California Clean Tech Open – Birth of Something Special

The 2006 inaugural California Clean Tech Open was the birth of something special. This contest seeks to empower entrepreneurs in the business of saving the world and making money in the meanwhile. Some business plan competitions boast winners seeking to market new ice cream technologies, or revolutionary ways to market tickets to sporting events. Participants in the California Clean Tech open mean business… important business. No trivial pursuits will be found here, just revolutionary ideas and technologies for how to make our world better.

Sponsored by upwards of 50 California industry heavyweights, this contest is able to offer serious benefits to its winners. In effect, the aim is to offer a “start-up in a box” – a prize package of seed capital and services sufficient to bring new green businesses from the very basic dirt level to full-fledged fruition. The competition is divided into 6 categories, each yielding $100,000 in prizes to their respective winners (Energy Efficiency, Smart Power, Renewables, Transportation, and Water Management).


The Energy Efficiency Prize, sponsored by California Investor-Owned Utilities, is awarded to the team which promises to best reduce wasted energy (ideally equivalent to the output of one power plant/year). Possible avenues might include power flow controllers, or light sources.

The Smart Power Prize, sponsored by AMD encourages strengthening “the link between IT and electricity delivery, giving consumers greater control over when and how their energy is delivered and used”. Energy portals, software enabling real-time pricing information, or anything that would enable users and/or providers to manage their use/delivery more efficiently are examples.

The Renewables Prize is for innovations that seek to substitute the use of non-renewable energy sources, such as fossil fuels with that of renewable energy sources such as biofuels or solar power.

The Transportation Prize, sponsored by Lexus, focuses on any innovation that significantly increases fuel economy, reduces pollution, or minimizes/replaces dependence on gasoline. Flex-fuel vehicles, battery technology, or economical fuel cells are but a few examples.

The Agora Water Management Prize encompasses technologies/methods for the efficient use/conservation of clean water for sustainable growth, such as water efficient appliances for home or industry, or water treatment techniques.

Each category offers substantial prizes, enough to give any innovation wings. Each prize package includes: $50K cash, $20K in office space, $5K in legal services, $5K in public relations services, $5K in accounting services, and $15K in other services.


This competition differs from most other school or government-based contests in that it has no restrictions on residency or school affiliation. Anyone may participate. If a team/company has an idea or proposal which does not clearly fit into any of the above mentioned categories, it still may be entertained. Just register and submit the idea.

In order to cover the essentials for launching a startup company, as well as provide networking opportunities, CCTO offers for contestants spring and summer workshops and events such as:

  • Innovation Partners Technologies and Entrepreneurs Matching Event
  • Executive Summary Feedback
  • Business Plan Overview
  • Sustainability, Finance, and Marketing
  • Corporate Structures and Intellectual Property
  • Entrepreneur Panel and Term Sheets

These workshops are taught by industry experts and pioneers whose wealth of knowledge is nothing short of a virtual goldmine to entrepreneur attendees.


Each category of the competition has its own panel of judges comprised of patent experts, venture capitalists, academics, researchers, environmental experts, and legal professionals who scrutinize contestant teams based on the following criteria:

  • Concept and Product
  • Feasibility
  • Market Opportunity
  • Financials and Profitability
  • Team
  • Environmental and Societal Impact

Judging takes place in two rounds: one to review the executive summaries of each team, and the second to review their full business plans.

2006 Winners

Energy Efficiency – Audra Technologies, providing a wireless lighting management solution designed to save businesses over 50% on lighting energy costs that offers a quick payback.

Smart Power – EDC Technologies with its hot water controller that reduces natural gas consumption in multi-family apartments, condos, dorms, and hotels/motels by 15-40%.

Renewables – Green Volts’ revolutionary High Concentration Photovoltaic (HCPV) technology produces energy at half the cost of traditional solar panels without reliance on scarce silicon wafers.

Transportation – KiteShip develops, builds, and sells very large traction kites, which reduce ship owners’ crippling fuel costs by up to 25%, and vastly reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and pollutants.

Water Management – Crystal Clear Technologies (CCT), using nano-coating technology has created proprietary filter media with dramatically higher absorption capability and capacity than currently available media, at considerably lower costs.

California Energy Commissioner summed up the contest best when he said at its official opening ceremony; “The California Clean Tech Open convenes the state’s best and brightest engineering minds to develop technological solutions to some extremely complex and important problems. This is a competition with no losers – all of California and the rest of the world benefit when natural resources are used more efficiently.” This competition is as exciting as it is inspiring. Check out the California Clean Tech Open today at