UCF Hosts Cleantech Business-Plan Competition

UCF Hosts Cleantech Business-Plan Competition

Ten promising cleantech companies from across the United States, including three from the University of Central Florida, will face off in a business-plan competition Friday for a chance to win $50,000 to grow their innovations into a business.

The competition, called Megawatt Ventures, is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy Cleantech University Prize and will be held at UCF’s Rosen College of Hospitality Management. The competition begins at 8 a.m. and is open to the public. The winner will have the opportunity to compete for another $50,000 in the final round later this month.

“The overriding mission of the competition is to encourage the commercialization of innovative clean technologies from the lab to the marketplace,” said Thomas O’Neal, associate vice president for innovation at UCF.

UCF is one of eight universities nationwide that facilitates Cleantech UP competitions to connect promising research in energy efficiency with experienced entrepreneurs, business executives, industry partners, venture capitalists and other resources that can lead to commercial products and high-wage jobs.

This is the fifth year of the Megawatt Ventures competition, which has been funded by the DOE for a total of $1.25 million. Teams from previous years have raised more than $4 million in additional funding after winning the competition.

The UCF Megawatt Ventures team travels to universities throughout the Southeastern United States to recruit talented multidisciplinary teams and build excitement about the concept of solving energy challenges with new technologies.

Teams consist of two or more members and at least half of the team must be students.

“We are striving to capture the innovation coming out of our universities and connect it to funders in a way that is both exciting and sustainable,” O’Neal said.

The 10 teams selected for the 2017 competition received training from UCF experts in entrepreneurship, clean energy, funding strategies, commercialization and proper presentation tactics.

The three teams with UCF ties are:

  • Energitek – Founded by Necati Catbas, a professor of civil, environmental and construction engineering at UCF, the company uses highly advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning methods to predict the amount of energy that can be generated at any given time by solar photovoltaic panels to help homeowners reduce energy costs and prevent adverse effects of increased residential solar photovoltaic usage on utility grids. Other members of the company are Ph.D. students Chuan-Zhi Dong and Ozan Celik.
  • Thor ORE – Brandon Carpenter, a researcher at UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center, and Dylan Weitzman, an undergraduate in physics were UCF students when they joined entrepreneur and now CEO Glenn Wagner to form the company. The company uses nano-filtration systems to extract needed rare earth elements and uranium from the waste streams of the mining and manufacturing industries.  These elements can be used in various industries from electronics and medicine to defense and renewable energy. The company’s goals are to decrease U.S. reliance on China for the elements and to reduce waste products generated by the phosphate fertilizer industry.
  • ThuRiYa Energy – founded by Ngwe Zin, a postdoctoral researcher at UCF’s Florida Solar Energy Center, ThuRiYa is focused on simplifying manufacturing processes and improved efficiency of solar cells.

The teams will pitch their company business plans Shark Tank-style to a panel of judges including venture capitalists, entrepreneurs, renewable-energy veterans and Fortune 1000 company technology scouts. In addition to O’Neal, confirmed judges will be George Gramatikas, founder of Turbine Technology Services and UCF I-Corps mentor; Purnesh Seegopaul, general partner at Pangaea Ventures; Carol Hunter, construction project controls manager at Disney Parks & Resorts; and Janine Elliott, program officer at VentureWell, an organization focused on supporting STEM students and researchers.

The event will also feature speakers discussing topics related to opportunities for student entrepreneurs, clean energy and local sustainability efforts, including representatives of the DOE’s Technology-to-Market Office, VentureWell, and the City of Orlando’s Green Works department.

The winner of Friday’s competition will advance to the national-level completion to be held in Austin, TX, June 26-27.