Transitioning to renewable energy and energy efficiency represents the best of America’s longstanding tradition of innovation and embracing new technology and ideas.

A competition last week honored that tradition when 14 cleantech startups from seven Midwestern states competed for a combined $1 million in early stage investment funding. It was the Clean Energy Trust’s  5th annual Clean Energy Challenge in Chicago, and the sold-out crowd of 400 included clean energy investors, entrepreneurs, and innovators—as well as Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner.

Winners included a a gas storage solutions developer; a company whose battery charger runs on kinetic energy; and an energy storage and management service provider that combines intelligent energy management software with a unique thermal storage technology using phase change composites. Another winner is developing a fuel nozzle to improve jet-engine efficiency; their technology will improve fuel economy and safety by integrated plasma in the combustion process.

The Clean Energy Challenge, a nationally acclaimed accelerator program and pitch competition, has served as a launching pad for more than 60 cleantech startups in the Midwest through direct investment, commercialization assistance, mentorship, and access to Clean Energy Trust’s broad partner network.

Amy Francetic, CEO of Clean Energy Trust (shown in photo above), said past winners have received a collective $2.2 million in awards since 2011 and gone on to raise more than $62 million in follow-on funding, creating more than 300 high-tech jobs across the Midwest. Francetic said they are helping the Clean Energy Trust achieve its goal of a clean energy future where ingenuity creates a healthier environment and a more prosperous economy.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner also participated and emphasized the importance of clean energy and innovation to Illinois’ future.

“I am dedicated as governor to getting Illinois’ economy booming, thriving and the key to it is innovation and technology development,” Governor Rauner told the crowd. “And we can be worldwide leaders in clean energy innovation and technology. That’s what you’re focused on, that’s what I’m going to help you achieve.”

A panel of industry experts judged the finalists and awarded prize funding to the following companies, whose technology is described in more detail here:

  • Pritzker Foundation Prize ($100,000) – NETenergy
  • Wells Fargo Prize ($100,000) – Igor
  • ComEd Female Founder Prize and Clean Energy Prize Fund ($75,000) – Design Flux Technologies
  • U.S. Department of Energy Student Prize ($50,000) – FGC Plasma Solutions
  • Aviation Clean Energy Award sponsored by Boeing, United and UOP Honeywell ($50,000) – FGC Plasma Solutions
  • Hanley Foundation Prize and Clean Energy Prize Fund ($50,000) – Sun Number
  • Clean Energy Prize Fund ($50,000) – Glucan Biorenewables
  • McCaffery Lakeside Building Efficiency Prize ($25,000) – Igor

Two companies received Emerging Growth Awards from the Illinois Clean Energy Fund, an innovative program by Clean Energy Trust and the Illinois State Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

  • NuMat Technologies ($300,000)
  • AMPY ($200,000)

The Energy Foundation was a sponsor of the event.

To read more about the competition, learn more about the winners, and take a look at past winners, visit the Clean Energy Challenge website. See the Chicago Tribune story here.