GE and Venture Capital Partners to Invest $63 Million in 10 Home Energy Technology Companies as part of “Ecomagination Challenge: Powering Your Home”


Home solar, communications, software and efficiency companies selected for funding

 

  • Five innovators get $100,000 each to advance projects
  • Largest open innovation challenge of its kind yields nearly 5,000 submissions from 74,000 innovators
  • Challenge investments now total $134 million
  • Challenge yields 22 commercial partnerships, including one acquisition for GE
  • GE and Best Buy partner to fast-track Challenge technologies to marketplace
  • GE and Partners plan to launch region-specific Challenge in China

This phase of the Challenge, “Powering Your Home,” was launched in January as part of GE’s commitment to improve household energy efficiency through new technologies. Since the July 2010 launch of the Challenge, GE and its partners have committed $134 million in home energy and power grid technologies. The Challenge has also produced 22 new commercial partnerships and resulted in the acquisition of FMC-Tech, a smart grid technology from the first phase.

“After one year and $134 million committed to new partners, we delivered on our goal to scale and commercialize the best new ideas through open innovation,” said Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, GE. “The power of networked ideas, collaboration and partnerships to accelerate innovation represents a gathering force whose impact will be a significant driver in the future of business.”

Mark Vachon, vice president, ecomagination said, “The Challenge is now an established platform at GE. Looking ahead, we’ll continue to accelerate growth through new partnerships and an additional commitment of $20 million to fund commercial pilots with innovators we have found through the Challenge. The Challenge has also changed how we do business at GE – we learned that accelerating open innovation across public, private and national borders can drive shared value for the company and its partners.”

Going forward, GE will commit this additional $20 million for scaling and commercializing ideas from the Challenge through a new ecomagination Innovation Council. GE and its VC partners plan to launch a region-specific ecomagination Challenge in China later this year, as well as establishing a $5 million seed fund in Europe with Carbon Trust to provide support for early stage ideas that need assistance getting off the ground.

The $63 million in investments and commercial partnerships in phase two include 10 new concepts from consumer clean tech sectors including solar, communications & software and building efficiency. A full backgrounder on these companies is available at www.ecomagination.com/announcements, and the list includes:

 

  • Ember, Boston, MA (Communications and software)
  • GMZ Energy, Waltham, MA (solar systems and services; co-investment with KPCB)
  • Hara, San Mateo, CA (Communications and software; co-investment with KPCB)
  • Nuventix, Austin, TX (Building efficiency)
  • On-Ramp Wireless, San Diego, CA (Communications and software)
  • Project Frog, San Francisco, CA (Building efficiency; co-investment with RockPort Capital)
  • SunRun, San Francisco, CA (Residential solar systems and services; co-investment with Foundation Capital)
  • Viridity Energy, Conshohocken, PA (Communications and software)
  • VPhase, Manchester, UK (Building efficiency)
  • WiTricity, Watertown, MA (Communications and software)

Chuck McDermott, general partner, RockPort Capital, said, “Over the past year, we have been impressed by the speed and power of the ecomagination Challenge to bring the most promising smart grid and eco-home technologies to market. Our investment with GE in Project Frog’s green building solution will lead to cost-effective, energy-efficient buildings using the most sustainable materials and advanced technologies.”

GE also announced the five Innovation Award winners, who will each receive a $100,000 grant to further develop their technology. They were selected by an independent panel of judges including challenge advisor, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, GE executives and leading academics and technologists. Videos of the winners are available at www.ecomagination.com/announcements. They include:

 

  • E.quinox, London, UK (Solar and home solar financing) – Energy and clean water “kiosk”
    E.quinox is a student-run initiative to bring cost-effective, renewable energy to developing countries through off-grid, stand-alone photovoltaic systems – a system that uses solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity
  • PlotWatt, Durham, NC (Communications and software) – Cognitive metering to slash energy bills
    PlottWatt develops smart meter software that analyzes data to identify energy usage of appliances and provide customized money-saving recommendations via a web dashboard, mobile applications, email and text message
  • Pythagoras Solar, San Mateo, CA (Building efficiency) – Solar windows Pythagoras solar window technology simultaneously delivers energy efficiency and solar energy generation without sacrificing the appearance of a traditional window, enabling the design and construction of more sustainable, economically viable buildings
  • Suntulit, Freemont, CA (Building efficiency) – Air conditioning control system Suntulit’s air conditioning control system uses data such as room temperature and occupants of a room at any given time to learn user needs and offer ways to reduce utility bills by as much as 30%
  • Xergy, Georgetown, DE (Building efficiency) – Cutting edge refrigeration compressor Xergy’s new green compressors can be used in household cooling devices like refrigerators and air conditioning systems to reduce energy consumption by 65%.

This first round of Challenge funding, announced in 2010, provided $71 million to break-through technologies in energy storage, utility security, electric vehicle charging services and energy management software.

Best Buy Partnership

In tandem with the investments, GE and Best Buy Co., Inc. (NYSE:BBY) are partnering to fast-track the commercial availability of two Challenge technologies — the Vphase home energy control device and the Suntulit air conditioning control system — so they can be ready for retail testing through select Best Buy retail channels in the future. Also, GE’s groundbreaking Nucleus™ Energy Manager, as well as smart appliances with Brillion™ technology, will be available through Best Buy in early 2012. GE Energy Smart® LED light bulbs will be available through select Best Buy store locations in late 2011. The Nucleus, which will retail for approximately $149, is an affordable communication and data storage device that provides consumers with information about their household electricity use and costs so they can make more informed choices about how and when to use power.

Neil McPhail, senior vice president, new business customer solutions group, Best Buy said, “At Best Buy, we are committed to bringing new technologies to market and we praise GE’s Challenge as a groundbreaking way to accelerate new energy technologies to the marketplace. We look forward to working with GE and the Challenge winners to bring the latest technologies to consumers and encourage consumers to use technology in ways that help them save money and live more efficiently.”

About GE’s ecomagination Challenge

Since launching in July 2010, GE has reviewed 5,000 business plans and ideas, acquired one company, made 22 investments and commercial partnerships, and provided additional seed funding to 10 start-ups and innovators. GE’s venture capital partners include Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and RockPort Capital and Carbon Trust. The Challenge, which is believed to be the largest open innovation challenge of its kind, has produced nearly 5,000 submissions from a community of 74,000 innovators since July 2010 launch. For more information, visit our website at http://challenge.ecomagination.com/home.

About GE

GE (NYSE: GE) is a diversified infrastructure and finance company taking on the world’s toughest challenges. From aviation and power generation to financial services, healthcare solutions, oil and gas and rail, GE operates in more than 100 countries and employs about 300,000 people worldwide. For more information, visit the company’s website at www.ge.com.

About GE’s ecomagination

GE is driving a global energy transformation with a focus on innovation and R&D investment to accelerate the development and deployment of clean energy technology. Since its inception in 2005, 110 ecomagination-approved products have been brought to market with revenues reaching $18 billion in 2009. With $5 billion invested in R&D its first five years, GE committed to doubling its ecomagination investment and collaborate with partners to accelerate a new era of energy innovation. The company will invest $10 billion in R&D over five years and double operational energy efficiency while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and water consumption. As part of the initiative, GE launched “GE ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid”, a $200 million financial commitment challenging innovators to join in building the next-generation power grid. For more information, visit the ecomagination website at www.ecomagination.com.

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Jean Weinberg
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