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NYU's Urban Future Lab Rewards Innovation: New ideas flourish in environmental sustainability competition

Grants Newsletter | December 2017

WORLD OF WINDOWS: Andy Huh is last year’s winner and co-founder and CEO of Fentrend—a company that works like an Expedia for energy-efficient windows—matching architects & builders around the world with window & door suppliers. Photo by Amy Wolf for The Trust

New technologies are crucial if New York City is to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by the year 2050. But how do we get there?

A nationwide competition is helping us find a path to sustainability. Tech startups submit innovative technologies as they compete for $50,000 prizes plus space in a business incubator and guidance from experts.

For these fledgling enterprises, winning could be the difference between struggling to be noticed and having a real impact.

Called the Urban Future Competition and housed at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering, it started last year with two $25,000 prizes. This year, thanks in part to $100,000 from The Trust, NYU will expand the effort, doubling the prize purse and awarding three.

The Trust’s support will fund two prizes, one focused on improving the power grid and the other on city systems such as emergency response.

"Without help, only one in ten start-ups survive past the tenth year," says Pat Sapinsley, managing director of Cleantech Initiatives at the Urban Future Lab. "In our sustainability business incubator, nine out of ten succeed."

Last year’s winner for improving urban life went to a startup creating an online marketplace for energy-efficient windows. The prize for creating a better energy grid went to a business that allows industrial users to monitor energy usage.

These prizes will showcase cutting edge approaches to helping the City meet its sustainability goals,” says Arturo Garcia-Costas, who oversees The Trust’s environmental efforts. “Can you imagine a future where we can spray photo-voltaic cells onto nearly every surface, so that quiet, clean electric vehicles take us everywhere?” 

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