By Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal

General Electric Co. and three Silicon Valley venture capital firms launched a $200 million open innovation challenge Tuesday seeking breakthrough ideas on the electric grid and ways to accelerate its adoption.

Technologists, entrepreneurs and start-ups have been invited to share their best ideas and come together to take on the challenges of building the next-generation power grid to meet the needs of the 21st century. The challenge is one of the largest ever and is open immediately at

It is being launched in collaboration with leading venture capital firms Foundation Capital, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byer and RockPort Capital, and Wired Magazine Editor Chris Anderson as part of GEâ¿¿s ecomagination initiative to build innovative clean energy technologies and will help fund the most promising ideas.

Also participating is Emerald Technology Ventures, which has its North American headquarters in Toronto.

Proposals are sought in three, broad categories: Renewables, Grid and Eco Homes/Eco Buildings.

Select Challenge entrants will be offered the opportunity to develop a commercial relationship with GE.

Kleiner Perkins managing partner Ray Lane said the firm is working to reduce world dependency on fossil fuel-based energy by growing its portfolio of innovative Greentech companies.

"We believe the Smart Grid is the information technology backbone that will enable faster scaling of energy innovations,⿝ Lane said. ⿿We are committed to working closely with GE and other investor partners to help commercialize the best Smart Grid innovations.⿝

The $200 million commitment will help bring these new ideas to market by providing businesses and individuals with the opportunity to secure growth capital through GE investment and/or investment by participating venture capital firms. It is open to anyone aged 18 years or older and all legally formed entities.

Over the course of 10 weeks, entrants will be able to submit their ideas via Entries will be evaluated as candidates for both a potential future commercial relationship as well as a $100,000 innovation challenge award acknowledging their entry as an example of outstanding entrepreneurship and innovation.

The candidates for a future commercial relationship with GE will be evaluated by a committee of representatives of GE businesses and the challenge partner firms. A separate, independent judging panel including challenge advisor Anderson, GE executives and leading academics and technologists will also provide input on the commercial relationship candidates, as well as select the five recipients of the $100,000 innovation challenge award. Members of the general public will also be able to review and comment on entries and show support for the idea that they believe will have the most impact on the smart grid of the future.

Modernizing the worldâ¿¿s aging electrical infrastructure is critical to meet ever-increasing demands on the power grid, support more renewable energy and increase energy efficiency. Full smart grid implementation could reduce U.S. carbon emissions through efficiency and enable further reductions through new source management, make the most of current assets, and support thousands of new jobs.

Foundation Capital General Partner Paul Koontz said, ⿿Global power grids make up the largest networks in the world. In most cases, the technology on which they are based is essentially 100 years old. The opportunity to reinvent how energy is produced, distributed and consumed is extraordinarily large and is critical in the battle against climate change.⿝

Copyright 2010 American City Business Journals

Copyright 2010