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Student-run Energy 2.0 focuses on cleantech innovation, investment

Senior Andrew Lee welcomes sophomore Dan Rogers to a presentation on carbon nanotube capacitors.
Senior Andrew Lee welcomes sophomore Dan Rogers to a presentation on carbon nanotube capacitors.
Photo / Daniel Bersak

Boston was recently named one of the top five cities in the US for clean technology incubation. The 2007 MIT Energy Conference, "Energy 2.0: Solving Tomorrow's Energy Challenges through Entrepreneurship, Technology & Policy," made it clear that MIT is helping things hatch.

The sold-out conference, sponsored for the second year by MIT's Venture Capital and Private Equity Club, the MIT Energy Club and the MIT Sloan Energy and Environment Club, attracted 550 energy professionals, investors, entrepreneurs, policy makers, academics and graduate students to the Kendall Square Marriott on March 9-10.

The goal is to foster the local energy innovation community, according to conference managing director Brian F. Walsh, a second-year MBA student at Sloan and co-director of the Energy and Environment Club.

"I think the 2007 MIT Energy Conference was a great success," Walsh said. "The conference's aim was to move the effort in solving the global energy challenges forward, and I think we achieved this with high marks. Many attendees commented to the organizers that the 2007 MIT Energy Conference was the best energy conference that they have ever been to."

Clean technology, known as cleantech, rapidly becoming a defined investment category for venture capital, received a record $2.9 billion in the United States out of $25.5 billion investments in 2006, according to Cleantech Venture Network.

"The time is right for a new wave of innovation," said MIT President Susan Hockfield in a welcoming address. "But we should not delude ourselves into believing we can find a single silver bullet. We must explore multiple approaches in technology, entrepreneurship and policy." She said Energy 2.0 would help build the needed connections between these different domains and praised the student organizers for their ambition, expertise and enthusiasm.

Among the speakers at the two-day event were Jeffrey Immelt, the General Electric CEO described by Business Week as on a mission to boost the company's creativity and growth; Daniel Yergin, co-founder and chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA), best known for his Pulitzer-Prize winning book, The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money, and Power; Martin Zimmerman, former Ford VP who recently served on the National Commission on Energy Policy and on the President's Council of Economic Advisors; and Vinod Khosla, founder and managing partner of Khosla Ventures, an influential Silicon Valley personality.

Panels were held on biofuels, US climate policy, solar power, oil and energy security, hybrid vehicles and wind power.

MIT researchers Yet-Ming Chiang, professor of materials science and engineering; postdoctoral associate Hal Alper; and Joel Schindall, Professor of the Practice in electrical engineering and computer science and associate director of the Laboratory for Electromagnetic and Electronic Systems; presented their work at an MIT energy technology showcase.

The New England Energy Innovation Collaborative (NEEIC), one of the conference's platinum sponsors, announced that StarSolar Corp,, an MIT-led team commercializing a technology that increases the efficiencies of photovoltaic cells, won its $150,000 Energy Business Creation Competition.

The MIT-New England Energy Showcase, a forum to display the latest and most innovative energy research and business endeavors from MIT and New England, attracted 1,000 attendees and featured exhibits from local energy start-ups such as Lowell, Mass.-based Konarka, which has developed a light-activated plastic; A123 Systems of Watertown, Mass., which uses nanoscale science to create a new generation of lithium ion batteries; and the Harvard, Mass., developer of the FOX Furnace, which generates hot water from food fats, oil and grease.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on March 14, 2007 (download PDF).

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