Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Who is behind the Global Cleantech Open Ideas Competition?
A: The competition sponsor is the Cleantech Open ( Through its annual business competition and mentorship program, the Cleantech Open has helped hundreds of clean technology startups bring their breakthrough ideas to fruition since 2006, helping its alumni raise over $125m and making thousands of green collar jobs possible.
In 2009, the Cleantech Open is introducing the Ideas Competition in conjunction with Global Entrepreneur Week.  This competition, part of the “Unleashing Ideas” program, is in addition to its business competition, and is intended to hasten the development of more groundbreaking clean technology solutions at the grassroots level. More informal than its business competition, the Ideas Competition is open to entrants across the globe who are just getting started on groundbreaking concepts for technologies, products, marketing campaigns or systems that will solve large-scale energy and environmental issues.

Q: What is the mission of the Cleantech Open?
A: The mission of the Cleantech Open is to serve as an innovation catalyst, providing the infrastructure and processes to develop and motivate entrepreneurs and early-stage companies creating clean, environmentally sustainable technologies.  Through this mission, the Cleantech Open encourages the development of clean technology companies that foster a healthy natural environment - companies that provide environmental benefits in the areas of renewable energy, energy efficiency, pollution reduction and resource protection and conservation. The Ideas Competition is the first step to help entrepreneurs to build a successful business.

Q: How does the Ideas Competition work?
A: To enter the competition, entrants are asked to briefly describe their ideas, and why it's groundbreaking. The idea submissions will be reviewed to select finalists to compete in a National competition. Selected finalists will present a five minute pitch in their country. In November, during Global Entrepreneur Week, one National Winner from each country will be flown to San Francisco, California to attend a VIP reception and present their five minute pitch to a live audience of 2,500 clean technology experts, investors, and enthusiasts, and press from around the world. The Global Cleantech Open Ideas winner will receive at least $100,000 worth of startup services from startup experts in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.

Q: What is the schedule?
A: Our 2009 Ideas Competition Schedule is:

September - October   
Contestants register and gain access to tools to develop their Idea
Last Day to Register your Idea is TBD

Coaches help contestant teams to develop a 5 minute pitch

Judges select a National Winner on TBD

National Winners compete for Global Awards Gala in San Francisco (17 Nov)

In order to compete, you should be available for the National and Global Award event dates.

Q: Who can enter the competition?
A: Anyone looking to turn their clean technology idea into a thriving business can apply. Entrants can be sole proprietors, teams or early stage companies. To be eligible, your entity must have received less than $500,000US in outside financing. You will also be asked to indicate which Clean Technology category that you are competing in.

Air Water & Waste

Ways to cut pollution

Energy Efficiency

More efficient methods and devices

Renewable Energy

Replacements for fossil fuels

Green Building

New kinds of buildings or materials

Smart Power, Green Grid, Energy Storage

Better ways of carrying electricity or storing it


Greener cars, buses, trucks or planes!

Air Water & Waste category entries focus on improving resource availability, conservation and pollution control. Air covers services, instruments and equipment related to emission control, treatment or reduction technologies. Also included are creative approaches to greenhouse gas reduction, including carbon conversion and sequestration. Water covers treatment, storage and monitoring, recycling and conservation technologies. Waste covers waste management equipment; sorting; resource recovery processes; pollution prevention, control, and treatment technology; as well as waste reduction through innovative recycling processes and creation of new recyclable materials, such as bio-based plastics.

The Energy Efficiency category comprises technology that can significantly reduce wasted energy and help to lessen the need for additional power plants.  Examples include advanced light sources and controls, smart / user-friendly energy management systems, energy-efficient water heaters and other appliances, high-efficiency industrial process systems, motors, pumps, and advanced space heating and cooling systems.

The Renewable Energy category includes innovations that use, enable and accelerate the migration to renewable energy. Renewables encompass technologies that use waste streams to directly produce energy. Examples include low-emission power sources, such as solar, biofuels, wind, wave and tidal energy and hydropower.

The Green Building category focuses on reducing the environmental impact of building construction or operation through improved design or construction practices, new or innovative use of building materials, or new hardware or software applications. Technologies are applied directly to the built environment. Examples include water management systems, reduction of hazardous materials in building construction or operation, use of new environmentally friendly or recycled materials, systems to improve indoor environmental quality and systems for improved waste reduction or disposal

The Smart Power, Green Grid and Energy Storage category encourages links between information technologies and electricity delivery that give industrial, commercial and residential consumers greater control over when and how their energy is delivered and used. It includes improvements in all forms of energy storage, from battery technology for consumer-scale products to large chemical, metal, biological or other approaches to storage of utility-scale energy, as well as methods for controlling or increasing the efficiency of energy storage or energy transmission. Examples include wireless metering and use of real-time pricing information, intelligent sensors, batteries, fuel cells, fly-wheels, and advanced materials or systems for energy transmission, such as hardware and software controls.

The Transportation category encompasses transportation and mobile technology applications that improve fuel efficiency, reduce air pollution, reduce oil consumption or reduce vehicle travel (not limited to automobiles). Technologies are applied directly to transportation systems or vehicles. Examples include new vehicles and new types of transport services and infrastructure, efficient batteries, fuel cells, bio-based transportation fuels and use of information technologies.

Example Technologies

Air Water & Waste

Energy Efficiency


Green Building

Smart Power, Green Grid, Energy Storage


  • Storm-water and flood control, rainwater harvesting
  • Smart irrigation
  • Water filtration and disinfection
  • Advanced filters and filtration (air or water)
  • Carbon and GHG monitoring and control
  • Carbon capture sequestration, storage
  • Waste cleanup and remediation
  • Industrial process improvements
  • Natural gas monitoring and control (industrial or residential)
  • LED lighting
  • Advanced lighting controls
  • HVAC solutions
  • Utility scale natural gas controls


  • Solar for energy production
  • Thin film solar manufacture
  • Concentrating solar PV
  • Biobased fuels
  • Hydropower
  • Advanced fluid flow designs
  • Wind power technologies


  • Insulation materials
  • Cement alternatives
  • Indoor air filtration systems
  • Disaster relief  and modular housing
  • Low VOC carpeting and flooring
  • Water saving toilets, showers, plumbing
  • Recycled materials for use in building material


  • Real-time power monitoring
  • Network architecture for power management
  • Hydrogen storage
  • Battery form factor improvements
  • Advanced fuel cell membranes
  • Power storage
  • Transmission efficiency


  • Fleet and route management systems
  • Logistics management
  • Carpooling solutions
  • All electric vehicles
  • Flex fuel engines and applications
  • Drivetrain conversion kits
  • Monitoring and control of driver behavior


Q: What Exactly Is A Pitch? How Do I Get Started?
A: The pitch, whether to an investor, a potential customer, or a business partner, is the way in which way an entrepreneur conveys their product or service idea, and the value of it, in a meaningful and authentic way. During the competition, we will help you to develop a full 5-minute pitch.

Pitches may be either formal or informal, and might be delivered by different methods, from a PowerPoint presentation to a casual, impromptu conversation.  Most important is to know what message you want to convey, and the audience to whom you will present this information.   Those two pieces of information will help create a “success paragraph” to convey your idea, and convince your audience to say, “Tell me more!”

Get Started on Your Pitch by Building a “Success Paragraph”

To register for the competition, follow the 5 concepts below to build your “success paragraph.” 

  1. My idea is:  (describe in 200 words)
  2. The problem my idea solves is: (describe the value proposition)
  3. The market for my idea is: (describe who will buy the product/service)
  4. My idea will have a positive effect on the environment because: (describe the environmental impact)
  5. My idea is a winning one because: (describe  the unique competitive advantage)

Here’s an example for a company that makes eco-friendly ceiling tiles out of recycled materials.

“My idea is for a new building material that uses recycled content to create a state of the art acoustical ceiling tile.   In order to meet carbon emission standards, builders need new, low-emitting materials for both new buildings and those that are being refurbished or remodeled. This new product will help building contractors increase their use of utilize recycled materials in any building, while delivering an attractive, sound-absorbing ceiling tile that has no harmful emissions.   The market for this product is through existing building distribution channels and is cost competitive with existing ceiling products.   It is made from recycled materials, has a long life, and is fully recyclable.  There are no companies currently manufacturing this type of material in the US.”

Q: How will my pitch be judged?
A: A team of professionals will serve as competition judges and will evaluate your pitch using this scorecard.

Team/Company Name


Idea concept:
Concisely and clearly explained-“I understand it”

1  2  3  4  5

Breakthrough in thinking or design

1  2  3  4  5

Business Viability: 
A significant and interesting market exists

1  2  3  4  5

Positive impact on environment

1  2  3  4  5

Total Score (Top Score=20)

Key:  1=Low, 5= High  

Q: What is Sustainability?
A: Sustainability is defined as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs” (Source: Brundtland Commission, 1987).  Cleantech Open's Sustainability Program strives to highlight the relevance and promote the philosophy of sustainability throughout all that the Cleantech Open does.  We ask you to have a positive impact on the environment and the broader community, and to make this part of every phase of development - not just for the end use application. Your idea should deliver products or services that have a net positive environmental impact.

Q: How many prizes are there and what is included?
A: There is one National Winner for each country who will receive press recognition for their award and go on to compete at the Global pitch competition in San Francisco in November. The Global Winner will receive at least $100,000 worth of startup services and have access to seasoned advisors in the essential areas that will ensure their Ideas can be translated into a business. The Cleantech Open advisor community includes specialists in business plan development, intellectual property, marketing, PR, sustainability, and fundraising. Starting with a plan to fully leverage their Global Cleantech Open award, the advisor team will develop a plan specific to the Global Winner's needs.

Q: What does it cost to enter the competition?
A: There are no fees associated with competing in the Global Cleantech Open.

Q: What is cleantech?
A: Cleantech has been described by Clean Edge, a clean-tech research firm, as "a diverse range of products, services, and processes that harness renewable materials and energy sources, dramatically reduce the use of natural resources, and cut or eliminate emissions and wastes."  The terms “cleantech” and “green tech” are often used interchangably to describe products, services and practices that are environmentally friendly.



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