Last July, GE announced its $200 million ecomagination Challenge: Powering the Grid, an open call for the best ideas to transform how we create, connect and use power.
Knowing we could not tackle these challenges alone, GE partnered with four leading venture capital firms—RockPort Capital, Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) and Emerald Technology Ventures—to find and fund promising technologies.
In 10 weeks, the Challenge emerged as one of the largest initiatives of its kind, generating nearly 4,000 ideas and creating a community of 74,000 people across more than 150 countries.
To date, we have:
- Announced 12 strategic partnerships
- Presented five $100,000 Innovation Awards
- Invested $85 million with our VC partners to develop and commercialize breakthroughs in energy storage, utility security, energy management software and electric vehicle charging services
For GE, this Challenge was more than a “contest”—it was real business, backed by significant commitments through investments and partnerships in a combined market worth $20 billion.
The strategic partnerships chosen through the Challenge are well positioned to yield significant returns on investment in the future. For instance, energy storage and intelligent sensor technologies will both play critical roles in building the grid of the future. With investments in Sentient Energy and SustainX, GE will help commercialize advanced technologies that solve our digital energy challenges—today.
Additionally, Challenge partner Consert Inc. recently announced that it had signed a commercialization agreement with Wake Electric Membership Corporation to provide the company’s Energy Management Solution. Consert’s innovation will help to improve the efficiency, reliability and safety of electricity delivery and use for Wake Electric’s members.
In January, we announced the second phase of the Challenge—Powering Your Home—to find the best home-energy-management technologies. GE and its partners believe this space is ripe with opportunities for growth and innovation; the energy-efficient home improvement market is forecast to increase from $38.3 billion in 2009 to $50.2 billion by 2014.
The ideas and technology exist today. Investing in innovation has helped us uncover them, and that’s not just good business for GE, it’s good business for the global energy economy.
Every now and then, the right mix of ideas, people and passion comes together—and magic happens. New thinking comes forward, sparking real action.
2010 was a year of action. As an advisor and judge for GE's ecomagination Challenge, I was able to witness firsthand the new ideas born through collaborative ideation. The Challenge connected a global network of innovators and revealed that, when you bring great thinkers together, you think bigger. When you cross-pollinate good ideas, they become better. And when you put rigor and scale behind those ideas, you unleash thinking that is both transcendent and grounded in real business.
The value derived from problem solving with a "network of ideas" is undeniable. This has shown us a clear path forward, where industry collaborates with academia, venture capital and entrepreneurs around the world, in an open environment.