Have an idea for a product, service or technology that can contribute to an eco-friendly lifestyle, directly reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, is developed enough to be realizable within two years, and also scores well on convenience, quality and design?
That's the brief that the organizers of the second Picnic Green Challenge have put forth a few days ago -- accompanied with a prize of 500'000 euros (plus appended things such as coaching and business introductions) for the winner.
The Challenge is open until July 31st (detailed competition criteria and entry form). From the entries a preliminary jury will select three to five finalists, who will then present their ideas publicly on September 25 at the Picnic08 conference in Amsterdam (Disclosure: I'm a member of the jury and will host the final presentation). The jury is chaired by Sir Richard Branson. The prize money comes from the Dutch Postcode Lottery.
Last year, out of 439 green ideas the prize went to Dutch startup Qurrent, which has developed both a technology and an approach to favor local generation of renewable energy. I've e-mailed Igor Kluin, its CEO, for an update.
What happened to Qurrent and the QBox after you won the Picnic Green Challenge 2007?
The impact of the PGC has been, and still is, enormous. The publicity has made the biggest impact, although the money has clearly helped too. The press has exposed Qurrent -- a startup -- to the world which has resulted in distribution requests from over 40 businesses from over 20 countries. Also, the PR has given us credibility which in turn opens doors that would have remained closed. Our goal was to realize 3 to 5 pilots in 2008 and we already have 4 signed and many more in the pipeline. The money has allowed us to scale up, speed up and really get of the ground. Since we will require more cash in the future, it has also favored our position with potential financiers.
Has the first project been realized?
We started installing the first Qboxes just three weeks ago so I don’t have many details just yet. It is thrilling though to see the product come to life, in action on location.
What are the first results of these deployments, from the perspective of the users?
In the first pilots we are concentrating on testing the stability of the core of the system. The end user is not yet involved in the current pilots. This will follow at the end of this year. We expect to start implementing real projects at the beginning of 2009, ahead of the PGC target of two years.
Among the other finalists of last year's Green Challenge, Damian O'Sullivan's Solar Lampion was featured in the NY MoMA exhibit "Design and the Elastic Mind", which closed just a couple of weeks ago, while The Green Thing continue to nudge people towards a most sustainable daily behaviour. Co-founder Andy Hobsbawm e-mailed me this update:
The Green Thing's video content has been viewed 1.25m times on the web and the site has had 112,152 unique visitors from 162 countries doing 23,118 different green actions and saving 2,808.56 tonnes of CO2. (We believe the actual figure is higher because only a small percentage of people who come into contact with Green Thing or subscribe tell us they've done stuff but our research shows it does influence wider behaviour). All people powered by love rather than money, and word of mouth: not a penny has been spent on marketing so far.
We've just started Green Thing Groups which allows corporates to set-up employee groups on the site. Companies who have agreed to do this so far include Nokia, Carphone Warehouse, Betfair, McDonalds and TBWA. It's a good way to engage individuals within corporations. We've high hopes this will increase reach and eventually generate donations/contributions from the brands.
For more on last year's finalists, read Susan Kish's report on their final presentations in front of the jury.