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GE throws an ‘ecomagination’ challenge


General Electric has unveiled a $10 million program to reward – and bring to market – innovative ideas with the potential to reduce the carbon footprint in Australia and New Zealand, touching an issue that is dear to a lot of people Down Under.

The ecomagination Challenge is GE’s first in this part of the world, and part of a broader program the iconic American company is running in several other countries as well. It is open to businesses, entrepreneurs, innovators and students.

“GE is a big supporter of collaborative innovation.  With our scale we can take start-ups and new technologies to new levels, expanding markets and sharing skills to accelerate growth,” said Steve Sargent, president and CEO of GE Australia & New Zealand.

“Australia and New Zealand have bipartisan national targets for renewable energy generation and greenhouse gas reduction, and are both strong markets for great technology that can compete on the world stage,” he added. “So, we believe it’s the right time and the right place for our ecomagination Challenge to uncover and invest in technologies that will help us shift to a low carbon economy.”

In sync with society

Over the past year, the Australian government has embarked on the biggest clean energy program in its history, as it aims to cut emissions by 5% (from year 2000 levels) in 2020, and lower emissions by a whopping 80% by 2050. Besides the controversial carbon tax, it runs programs worth billions of dollars including one to help Australian manufacturers improve energy efficiency standards and lower pollution levels. Australia also plans to invest over $13 billion in clean energy projects.

GE is running its program here in collaboration with five local venture capital partners: Southern Cross Venture Partners, MH Carnegie & Co, Cleantech Ventures, CVC Limited and Greenhouse Cleantech.

The program will pick five winners, each of whom would get $100,000, “based on the most progressive ideas that represent entrepreneurship and innovation around technologies, processes and business models.” Additionally, GE and its partners will help commercialise these ideas, which is where the bulk of the $10 million program will kick in.

“There has been great Australasian innovation in clean technologies but the big challenge has been in bringing these to market,” said Ben Waters, director of ecomagination, GE Australia & New Zealand.

Waters said GE expects the transition to a low-carbon economy will drive significant growth in Australia and New Zealand.

“Through the ecomagination Challenge we’re looking to invest in local low-carbon technologies and work with local innovators to expand markets and growth opportunities through our networks, research capabilities and funding,” he said.

The challenge is open for submissions until 30 November. GE will name the five winners in early 2013.