Portland State University and Wells Fargo announced this morning the winners of the inaugural PSU-Wells Fargo Cleantech Challenge. Two teams— Diatomix and Mobius Microfarms—tied in the final voting and will share the $25,000 grand prize in addition to professional service to further support the development of their innovations and business plans.
Diatomix developed naturally derived solar materials called diatoms with multiple potential applications including the improvement of solar cell efficiency. The team consisted of Haian Li, Ph.D. physics researcher; Lester Lampert, graduate applied physics student; and Dr. Jun Jiao, a PSU physics and mechanical and materials engineering professor.
Mobius Microfarms built a self-sufficient aquaponic system aimed at the restaurant industry to grow produce and raise fish in a closed-loop system. The team consisted of Anne Phillip, a recent PSU biology alum, along with undergraduate mechanical engineering students John Talik, Matthew Stewart and Taylor Rice.
PSU-Wells Fargo Cleantech Challenge launched in April with $75,000 in program support and prize funding from Wells Fargo. In May six semifinalist teams were selected from a pool of 21 teams that signed on to take the challenge: to develop an innovative product that meets the needs of a resource-constrained world. The six semifinalist teams spent the summer and $5,000 each in development grants to develop their prototypes, which ranged from a more efficient building brace to tires recycled into diesel fuel to earth-friendly natural dyes.
On the evening of Sept. 11, the six teams exhibited their prototypes and delivered their well-honed business pitches to investors, executives and grant makers who attended a private VIP reception in Portland, hosted by Cleantech Challenge partner the Oregon Built Environment and Sustainable Technologies Center (Oregon BEST). Attendees then voted to select the winning team, announced at the annual Oregon BEST Fest cleantech showcase this morning.
Cleantech Challenge team members represented a diverse cross-section of the PSU community including undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and alumni working in disciplines from chemistry to business to biology.
“I’m amazed at how far the Cleantech Challenge teams progressed over the course of the summer,” said Angela Jackson, director of the PSU Center of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, whose team organizes the challenge. “The teams were able to refine their businesses while developing their prototypes and we were thrilled to see so much cross-campus collaboration.”
“Wells Fargo believes that, as a company and as a member of the global community, it’s our responsibility to help protect and restore the environment. We embrace that responsibility in all we do,” said Wells Fargo Regional President Don Pearson of Portland. “We created the Wells Fargo Clean Technology and Innovation grant program as part of our effort to donate $100 million for environmental projects by 2020. The PSU contest is one of many across the nation that we are sponsoring. We strongly believe in supporting and fostering the development of new and emerging clean technologies that can positively impact all of our lives.”
To learn more about the challenge and the teams that participated, visit www.pdx.edu/clean-challenge.