If the cleantech sector has an Academy Awards, the Cleantech Open is it. Cleantech startups from around North America are gathering this week to learn which lucky teams will represent their regions in the national Cleantech Open business competition in November, 2012. Denis DuBois attended the Pacific Northwest region’s judging and awards party in Portland, Oregon, to get a taste of the action.

Cleantech analyst Ron Pernick of Clean Edge checks out the Ryno electric unicycle. Other teams at the expo also showed electric vehicles with 4, 3, and 2 wheels. Nobody has entered the competition with a no-wheeled vehicle — yet.

THE CLEANTECH OPEN throughout this week will announce which contestants in its nine-month business competition are advancing to pitch at the 2012 Cleantech Open Global Forum this fall. The Cleantech Open is billed as the world’s largest cleantech business competition, designed to find, fund and foster entrepreneurs with big ideas that address today’s energy, environmental and economic challenges.

Scroll down for a complete list of 2012 Cleantech Open finalists.

Read about the national winners of the 2012 Cleantech Open.

Finalists from seven regional competitions each win a combination of in-kind services and cash worth up to $20,000. Some teams also win an additional $10,000 with a Sustainability Award. In November they will compete head-to-head for another $250,000 in services and cash.

In the Pacific Northwest region, for example, more than 40 cleantech entrepreneur teams entered the competition from three states and British Columbia. Judges pared the list down to 16 semifinalists in June. Those 16 presented their pitches to judges in Portland on Monday, and three will advance to the final stages of the competition.

NOT ONLY is the Cleantech Open a contest, it also considers itself a startup accelerator. Several “alumni” exhibited at a mini-expo in Portland before the awards were announced. Some have accelerated more than others. Puralytics, the 2010 winner of the national grand prize, now sells its hiking water purifiers through Amazon.com and other retailers in multiple countries. Arcimoto, whose prototype electric vehicle I saw when the team competed in 2011, is just starting manufacturing on its first production run of 15 trial units. e~Tech is trying to raise $250,000 to build the first prototype home using its Lego-style sustainable building components.

Sam Pardue, CEO of Indow Windows, demonstrates how his product turns a single pane into a better insulated double pane. Indow Windows was a Cleantech Open finalist in 2011. It has since raised a $1.3 million A round and signed up 19 dealers nationwide.

Ron Pernick, founder and managing director of research and advisory firm Clean Edge and author of several books on the sector, spoke at the Portland event. In his keynote address to the contestants he emphasized that the cleantech sector is growing and attracting capital. “In 2000, cleantech had a one percent share of U.S. venture capital investment, and last year it had a 21 percent share,” he says.

The Cleantech Open doesn’t directly fund startups, but the events give companies exposure that can lead to investments, and some of the prize money is in the form of equity. The 581 companies that have competed in past years’ Cleantech Opens have raised a combined total of $660 million in equity, according to the organizers.

The Regenergy365 team accepts their big check. Their technology will tap “synthetic wind” to recapture HVAC energy.

“I’m really excited,” says 2012 Pacific Northwest finalist Geoff Wensel. His company, GR Green Building Products, manufactures roofing and siding materials from recycled plastic. (At the end of this article is a list of finalists with more detailed company descriptions.) GR Green has raised $1.2 million in equity and has received another $500,000 from Canada’s Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Tax Incentive Program. Wensel is looking to raise a further $2 million in equity to step up from a pilot plant to a full-scale production facility. Whether or not his company wins the national competition, he says, “just being in the finals will give us recognition and help us line up financing.”

“The win means acceptance of our technology and validation of our business model,” says Regenergy365 co-founder Jeff Gilbert. “Personally, it makes me proud of our team and puts a tremendous amount of wind in my sails to keep moving forward with confidence and determination.” Finalist Regenergy365 uses wind power technology to recapture energy from the exhaust vents of commercial and industrial HVAC systems. “We made it our goal to become a Cleantech Open success story,” says co-founder Michael Gilbert, “and we’re ready for the next chapter.”

Conscious Commuter’s folding electric bike earned the company a semifinalist position in the 2011 Cleantech Open. CEO Bob Vander Woude (left) shows his first production unit to Susan Safford of Oregon BEST.

“It’s a big moment for our company,” says finalist Garrett Carney, who served oxygen-infused Vyykn Water to attendees at the event. “Being selected as a finalist is validation that we’re onto something big.” Vyykn is self funded and will soon start raising its first round of outside financing. “It’s been an amazing journey for us,” Carney says. “We entered the Cleantech Open with the intention to go all the way to the finals. The Global Forum will put us in front of the right group of people to raise that capital.” Vyykn was also given the region’s Sustainability Award for most effectively incorporating a triple-bottom-line approach to scaling its business.

Finalists from across the United States will convene in San Jose, California, on November 8, 2012, for final judging at the Cleantech Open Global Forum.

Denis Du Bois is a marketing mentor for contestants in the Cleantech Open.


The following is a list of 2012 Cleantech Open finalists by region with the company descriptions provided to us by the competition organizers.

Pacific Northwest Region

GR Green (Burnaby, BC) – GR Green designed a patented process to produce ecological synthetic roofing and siding products from limestone waste and recycled milk bottles and grocery bags, which are nearly carbon-neutral and can be completely recycled at the end of their 50+ years of use, making them certifiable under the “Cradle to Cradle” standard. These products also cost less than and outperform cedar and all synthetic competitors and are virtually indistinguishable from real slate and cedar. Learn more: www.grgreen.com.

Regenergy365 (Hillsboro, OR) – Regenergy365 patented exhaust energy recovery technology designed to significantly reduce the intense operating costs of commercial and industrial HVAC/Refrigeration systems by capturing waste air flow (exhaust) expelled by HVACR systems and generating on-site, consumable and/or storable electricity. Learn more: www.regenergy365.com.

Vÿykn (Eagle, ID) – Vyykn developed the world’s first network-controlled at-location water purification system that generates pure, pH-balanced, ionized and oxygen-infused water. Vÿykn systems allow for organizations, facilities and campuses to eliminate their bottled water carbon footprint while improving employee productivity and health through increased water consumption. Vÿykn also won the Regional Sustainability Award. Learn more: www.vyykn.com.

Rocky Mountain Region

Navillum Nanotechnologies, Salt Lake City, UT: Navillum, a chemical manufacturer, is a finalist in the Energy Efficiency category and has patented an innovative and energy efficient method for fabricating quantum dots (QDs) and other types of semiconducting nanocrystals at commercial scale. Founded in early 2012 by scientists at the University of Utah, the company was the grand prize winner of the 2012 University of Colorado Cleantech Competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Lab. Also won the Regional Sustainability Award. www.navillum.com

Molon Labe Designs, Breckenridge, CO: Molon, a finalist in the Transportation category, has designed a new airline seat that can help airlines cut loading and unloading time in half. The firm’s innovative “slider seat” slides away from the aisle, expanding the aisle space from 19 inches to 43 inches and allowing faster boarding in adjacent rows. After boarding on each row is completed, the aisle seat is slid back into position. www.molonlabedesigns.com

Hydrant-Flush, Westminster, Colo.:  Hydrant-Flush is a finalist in the Air, Water and Waste category. This category covers technologies that focus on improving resource availability, conservation and pollution control. The firm has developed patent pending technologies to rehabilitate water main distribution systems without excavation or disruption to landscape environments. Hydrant-Flush provides water districts with a “low risk” solution at substantial cost savings.

Western Region

Skip To Renew, Rafael, California –high-quality, renewable, non-toxic and biodegradable industrial lubricants made from sustainably sourced plant and algae oils. www.skiptorenew

Hive Lighting, Los Angeles, California — high-intensity, energy-efficient lighting solutions for film, TV & digital media production. www.hivelighting.com

Binishells, Beverly Hills, California — faster, stronger, greener and more affordable building technologies. www.binishells.com

Malachite Technologies, San Francisco, California — processes and hardware that will allow silicon solar cell producers to upgrade their lines to produce silicon/III-V tandem cells.

Rotary Wing Engine, San Jose, California — ultra-efficient internal combustion engine technology. www.rotarywingengine.com

PanelShake, Campbell, California –Regional Sustainability Award. PanelShake has pioneered a new roofing material that uses recycled plastic and agricultural waste. www.panelshake.biz

Mid-Atlantic Region

Micronic Technologies, Sterling, Virginia –develops energy saving technologies that improve clean water access. http://www.micronictechnologies.com

The regional runner up is CCEIS of Falls Church, Virginia.

The sustainability winner is Sustainable Systems International of Gaithersburg, Maryland.

All three companies will advance to the finals.

North-Central Region

HEVT, Chicago, IL — Advanced electric motor technologies. http://hevt.com/

IrriGreen, Eden Prairie, MN — Landscape irrigation systems that cut installation time in half and water use by 50% through digital technology. http://www.irrigreenllc.com

SiNode, Chicago, IL — Superior anode Technology for Li-ion Battery.

Sustainability Winner: Barasa, Wheaton, IL — Patented process for converting industrial organic waste into topsoil. http://barasatech.com

Northeast Region

(This region was formerly known as the Ignite Clean Energy competition.)

Red Ox Systems, New Haven, Connecticut — innovative technologies that create valuable products from waste streams. Their first product, the Electrochemical Desalination Cell (EDC), desalinates wastewater, produces inorganic chemicals and generates electricity. Red Ox Systems also won the Regional Sustainability Award. www.oneredox.com.

Coincident, Boston, Mass. — technology that optimizes HVAC performance in residential, multi-tenant, and small commercial facilities by replacing thermostats with a new type of sensor network that measures room-by-room performance and applies adaptive analytics to operate heating and cooling zones more comfortably and efficiently. www.coincident.com

Pika Energy, Gorham, Maine — personal wind energy systems that help homeowners produce their own electricity from clean renewable sources. www.pika-energy.com

Rentricity Inc., New York, New York — leading developer of in-pipe hydropower systems that provide clean electricity and monitoring solutions for water infrastructure. www.rentricity.com.

Save Energy Systems won the region’s Innovative Software or Service Award.

South-Central Region

reBounces, Harrison, Arkansas –Company’s patented Green Machine is a bulk tennis ball re-pressurization system that allows tennis facilities to extend the life of their practice balls.  www.rebounces.com.

RideScout, Austin, Texas, won the Regional Sustainability Award. Team is a transportation information integrator and plans to reduce traffic and CO2 emissions. www.aboutridescout.com