English playwright John Heywood once said: “Many hands make light work.” A new competition could prove this sentiment to be very important—for both the Obama Administration and the environment.
On March 10, the Department of Energy issued a press release announcing the start of the i6 Green Challenge, a nation-wide endeavor to inspire the many hands (as well as creative minds) of Americans to work hard towards producing energy-efficient business models.
The six winners of the competition will gain up to $2 million in prize money and funding, as well as an opportunity to make their vision a reality by developing a Proof of Concept Center, a place that supports “all aspects of the entrepreneurship process, from assisting with technology feasibility and business plan development, to providing access to early-stage capital and mentors to offer critical guidance to innovators”. In other words, a Proof of Concept Center is a place where their idea can grow into something tangible and marketable.
The emphasis upon “going green” is a new twist on last year’s original i6 Challenge, which was created out of a desire to boost the nation’s economy through an investment in smaller businesses. “Initiatives like the i6 Green Challenge support the President’s vision for out-innovating the rest of the world by moving great ideas from the lab to the marketplace to spur the development of 21st century jobs and industries,” said U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke in the official press release. “We know that in the last 30 years, nearly all net new jobs were created by startups, and they will continue to play a critical role in our nation’s economic prosperity.”
Last year’s i6 Challenge was a resounding success, creating start-ups in six different regions: Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Philadelphia, and Seattle. This year, the Department of Energy plans to go back to the same regions in the hope of finding motivated and innovative entrepreneurs with business plans that are not only moneymakers, but Earth-savers. U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra believes both objectives are close at hand.
“The $12 million i6 Green Challenge is an important component of President Obama’s Startup America initiative to promote American innovation and win the future,” said Chopra in the official press release. “The multi-agency competition builds on the success of last year’s initiative by encouraging Proof of Concept Centers and promoting green growth to increase our nation’s competitiveness and accelerate the economic recovery.”
The deadline for applications was May 26, 2011, but if the i6 Green Challenge is as effective and important as it claims to be, its long-term effects could extend way beyond May. For an economy and an environment that are both hurting and in need of a fix, a little healthy (and Earth-friendly) competition could be just what the doctor ordered.
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