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Clean Energy Trust Challenge: Four Midwest Innovators Split $1 Million Prize

Four clean technology innovators will split a million dollars in early stage investment funding to advance new products and bring economic growth and jobs to the Midwest.

The companies, selected from among 14 competitors in the 6th annual Clean Energy Trust Challenge (CET Challenge), are developing a diversity of technologies, spanning from better ways to extend fruit and vegetables’ shelf life to ridesharing tools that make carpooling easier for co-workers to small-scale clean energy plants that are helping villages in Sub-Saharan Africa replace expensive fuels with low-cost solar electricity.

The CET Challenge, a nationally-acclaimed accelerator program and pitch competition, serves as a launch pad for cleantech startups in the Midwest through direct investment, commercialization assistance, mentorship, and access to CET’s broad partner network.

“The group of finalists participating in our accelerator program this year is testament to the advanced level of innovation happening in the cleantech space,” said Erik Birkerts, CET’s CEO. “Midwestern startups are thriving, and Clean Energy Trust is proud to serve as a launch pad for companies that are leveraging science, innovation, and technology to create a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.”

Since 2011, CET has invested in 29 startups across the Midwest. CET Challenge winners have gone on to raise an additional $86 million in follow-on funding and have created more than 300 new jobs. The Challenge has jump-started more than 80 startups in the Midwest to date, including Detroit’s GreenLancer, and Chicago’s NETenergy and LuminAID. The Energy Foundation is a sponsor of the annual competition.

A panel of industry experts judged the finalists and awarded prize funding to the following companies:

  • SPLT—Pritzker Foundation Award, $100,000
  • Nexmatix—Wells Fargo Award, $240,000
  • NovoMoto—Power Clean Cities Award, $20,000
  • NovoMoto—U.S. DOE Cleantech UP Student Award, $50,000
  • Nexmatix—United Airlines and Boeing Sustainable Energy Award, $45,000
  • NovoMoto—Hanley Family Foundation Award, $20,000
  • Nexmatix—ComEd Female CEO Award, $25,000
  • Hazel Technologies—Illinois Clean Energy Fund Award, $500,000

About the 2016 winning companies and awards:

Hazel Technologies
Hazel Technologies makes FruitBrite, a drop-in product for produce retailers and distributors that can extend the shelf life of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and plants by 2–4 times. Produce retailers and distributors lose money when produce spoils, and lose customers when they can’t guarantee the shelf life of their produce. When placed in the produce storage space, the FruitBrite pod gradually releases small amounts of an EPA-approved active ingredient that stops the produce aging process and extends shelf life through an ethylene inhibitor delivery system.

NovoMoto is a social enterprise that aims to empower communities in Sub-Saharan Africa by providing renewable, sustainable electricity with its MicroPlant technology, particularly targeting the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In Congo today, 59 million people live without access to reliable grid electricity, using Kerosene to meet their lighting needs, which is an expensive lighting source for these communities and poses significant health and environmental risks. NovoMoto provides an affordable alternative to kerosene by incorporating solar power technology, control and monitoring software, and local partners to deliver reliable electricity to Congolese homes.

Nexmatix, LLC
Nexmatix has developed a platform of products that makes pneumatics more efficient, including directional control valves used for actuation systems and air leak detection products that can recycle compressed air in non-actuated systems. Nexmatix is changing the industrial automation industry with an intelligent, energy efficient pneumatic platform that significantly reduces electricity costs for manufacturers. Pneumatic systems, used by 70 percent of manufacturers, have an efficiency of less than 20 percent, while Nexmatix reduces compressed air by an average of 20–40 percent through its patented line of smart directional control valves.

SPLT is an enterprise-first ridesharing platform that connects employees within organizations to share their commute. SPLT enables commuters with common travel plans to meet someone new within their organization, save money, and reduce traffic congestion and CO2 emissions. This provides companies with a way to introduce an employee perk while building a company culture through shared experiences.