From the Clean Energy Trust, we’re excited to announce the competition’s finalists: an impressive group of Midwestern teams representing a broad range of clean energy sector technologies (from waste-to-energy solutions and biofuels to solar cells and eco-dumpsters). In all, we received applications from eight states and our finalists represent five (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Missouri, and Ohio).

CET’s Executive Director, Amy Francetic, captured the sentiment best when she said: “We were blown away by the quality of the applications and the ambition demonstrated by the students in their choice of technologies. These students did not take the easy route, and instead sunk their teeth into commercializing advanced materials in bioproducts, sensors, and nanotechnology. We are thrilled with the pipeline of innovation that these student applications represent for the Midwest”.

As high as our expectations had been for the quality of clean energy companies in our region, they did not begin to capture the breadth and depth of what we received. It has become very apparent that universities are teaching sustainability, entrepreneurship and innovation at far greater levels than we have ever seen. As a result of this supportive environment, we saw our semifinalists Amplified Wind Solutions, Convolutus, Design Flux Technologies, Effimax Solar, Hydraulic Wind Power, NuMat Technologies, Root3 Technologies and SiNode developing businesses around technology straight from the university systems. ATS Motors, Electroluminescent Products and ReGenerate Solutions created their own unique technologies and services. Bagpipe Technologies and Saturnis sourced developments from national labs; while NanoHarv Technologies, Power-by-Nano, and Re:Wind went as far as seeking out technologies from niche sources, in some cases, halfway across the country.  Three more Michigan-based teams will be joining the group in mid February, after they have successfully competed in the Michigan Clean Energy Venture Challenge.

Winston Lazar, Sr. Analyst at CET, and the main orchestrator of the Student Challenge said that he was pleasantly surprised by the diverse backgrounds of the teams. We saw an assortment of undergraduate & graduate level students, men and women, engineers and social science majors, as well as those who have gone to school to focus on entrepreneurship and those who stumbled into the opportunity. Our evaluators were similarly impressed by the expertise showcased by the teams. Now we match these 16 semifinalist teams with their mentors, experienced professionals who will help them hone their presentations and shape their strategies, over the next seven weeks until the Challenge begins on February 29, 2012, and concludes with the $100,000 prize on March 1, here in Chicago. If you want to see the teams in action, register to attend the 2012 Clean Energy Challenge here.