CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge Cleantech Business Plan Competition

The CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge is a platform to grow the  most innovative cleantech ideas that can have the greatest impact on how we produce and utilize energy into successful businesses. We’re working to inspire a new generation of energy entrepreneurs to serve the nation’s clean energy mission. The CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge is a student centered regional $100,000 cleantech business plan competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy focused on business ideas with technologies that impact renewable energy or energy efficiency.


Entry Deadline

All submission materials must be received by 11:59:99 PM MST on March 2nd, 2014. Ready to accept the challenge? Sign up here.



This competition is open to undergraduate, graduate, and PhD students. In order to participate, 1) at least 50% of the team members must be current students, 2) at least 20% of the company equity must be held by current students and 3) businesses must utilize a technology related to renewable energy or energy efficiency. More information on eligibility can be found on the eligibility page.


Awards and Prizes

The first place team will win $100,000 cash. First, second and third place teams will win 40 hours of NREL commercialization service, and all fees waived for the NREL Industry Growth Forum for the fall of 2014, and entry into the Cleantech Open Accelerator Competition. More information on awards and prizes can be found on the prizes page.


Submission Materials

Teams will submit a 2 page executive summary business plan and a 5 minute video pitch for the semi-finals round. The top 6 teams will be selected for the finals, and the finalist teams will present their plans (20 min + 10 min Q&A) to a panel of judges on April 18th, 2014. More information on the submission materials can be found on this page.


Judging Criteria

Businesses will be evaluated on the following criteria: market validation and analysis, industry attractiveness, product and solution, business model, risk vs. talent and presentation quality. More information on the judging criteria can be found on the judging page.



Since the teams that compete in the CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge Business Plan Competition are primarily student driven, the teams may lack the experience that serial entrepreneurs or business leaders have. To help our teams put together the best possible strategies and business plan, we match each team up with a mentor sourced from a pool of cleantech entrepreneurs, investors, academics, and industry leaders. More information on the mentor matching can be found on the mentors page.


Important Dates

March 2, 2014 - All submission materials due

March 17, 2014 - Finals teams selected and notified

April 18th, 2014 - Finals competition in Boulder, CO

June 2014 - National competition in Washington D.C.

More information on these dates can be found on the important dates page.


Entry Fee

Free to enter, finalist teams will be given a stipend for travel expenses.


Finals Competition

The top six teams will be invited to present their plans in front of a panel of judges (20 min + 10 min Q&A) in Boulder, CO on April 18th, 2014.


National Competition

The CU Cleantech New Venture Challenge Cleantech Business Plan Competition is part of the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition. The University of Colorado was selected to host a regional competition, along with M.I.T., Rice, Caltech, University of Maryland, and Clean Energy Trust. The top team from each region will go on to compete in the national competition in Washington D.C. in the summer of 2014 for a chance to win more prize money and in-kind support. Additionally the teams will get national exposure and have a chance to meet and network with top investors and government officials. The runner-up team will be invited to Washington D.C. as well to participate in all events except the competition.


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