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U-M startups dominate Clean Energy Prize competition

Start-ups from the University of Michigan swept the top spots in this year's Clean Energy Prize competition, including first-place winner CSquared Innovations.

CSquared Innovations plans to take its $50,000 in prize money to help commercialize its lithium-ion battery technology and pump up its staff to 14 people this year. The U-M Dearborn spin-out is working through the U-M Office of Technology Transfer to build a faster, cheaper, laser-based method of making nano-structured materials and coatings for lithium-ion battery electrodes, solar cells, and industrial coatings. The technology could make the manufacturing process much less expensive.

Nick Moroz, vice president of engineering and development for CSquared Innovations, says the Clean Energy Prize really helped his team gain confidence in its product and should help speed up the process of bringing it to market.

"We got a great amount of exposure and networking experience from it," Moroz says "There were a number of venture capital and angel investors there that started conversations with us."

Among the focus areas of the start-ups participating were renewable energy, energy efficiency, smart grid technologies, environmental control technologies, plug-in electric vehicles, energy storage, and creating a mechanism to allow organizations to use their self-created biodiesel through fuel purchase agreements. Two-thirds of those 23 start-ups came from Ann Arbor.

The other winners include Smart Energy (second place, $25,000) which is creating an innovative financing model to retrofit municipal buildings for energy efficiency savings. Third place ($10,000) went to Impact Card to develop a funding mechanism that aggregates consumer credit card reward points as project financing for renewable energy development. The last two first place finishers include Algal Scientific and Enertia, which are still developing their technology and gathering seed capital to commercialize their products.

Source: Nick Moroz, vice president of engineering and development for CSquared Innovations
Writer: Jon Zemke

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