Recently the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation announced that it was contributing $50,000 to the Utility Technology Challenge. This competition awards a $100,000 prize to the company that has the best new product that employs green technology in the utility sector with a submission deadline of January 31st.
If you’re a new business owner or planning to open your doors in the near future, you probably know the headaches involved. From permits to licenses, inspections to state paperwork, opening a business can involve a lot of paperwork on top of the real world logistical challenges.
But if you’re a business operating in the utility sector, it’s even worse. This sector of the economy has faced major headwinds when trying to innovate because the space is highly regulated. The recent rejection of the Keystone XL Pipeline is just one highly visible example of the problems facing the energy industry as they try to keep up with the nation’s changing energy needs.
The Kauffman Foundation and their partner, Fraunhofer TechBridge, put together this competition to encourage small and medium sized businesses to forget about the regulations and dream big. Projects in the areas of smart grid technology and energy efficient HVAC and other demand side technologies are in particular demand.
For competitions like this, projects must be well beyond the idea stage. Pilot ready or early stage commercial solutions targeting utilities are being accepted for this competition.
That’s Not Me!
What if your small business has nothing to do with such big ideas? What if your business solves a much smaller problem than pipelines and smart grids? With increasing frequency, entrepreneurial competitions aimed at stirring innovation are being formed all over the world. In a recent debate, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich spoke of reinvigorating NASA in partnership with private companies where the government sponsored competitions to stir innovation.
If you have a new idea and have had less than stellar success getting anybody to look at it, consider entering it in to a startup competition.
Where do I find Them?
Websites like the United States Small Business Administration as well as venture capital websites often announce competitions. Industry specific publications and the Kauffman Foundation websites are good sources along with basic search engine searches.
Don’t think your idea isn’t good enough. Very few inventors or visionaries can see the full potential in their idea. Remember the old saying, the worst they can say is no.