The five innovation award winners submitted ideas that could contribute to creating a smarter, cleaner, more efficient electric grid and represent the entrepreneurial spirit of the Challenge, They were selected by an independent panel of judges including challenge advisor, Wired magazine editor Chris Anderson, GE executives and leading academics and technologists.
The winning ideas are a lightweight inflatable wind turbine (WinFlex); a technology that instantly de-ices wind turbine blades so they never slow or shut down (IceCode); an intelligent water meter that can generate its own power (Capstone Metering); a cyber-secure network infrastructure that allows two-way communications grid monitoring and substation automation from wind and solar farms (ElectricRoute); and a technology solves short-circuiting and outages from overloaded electric grids by enabling precise control over their flow and power (GridON).
The Challenge generated nearly 4,000 ideas and facilitated robust conversations across the open innovation platform between 70,000 entrepreneurs in more than 150 countries over a 10-week period. GE partnered with four leading venture capital firms, Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer and RockPort Capital, to conceive and implement the Challenge, calling for innovation ideas in three categories: Renewables, Grid and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings.
“We launched the Challenge to encourage new thinking and spur innovation at every level of development,” said Beth Comstock, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, GE. “The first step toward modernizing our grid is to uncover ideas and transform them into game-changing technologies and the Challenge has demonstrated that many great ideas exist out there. The smart thinking and compelling business cases presented make these innovation award winning ideas examples of pioneering entrepreneurship.”
The five innovation Challenge award winners will each receive $100,000 (€74 million) to develop their ideas, and include WinFlex which produces rotors for wind turbines from light, flexible and inexpensive cloth sheets made out of composite materials. This flexible rotor design reduces installation costs by at least fifty percent and shortens the return on investment to three-four years, without subsidies.
"Our grids today are where the Internet was a generation ago, with their full interactive potential still largely untapped. Just as we did with the Internet, we can make them smarter and more efficient, using the power of collaboration, open access and a hugely expanded range of entrepreneurs. The Challenge was designed to accelerate this, and show that good ideas can come from anywhere. And the number and breadth of ideas we received was indeed inspiring," said Anderson of Wired magazine.
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