Today in Beijing, GE launched the Ecomagination Challenge in China to spur open innovation of solutions to the country’s growing energy needs. GE and 7 venture capital partners will provide $100 million to find and fund the best gas energy ideas to help China more efficiently meet its large energy requirements. The China challenge is inspired by the success of the original $200 million Ecomagination Challenge that debuted in the U.S. last year, and the new $100 million Healthymagination Challenge to find the best ideas for improving breast cancer diagnostics. The original challenge has become a gushing pipeline of innovation, with 74,000 entrants from 150 countries submitting over 5,000 green business plans. GE and its partners, in turn, have invested in 22 of the Ecomagination winners so far (and GE has acquired one), providing a path to commercialization for cleantech start-ups. The challenge in China targets a growing and important market for GE’s products, one where increased demand has helped the company grow at home in the U.S.
At the launch event in China, GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt said: “The scale of the energy issues means the search for their solutions require a new innovation paradigm, one that demands collaboration between all players – big, small, public and private – to bolster creativity and emphasize on local needs…. China, as the world’s second biggest energy market, is a very important link in this initiative.”
This kind of open innovation is part of GE’s DNA, beginning with Edison’s open labs and the company’s first research center in Schenectady, New York, where the world’s top scientists frequently dropped in to share ideas. Recently management experts have caught on, as scientists have begun to reconsider the “selfish gene” and uncover new evidence that human beings have evolved to cooperate, not just to compete.
The Ecomagination Challenge in China will focus on gas-powered energy applications, including power generation by natural gas, bio gas, shale gas, coal bed methane gas and various other kinds of gases produced in industrial and agricultural processes.