The Central Florida region is on its way to becoming one of the country’s premier areas for the development of innovative clean energy technologies and solutions, due to the efforts of the UCF, with support from the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE). UCF recently has been awarded a grant from the DoE to help inspire the next generation of clean energy entrepreneurs and cultivate an ecosystem of innovation and commercialization in the region.
Through the recently launched Cleantech University Prize (Cleantech UP), a new DoE-supported initiative to accelerate the rate of clean energy innovation in the nation, UCF will serve as one of eight regional Cleantech UP competition sites and will facilitate a yearly collegiate challenge and cultivate an ecosystem to support the clean energy entrepreneurs from Florida and the entire Southeast United States. Additional funding details and program activities are anticipated to be announced soon.
“We are excited to be selected by the DoE to serve in a leadership role in driving clean energy innovation,” said Thomas O’Neal, Ph.D., associate vice president at UCF’s Office of Research and Commercialization. “Cleantech UP is an exciting new effort that will allow us to continue the momentum in building a clean energy infrastructure within the region and inspiring students in this field.”
The UCF Office of Research and Commercialization  (UCF ORC) has extensive experience coordinating cleantech-oriented programs and competitions and cultivating appropriate support networks and infrastructure. In addition, the university features a history of implementing high impact, entrepreneurially focused curricula. Most recently, UCF worked closely with the DoE on implementing two cleantech focused efforts –an annual cleantech accelerator which was designed to identify and support promising cleantech technologies throughout the Southeast, and the Florida Cleantech Acceleration Network (FL-CAN), which created a statewide support network and “proof of concept” center for cleantech entrepreneurs. These programs served more than 200 ventures that went on to raise more than $5M in follow-on funding on their paths to commercialization.
As a result of the success of these previous programs and its reputation within the regional cleantech community, UCF will soon launch its Cleantech UP effort, explained Jack Henkel, assistant director of the Venture Accelerator Lab  within the (UCF ORC).
“Our annual collegiate clean energy competition through Cleantech UP will be branded Megawatt Ventures,” said Henkel, who is helping to coordinate the program. “We’re going to draw upon our experiences and the best practices that we established with our previous efforts to successfully encourage student-led ventures to develop renewable energy and energy efficiency related technologies, to compete in this annual competition.”
Each year, the Megawatt Ventures competition will recruit ten collegiate teams from throughout the Southeast to compete for $50K in seed funding and an opportunity to advance to a national competition and earn additional funding. UCF will utilize its network of established relationships to promote the Challenge, gather industry and technology specific mentors and expand the network further to attract the most talented teams in the region.
Through their participation in the program, the teams will be provided educational and training materials to help commercialize their technology with a focus on startup and growth strategies for new energy ventures. Teams will receive personalized strategic business coaching, introductions to potential customers and partners, investment pitch guidance and technology transfer support services.
“A key aspect of Megawatt Ventures is its focus us on bringing together investors, experienced entrepreneurs, faculty-researchers, students, regional incubation programs and industry partners,” said Dr. O’Neal. “This aggregation of relevant stakeholders, combined with the seed funding opportunities, will increase the likelihood of success for the companies, and will create a sustainable support infrastructure for participants that will extend beyond the competition.”
UCF will work with the national Cleantech UP Hub, Spark Clean Energy, as well as the seven other regional Cleantech UP Collegiate Competitions hosted by the California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon University, Clean Energy Trust, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Rice University, Rutgers and the University of California-Berkeley.
For additional information please contact Jack Henkel, MegaWatt Ventures coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org  or by phone 407-882-0663.