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Climate Leadership Challenge launches competition with $50,000 grand prize

September 23, 2010

University of Wisconsin–Madison students have an opportunity to win $50,000 with their innovative ideas and creative solutions for climate change.

The Nelson Institute Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment (SAGE) is announcing the third annual Climate Leadership Challenge – a philanthropic innovation competition that seeks proposals for products or programs that address the causes or impacts of climate change.

“We’re looking to inspire great ideas from the next generation of leaders and to engage students from all of the university’s departments. This is an amazing opportunity for students to launch their climate solutions into action,” says Tracey Holloway, professor of environmental studies and SAGE director. Holloway and professor Greg Nemet direct the Climate Leadership Challenge.

Winners from 2010 include a low-cost power distribution transformer that supports renewable fuel use in developing countries, a smartphone app that helps you reduce your carbon footprint by calculating the carbon cost of your groceries, an innovative cookstove and land-use plan for Haiti, and a new strategy for internal combustion engines designed to increase efficiency while reducing pollutants.

While entrants from previous years have hailed primarily from the business and engineering schools, Holloway emphasizes that the competition seeks proposals from all of the UW’s departments and colleges.

“We’re interested not only in scientific and technical innovation, but in social and interdisciplinary innovation, as well,” says Holloway.

In addition to innovation, the Climate Leadership Challenge desires proposals that are action-ready and scalable. Students are not required to build a prototype; however, judges will be looking for detailed action plans that lay a roadmap from idea to implementation.

Proposals for the 2011 competition will be due on Friday, March 25, 2011. Six winning teams will be selected to present their proposals at an exposition-style booth at the annual UW–Madison Nelson Institute Earth Day conference, scheduled for April 20, 2011, where the $50,000 grand prize winner will be announced.

Climate Leadership Challenge Program Manager Elizabeth Katt-Reinders says, “These students are going to be the leaders and problem solvers of tomorrow, and they have a lot of ideas about how to confront the challenges brought on by climate change. The Climate Leadership Challenge can help them launch their dreams into reality.”

The competition is supported through a generous grant from the Global Stewards Society – John F. & Mary Cooper; Gary & Ellora Cooper; Christine Cooper; John & Mary K. Noreika; Peter Vogel, Vogel Brothers Building Company; David Beck-Engel, J.H. Findorff & Son; and Scott J. Reppert, Superior Health Linens.