ecomagination challenge
Beth Comstock

GE's Ecomagination Challenge Phase Two To Focus On "Eco-Home" Technology

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General Electric has been trotting out “home of the future” technologies at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show this week, from a backyard-installable wind turbine, the Skystream 600, to a home energy management device and system called the Nucleus (image below).

Today the company revealed a new — perhaps not surprising — “eco-home” focus for phase two of their Ecomagination Challenge, a competition through which GE and its venture capital partners committed to invest $200 million in clean, green technology startups.

The Ecomagination Challenge is now seeking green tech ideas to power the home. More specifically, the competition wants proposals in the following consumer-facing categories: household energy efficiency including management software, appliances and air conditioning; and renewable power, from solar, wind, hydro and biomass.

Applications will be accepted online through GE’s Ecomagination Challenge site from January 18 to March 1, 2011, then discussed and voted on by the user community there, with winners selected and announced in the early spring.

TechCrunch covered the phase one winners of the Ecomagination challenge in November, and the beginning of this initiative in July.

In an interview this week about the competition thus far, GE’s chief marketing offier and senior vice president, Beth Comstock said:

“The focus of the Powering Your Home phase of the challenge is innovation that consumers can touch and feel.

Phase one was great. We funded ideas from such a wide spectrum, especially to create and use [resources and energy sustainably]. But we felt we could get consumers more engaged at this point.

We got about 1,000 ideas in the home energy management space alone, out of about 4,000 total ideas in the last phase. They came from kids as young as ten and entrepreneurs over ninety. They came in from about 150 countries.

We evaluated those and are still evaluating some that may not have been appropriate for investments at the time, but may have something we want to license, for example. Many of the ideas we saw also could have become stronger and qualify for investment moving forward. We’ll encourage some of those applicants to submit new or stronger ideas to ecomagination.

Since we only announced our investments in November, it is too early to see returns. We continue to have very fruitful discussions with retailers about working together in licensing and distribution.

Though the challenge invested $55 million in the last phase, we haven’t set an amount we plan to invest in Powering Your Home. We’ll just have to see the ideas.”

General Electric’s chief executive officer Jeff Immelt is also set to speak about some of the company’s digital energy and other green initiatives on the Innovation Power Panel at CES 2011 today.

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