency
- Challenge 3: Use – EcoHomes/EcoBuildings
What kinds of technologies or processes do you think will maximize penetration of renewables into the grid? What do you think are the best means to help us realize greater gains in grid efficiency and outage management? What new technologies, processes or business models can help consumers use energy more wisely and improve our energy balance?
So why create this challenge in the first place? As Greg explained, the grid is old, much of it decades old, and like any infrastructure, the grid needs to be moderized taking into account the rising costs of fossil fuels and the need to include energy generated from renewable technologies in remote locations.
How Does It Work?
Selected Ecomagination Challenge entrants will be offered the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship with GE through:
- Investment: the $200 million capital pledge of GE and its partners will be invested globally into promising start-ups and ideas
- Validation: evaluation of entrant’s business strategy through in-depth discussions with GE‘s technical and commercial teams
- Distribution: exploration of partnership opportunities with GE to scale a business and create global reach
- Development: leveraging of GE‘s technical infrastructure and GE Global Research Centers to accelerate technology and product development
- Growth: exploration of opportunities for utilizing existing GE customer relationships for your go-to-market strategy
I can’t say how this will turn out 10 years down the road, but I do applaud GE and their venture capital partners for taking a step in the right direction, for not waiting on regulations or government funding, but instead sponsoring innovation in the free market. They’ve made the decision to play a part in shifting our society toward a sustainable path – a potential model for future innovation!