Congratulations to our regional competitors— and our six finalists—in the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competitions! Also, there's more good news from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and that there are now even more tools to help entrepreneurs and innovators connect with technologies.

Here's the run-down on the six finalists:

• NuMat Technologies, from Northwestern University, which won the Clean Energy Trust's Clean Energy Challenge. NuMat Technologies won for inventing a nanomaterial that can store gases just like a sponge soaks up water. One potential application is for natural-gas tanks used in motor vehicles. The material stores gases at lower pressure and thereby reduces infrastructure costs and increases design flexibility, which allows tanks to be designed around current automobile underpinnings.

• Navillum Nanotechnologies, from the University of Utah, which won top honors at the University of Colorado Cleantech New Venture Challenge for its innovations to widen the commercial use of quantum dots. Quantum dots can emit a wider range of light with less energy than existing materials, so many believe they will be used in future generations of solar panels, televisions, cell phones and related products. The cost of quantum dots has been a major challenge to widespread use, but Navillum Nanotechnologies developed a process that uses lower temperatures and produces less waste than the traditional process. The goal is make the use of quantum dots an industry standard, helping lower costs and drive broader use.

• Mesdi Systems, from the University of Central Florida, took home first place at the University of Maryland/Atlantic Coast Conference Clean Energy Challenge. Mesdi Systems won for its precision manufacturing modules for lithium ion batteries that could increase production capacities and reduce costs.

• SolidEnergy, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, took home the DOE prize from the 2012 Rice University Business Plan Competition. SolidEnergy won for its innovation which improves the safety and energy density of rechargeable lithium batteries. Its battery technology is intended to help speed up the deployment of electric vehicles and be a game-changer in the oil drilling industry.

• Radiator Labs, from Columbia University, won the MIT Clean Energy Prize for its innovation to make radiators more energy efficient. Approximately 15% of the heat produced in the New York City metropolitan area is wasted due to the overheating of apartments, equivalent to $480 million annually. The Radiator Labs system eliminates this waste with a low-cost, drop-in system by integrating a radiator enclosure, which controls how much heat gets transferred into a room, with wireless capabilities, allowing communication to the boiler room of a building.

• The Stanford Nitrogen Group, from Stanford University, won the California Institute of Technology First Look West (FLoW) competition for its new wastewater treatment process for the removal and recovery of energy from reactive nitrogen (i.e. ammonia). Currently, wastewater treatment is very energy inefficient and undergoing increasingly stringent nitrogen discharge regulation. In the U.S., wastewater treatment is often the highest energy expenditure of municipalities. Stanford Nitrogen Group's process, termed the Coupled Aerobic-anoxic Nitrous Decomposition Operation (CANDO), significantly improves the efficiency and lowers the cost of N-treatment and appears to be the first wastewater treatment process to recover energy from waste nitrogen.

With the six regional National Clean Energy Business Plan Competitions complete, we're now very excited about the upcoming National Competition set for June 12-13, 2012 in Washington, D.C.

During the two day event, the Department of Energy (DOE) will host its National Clean Energy Business Plan Pitches on Wednesday, June 13, from 8:30 am–1:30 pm in Washington D.C. During this public event, the six regional winners will pitch their business plans before a panel of expert judges. You can register to attend DOE's National Clean Energy Business Plan Pitches.

Even if you can't attend the national competition in person, you can still participate through public voting.  One of the most important goals of the National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition is to share information about these terrific student-led clean energy startups to as large an audience as possible. For this reason, we're opening up this competition's voting to the public and to YOU….

Public voting will be open from May 22 through June 5. Come vote during this time, make your opinions known, and take an active role in selecting the top clean energy startups! A prize will be awarded to the winner of the public's top pick.

Watch out for more information about public voting in the upcoming posts!

At the National Competition, Regional Finalists will compete for unique technical, analytical, and business support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Mintz Levin, the Clean Energy Alliance (CEA), Battelle Ventures, Cleanlaunch, and The Cleantech Open.

These resources and services include:

• Technical and commercialization support provided by NREL.
• Access and office space at NREL's Colorado Center for Renewable Energy Economic Development (CREED).
• Access to NREL's Venture Capital Advisory Network.
• Advisory services from Battelle Ventures tailored to specific technology and business needs.
• Technical and commercialization assistance provided by one of CEA's 18 incubators depending on individual business needs, and geography.
• Participation in the NREL Industry Growth Forum and The Cleantech Open.
• Profile of technology and business case on EERE's Energy Innovation Portal.

While we're excited about our great sponsors, please let us know if your company or organization would like to back and be associated with this great event.