SEATTLE, April 7, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Late last week, student teams walked away from the 8th Annual Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge with $38,000 in prize money, but they weren't the only ones being rewarded. The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, housed at the University of Washington's Foster School of Business, was surprised with a $450,000 three-year sponsorship of the challenge from Wells Fargo.
Twenty-three teams from seven different universities across Washington state competed in this year's challenge with a product, process or service designed to improve the environment while also demonstrating commercial viability.
The winning team was AgriC, composed of students from the fields of biology, business, economics, and environmental engineering. Their innovation, chitin-based biodegradable plastics for agricultural uses which serve as a fertilizer after decomposing, was worthy of the $15,000 Grand Prize.
Other prize-winning innovations included: low-cost, high-performance membranes for emerging grid-scale energy storage technologies; a device that converts the wasted heat energy from the engine of a car into electrical energy; and a patented, self-cleaning surface technology that creates water and oil repellent surfaces and can control the movement of water droplets on the surface to clean away dust particles.
The biggest prize of the night, however, was received by the host. Mary Knell, CEO of Commercial Banking in Washington and Western Canada for Wells Fargo, kicked off the reception ceremony by surprising the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship with the nearly half-million dollar gift to further foster the innovation taking place within the challenge.
"I'm really pleased that Wells Fargo has chosen to partner with us," said Connie Bourassa-Shaw, director of the Foster School's Buerk Center. "They understand that ideas aren't going to change the world unless they can compete in the marketplace."
To date, the chance to compete in the Environmental Innovation Challenge has attracted hundreds of student teams from Washington and Oregon.
A number of teams have gone on to launch their companies. One such example is HydroSense. The team won the inaugural Environmental Innovation Challenge with a water-usage monitoring technology that screws onto a single valve in a home and can detect water use down to each specific toilet, shower and faucet. HydroSense was acquired by Belkin in 2010.
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SOURCE The University of Washington's Michael G. Foster School of Business