Southern California Universities Unite to Produce Cleantech Businesses

05 Oct, 2011, 17:24 ET from USC Stevens Institute for Innovation

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 5, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The University of Southern California announced today that a partnership led by Caltech, UCLA and USC have been selected to receive a $360,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a national business plan competition for young cleantech entrepreneurs.  The winning proposal is one of six awarded regionally as part of a three-year, $2 million program, funded by the DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to develop competitions that inspire students to come up with innovative business plans involving clean-energy technology.

Called First Look West (FLoW), the partnership will also include Chapman University, the Rady School of Management at UC San Diego, energy company OnGreen, Inc, and student leaders from campus groups, such as eClubs, Net Impact, Engineers for a Sustainable World and NOBE, the National Organization of Business and Engineering.  FLoW builds on First Look LA, a program organized by Caltech, USC, and UCLA that showcases research and innovation to investors and has been successfully nurturing academic entrepreneurship in Southern California for five years. As in First Look LA, the host of the competition will rotate annually among each partner, and this feature, among others, provides the maximum reach among faculty, researchers and students. To help students learn about the entrepreneurial process FLoW will engage the student groups in all aspects of the business plan competition, from creating, managing and participating in the competition to potentially screening and assessing future opportunities. FLoW will oversee the competition's Western Region comprising seven states and two Pacific territories: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawaii, Nevada, Idaho, American Samoa and Guam.

The regional contests will be completed by May 1, 2012. Regional winners, selected by a panel of judges, will each receive $100,000 from the DOE and a chance to compete for a National Grand Prize in the final competition held at the DOE in Washington, D.C. in early summer 2012.

The competition is part of Startup America, the Obama Administration's campaign to inspire and promote entrepreneurship. The purpose of this national initiative is to provide student participants with the skills needed to start new businesses, and transform promising energy technologies into innovative energy products that will create jobs, boost American competitiveness, and strengthen the economy.

"Universities are a vital element for developing robust industry clusters that attract and support entrepreneurs, accelerate the commercialization of research, and create high-paying and sustainable jobs," said Krisztina "Z" Holly, Vice Provost for Innovation at USC and the Executive Director of the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation. "We are eager to see the partnership between Los Angeles' three top-tier research universities evolve into a great model for collaboration that will drive cleantech innovation across the entire western region."

USC will tap into the plethora of research coming out of the Viterbi School of Engineering and the USC Energy Institute, which is driving cleantech projects and collaborations across campus and LA County.

"Creating new industries in clean-energy technology is a necessity for Los Angeles and an opportunity that cannot be missed," said Dean Yannis C. Yortsos of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering.  "In today's global economy, which is based more than ever before on the creation of intellectual property, the Los Angeles area needs the entrepreneurship ethos and the intellectual capital and dynamism offered by our three partner institutions. The USC Viterbi School of Engineering is very excited about engaging young engineers and entrepreneurs in this field and looks forward to the development of a flourishing innovation ecosystem in the area."

"By promoting innovation at our nation's universities and cultivating America's next generation scientific and technical leaders, we will ensure our nation's competiveness in the clean energy economy of tomorrow," said the DOE's Acting Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Dr. Henry Kelly. "The awards announced today support the Administration's continued effort to ensure that America has the workforce we need to secure our energy future, create jobs here at home, and win the future."

Working with its partners, Caltech will devise and administer the program, which is sponsored by the Resnick Institute for Science, Energy, and Sustainability.

"The Resnick Institute is excited to work with its university partners to foster clean-energy innovation among young scientists in the western United States," says Harry Atwater, director of the Resnick Institute, and the Howard Hughes Professor and professor of applied physics and materials science.

The founding team of Caltech, USC and UCLA have made a commitment to ensure there will be financial support for sustaining the competition beyond the project's three years, so that students will continue to receive this entrepreneurial training in the future.

About the USC Viterbi School of Engineering
About the Viterbi School of Engineering: Engineering Studies began at the University of Southern California in 1905. Nearly a century later, the Viterbi School of Engineering received a naming gift in 2004 from alumnus Andrew J. Viterbi, inventor of the Viterbi algorithm now key to cell phone technology and numerous data applications. Consistently ranked among the top graduate programs in the world, the school enrolls more than 2,100 undergraduate students and 4,200 graduate students, taught by 168 tenured and tenure-track faculty, and with 50 endowed chairs and professorships. For more information, please visit

About the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation
The USC Stevens Institute for Innovation ( is a university-wide resource in the Office of the Provost at the University of Southern California that helps identify, nurture, protect, and transfer to the market the most exciting innovations from USC.  It also provides a central connection for industry seeking cutting-edge innovations in which to invest. As part of this role, the USC Stevens Institute manages the university's intellectual property portfolio stemming from its $560M annual research program. Furthermore, the USC Stevens Institute develops the innovator as well as innovations, through educational programs, community-building events, and showcase opportunities.

Media Contacts:
Ian Murphy, USC Stevens Institute
Katie Dunham, USC Viterbi School of Engineering

SOURCE USC Stevens Institute for Innovation