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Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge

The Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge is an exciting extracurricular experience that gives students the opportunity to come up with meaningful solutions to big problems the world faces related to climate and the environment. The competition is open to undergrad and grad students at accredited colleges and universities across the Cascadia Corridor – Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia, as well as Alaska.

Upcoming Opportunities
Join the EIC Interest List
Register for the Fall Environmental Innovation Practicum (ENTRE 443/543, ENGR 498, ENVIR 495)
Join the Sustainable Aviation Interest List

2024 Awards and Honors

Learn more about the 2024 event and the winning teams

Read about the 2024 EIC Final Round teams!

Team AgroFilms from UW won the $15,000 Grand Prize for its biodegradable mulch film that can be used in both traditional and organic farming, where plastic waste production can be a huge problem. The team of bioresource science and engineering graduate and undergraduate students, along with a technology management MBA student, take an innovative low-cost approach to creating their mulch film that they believe will result in keeping plastic waste from farms out of landfills, while also contributing to the circular economy.

Read more about 2024 winners

The $10,000 Herbert B. Jones Foundation Second Place Prize went to team C-1 Bio from UW for its technology that converts carbon dioxide emissions from industrial waste into valuable chemicals in a sustainable way. C-1 Bio featured a doctoral student in molecular engineering and master’s students in chemical engineering. They previously worked with a Fellow from the 2022 WRF/ITHS Summer Commercialization Program to help visualize potential pathways for the technology.

Read more about 2024 winners

The $5,000 Alaska Airlines Third Place Prize went to team Minimycelium for its novel use of mushrooms to decompose and convert plastic into non-toxic organic matter. The team of entrepreneurship and operations and supply chain management students want to solve the problem of microplastics harming animals and making their way up the food chain.

Read more about 2024 winners

SuperSurya from UW was awarded the $5,000 UW Clean Energy Institute Clean Energy Prize. This prize rewards student innovations that can reduce carbon emissions through solar energy production, electrical energy storage, conversion and distribution, and energy efficiency. The materials science and engineering students on SuperSurya are developing a new system for residential solar power that increases the energy efficiency of a wide range of panels.

Read more about 2024 winners

Judges awarded team SEAPEN from UW the $2,500 Leo Maddox Innovation in Oceanography Prize, sponsored by the UW’s School of Oceanography, with support from the Leo Maddox Legacy. This prize recognizes students for creating innovative solutions to address issues of ocean health, with a preference for addressing marine pollution, including ocean plastics or other pollutants. The oceanography students on team SEAPEN are working on advanced oceanographic computer vision tools, enabling effective analysis of marine data to address critical environmental challenges.

Read more about 2024 winners

The innovative approach using synthetic biology also won C-1 Bio the $2,500 Eric Carlson Best Idea for Climate Impact Prize. That prize is awarded to a team that has thoughtfully incorporated and quantified carbon footprint into the development and communication of their innovation.

Read more about 2024 winners

Judges awarded team Green Rush one of the two $1,000 Connie Bourassa-Shaw Spark Awards given out at the competition to teams who just missed out on the top three prizes. The team was led by a genome sciences student developing a bio-remediation system that uses a flowering aquatic plant to clean up hazardous open pit mines.

Read more about 2024 winners

Judges awarded team BioNova from Walla Walla University one of the two $1,000 Connie Bourassa-Shaw Spark Awards. The team of business and master’s of social work students are developing bioreactors that produce methane bio-gas and high-quality fertilizer for local communities in Zimbabwe and Peru.

Read more about 2024 winners

Competition Details


In the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, interdisciplinary student teams define an environmental problem, develop a solution, design and build a prototype, create a business plan that proves their solution has market potential, and pitch to 250+ judges at a demo-day event.

Since its outset, the EIC has attracted 752 students (140 teams) from Pacific Northwest colleges and universities. We’ve awarded $416,000 in prototype funding, over $170,000 in prize money, and 750+ judges, mentors, and coaches have worked with the teams and/or chosen the winners. This is where the innovations of tomorrow begin.

What Is Cleantech / Environmental Innovation?

We define cleantech innovation as any product, process or service that reduces waste, minimizes energy consumption, and contributes to a healthier planet. Re-use, recycling, water usage, energy generation, green consumer products, nanotechnology – all are ripe for innovation.

How is the EIC Judged?

Teams are judged on the problem they’re solving, their 1-minute pitch to the judges, the prototype they demo, and their ability to articulate the potential for impact. Will their idea conserve resources, have a positive impact on the environment, improve sustainability, and compete in the marketplace? That’s what the judges are looking for. Peruse the preparation & criteria tab for more information.

The application site opens for submissions on Tuesday, December 5, 2023 and will be due by 12:00 noon on Monday, February 12, 2024. The competition begins with the initial online Screening Round between February 14 – 22.

From the Screening Round, typically 21 teams are selected and invited to compete in the live Final Round held on Thursday, March 28, 2024.

View the schedule below for information sessions and workshops to help student teams prepare for the 2024 Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

Competition Rounds + Deliverables for Advancing Teams

Event Date
Application Site Opens Tuesday, December 5, 2023
Information Sessions (optional)

In-person session

Virtual session

In-person session

Virtual session

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Wednesday, January 10

Tuesday, January 30

Register Here

Wednesday, January 31

Register Here

Submit 5-7 page Business Summary
(see REQUIREMENTS & CRITERIA tab below for examples of past submissions)
Monday, February 12
by 12:00 noon
Screening Round (Closed, Online Session—Judges Only) February 14 – 22
Announcement of the 21 teams advancing to the Final Round
Teams will be notified by email after 2:00 pm
Friday, February 23
Final Round Resource Night (Virtual)
Mandatory for all teams advancing to the Final Round
Tuesday, February 27 (evening)
Pitch Workshop (Virtual)
Mandatory for all teams advancing to the Final Round
Thursday, March 7 (late afternoon/evening)
Final Round
Pitches + tradeshow-style event.
60-second pitch presented on stage
1-page business summary due Sunday, March 24
Thursday, March 28 (morning – evening)
Reception and Awards Ceremony
Networking reception and awards ceremony to
announce the winners directly follows the Final Round.
Thursday, March 28 (early evening)

Entry Requirements

All undergrad and grad students in good standing from a Cascadia Corridor – Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia, as well as Alaska – college or university who are enrolled in a degree-seeking program can participate in the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC). Teams must be student led. Cross-disciplinary teams are highly encouraged. The most successful teams have members with various skill sets from various departments, including built environments, law, engineering, business, policy, etc. Non-students can be members of a team, generally as advisers, but they can’t present at the EIC, nor can they receive prize money.

What is needed to enter?

What is needed to enter the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge?


Prototype Funding, Deadlines: November 30, 2023 | January 11, 2024 (see PROTOTYPE FUNDING tab)

All Entrants (see Dates and Deadlines tab)

  • 5-7 page business summary DUE by 12 noon PDT, Monday, February 12, 2024. Note: there are 7 sections in the business summary, including the new one on Climate Impact.

Top Teams chosen to come to the final event:

  • Mandatory Virtual Resource Night (Tuesday, February 27)
  • Mandatory Virtual Pitch Clinic (Thursday, March 7 )
  • 1-page Business Summary (Due Sunday, March 24, 2024)
  • 60-Second Pitch and Tradeshow-Style Event (at the EIC, Thursday, March 28, 2024)


Your submission into the competition is distributed to a large group of community professionals who act as judges.

We strongly encourage any team with concerns regarding intellectual property such as patent or copyright potential to either contact their University’s intellectual property office (for University-developed discoveries) or competent legal counsel (for non-University related discoveries) before submitting their proposal into the competition.

The University of Washington, the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, the Foster School of Business, and the organizers of the competition are not responsible for any proprietary information and/or intellectual property included in a submitted business summary.
Ultimately, protection of sensitive materials is the sole responsibility of the individual or team participating in the competition.

Photo and Video Disclaimer
By attending Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship events in-person, online, or otherwise—participants grant the Buerk Center permission to the rights of their image, likeness, and recorded voice, without payment or consideration, for non-commercial use. Participants must understand that there is no time limit on the validity of this release, nor are there any geographic limitations on where these materials may be distributed. Students, judges, mentors, and all other related parties to events may request photos for use following the event in question. Requests will be handled on a case-by-case basis.

Attribution/Courtesy must be included with all photo/video use. The Buerk Center retains the right to request photos/videos be removed from third-party websites, distributed materials, and/or similar media. University of Washington licensing and other media-related policies related to the UW Brand can be found here.


  1. Teams entering must have at least one full-time or part-time student on the team who is enrolled in good standing in a degree-seeking program at an accredited college or university in the Cascadia Corridor – Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia, as well as Alaska. If you graduated the summer quarter prior to the year of the competition or later, you are considered a current student in the competition under these rules.
  2. The competition entry must be developed during the student’s tenure at the college or university. Students working with outside entrepreneurs must create their own original business plan and have responsibility for their own portion of the business.
  3. All submissions to the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge must live up to the higher ideals of the University of Washington. The team’s idea must be appropriate for a university-sponsored event. The Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship reserves the right to disqualify any entry that is its judgment violates the letter or the spirit of the competition or exceeds the bounds of social convention.
  4. If the team or company entering the competition is revenue positive, actual annual revenue cannot exceed $500k. (Please note this is different than the company’s projected revenue. This rule does not apply to projected revenue.)
  5. Eligible students can form a team with non-students, but for the sake of this competition, non-students will be considered as advisors.
  6. Students must have an ownership stake in the business or the potential for equity or employment.
  7. Only student team members are eligible to earn prize money. No payments will be made to non-students.
  8. Only student members of a team may use the StartupTree and Office Hours resources. Non-student members may not reach out to mentors nor should they attend any Office Hours appointments, even if accompanied by a student. These resources are for students only.
  9. Teams that have participated in the Jones + Foster Accelerator may not apply to the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Competition.

Note: The Director of the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship reserves the right to make the final determination of the eligibility of submitted business ventures.

2024 Prizes

$15,000 Grand Prize, presented by Microsoft 
$10,000 Second Place Prize, The Herbert B. Jones Foundation
$5,000 Third Place Prize, presented by Alaska Airlines

Big Picture Prizes ($5,000)

The Big Picture and Best Idea Prizes were created to reward student teams in the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge for their exceptional work in distinct categories. Please note that no team can take more than one Big Picture or Best Idea Prize, but can also win one of the main prizes.

Clean Energy Prize sponsored by the UW Clean Energy Institute
Rewards student innovations that can reduce carbon emissions through solar energy production, electrical energy storage, conversion and distribution, and energy efficiency. This can include scalable social impact approaches that align clean energy solutions with the needs of communities who have been overburdened by fossil energy use or underserved by clean energy.

Best Idea Prizes ($2,500)

Climate Impact Prize sponsored by Eric Carlson, Board Member of E8 Angels
Recognizes a team that has thoughtfully incorporated and quantified carbon footprint into the development and communication of their innovation.

Leo Maddox Innovation in Oceanography Prize sponsored by UW’s School of Oceanography, with generous support from the Leo Maddox Legacy
Recognizes students for creating innovative solutions to address issues of ocean health, with a preference for addressing marine pollution, including ocean plastics or other pollutants.

Success Stories + Winners

View a complete history of Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge winners for each year: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009


Pure Blue Technologies

2nd Place Prize 2013

Pure Blue Technologies was accepted into the 2013 Jones + Foster Accelerator, a TechStars-like program that helps student-led startups get off the ground. As of February 2014, Pure Blue had negotiated lab space with Ondine biomedical and has a term sheet for up to $1.5 million in equity funding, which will give them 18 months of runway to cover additional research and development and get them to the pilot stage.



Grand Prize Winner 2013

PolyDrop was accepted into the 2013 Jones + Foster Accelerator. As of February 2014, PolyDrop had been awarded a Commercialization Gap Fund grant of $50,000 and a National Science Foundation STTR grant of $225,000, providing the funds necessary for 2014 operations and develop a prototype proving the viability of their product.


GIST: Green Innovative Safety Technologies

Grand Prize Winner 2012Ricky Holm, GIST co-founder, was recently profiled in an article by the University of Washington Foundation.


Voltaic: EcoCar

Grand Prize Winner 2011Trevor Crain and Tevor Fayer were both part of the Voltaic team in 2011. They are now engineering co-leads on the University of Washington team for EcoCAR 2: Plugging in to the Future,a three-year collegiate student engineering competition focused on alternative energy vehicles.



Grand Prize Winner 2009HydroSense won the 2009 Environmental Innovation Challenge with a water-usage monitoring technology that screws onto a single valve in a home and can detect water use down to each specific toilet, shower, and faucet. HydroSense was acquired by Belkin in 2010. Learn more about HydroSense and the acquisition.


Recorded Info Session

Screening Round Requirements

  • 5-7 Page Business Summary

The first hurdle on your path toward the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge finals is to submit a winning business summary so your team is selected to be one of the Top Teams who are invited to participate in the final Challenge.

What should be included in the 5-7 page business summary?

In order to prepare your own business summary, use this Submission Checklist, which includes the judging criteria used in the Screening Round to evaluate all entries.

The following 7 sections must be included in the 5-7 page business summary:

  • Definition of the Problem
    • Who cares about this problem? What will be different if you solve this problem? What is the size of the problem?
  • Proposed Solution
    • What is your idea for solving the problem you are addressing?
    • What is unique about your solution?
    • Why would customers be excited enough to pay you for your solution?
  • Team
    • Who are the individuals on the team? Do they have the skills to solve the problem? Have they engaged advisors, mentors, and experts from the community or industry?
  • Description of the Demo (prototype/model/demonstration)
  • Market Opportunity
  • Climate Impact
    • This is a new section as of 2021. Review this guidebook created by RyeStrategy as a resource for completing this section
    • Does this solution have the potential to reduce carbon emissions within an industry sector?
    • Has the team designed this solution to reduce emissions or sequester carbon?
    • Has the team identified which Scope is anticipated to hold most of this solution’s Green House Gas (GHG) emissions?
    • Has the team addressed the projected carbon footprint of this solution?
  • Overall Impact
    • Environmental
    • Decarbonization
    • Energy Use
    • Social
    • Ethics
    • Equity
    • Healthcare Access
    • Supply Chain
    • Community
    • Employee Engagement
  • Questions you should address (use your own format and style)
  • Have you defined the problem?
  • Have you clearly described the proposed solution?
  • If there is a demo, what is it? (prototype, simulation, proof of concept, poster, video)
  • Is the solution original or is it a novel application of an existing product or service?
  • Has the team researched and described the market opportunity and the competitors?
  • Has the team interviewed potential customers? How many? What did they say?
  • What is the scope of the opportunity? (dollars, units produced, global impact)
  • Does the solution fit the problem? Does it demonstrate an appropriate balance between the cost of the solution and its impact on the problem?
  • What is an estimate of the cost to produce?
  • What is the estimated timeline for development leading to launch of the product/service?
  • Has the team researched and described the climate impact of the proposed solution?


Final Round Requirements

Top Teams that are invited to the final event must prepare:

  • 1-page business summary
  • 60-Second Pitch (practiced at mandatory Pitch Clinic)
  • Demonstration or Prototype

If your team makes it past the screening round you will be invited to participate in the live half-day competition final event. There the Top Teams have tables set up trade-show style with their prototypes on display. A member of each team gives a 1-minute pitch to the audience of 150+ professionals who will be judging and the judges then circulate and learn more from teams before picking their top choices for the prizes.

The Top EIC Teams that present on the day of the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge finals will be judged on their 1-page business summary, their pitch, their demo or prototype, and the potential for impact.

What should be included in the 1-page business summary?

  • The criteria and contents for the 1-page business summary are the same as those for the 5-7 page summary (above), just shorter and more concise.

What matters for the 1-minute pitch?

  • How motivated, enthusiastic is the team?
  • Does the pitch convey the essential elements of the problem, the solution, and the market opportunity?
  • Does the team understand the problem/solution? (from both technical and marketing perspectives)
  • Has the pitch generated enthusiasm to see the demo?

What should the demonstration or prototype table setup include?

  • Does the Demo work? If it is not yet complete, could it work?
  • Has the team provided test results and validation?
  • Can the team describe the process and how it works?
  • Can they describe how it could be improved?
  • Is this solution efficient? Does it make optimal use of resources?
  • How practical is this solution?
  • What would it cost to make?
  • Is this original work? Is it a novel application of an existing product? Is it off-the-shelf?

What questions should be answered for the potential for impact?

  • Could this team and this solution have a substantial impact in the market? In the environment? In people’s lives?

The Buerk Center recognizes that there are a variety of AI programs available to assist with written work and visual models or presentations. While these programs are useful tools, they are not a replacement for human creativity, originality, and critical thinking. However, within limited circumstances and with proper attribution, AI programs may be used as a tool by Teams to prepare for our competitions. Please see below for our expectations around AI usage:

Check Its References

Make sure to double check any market, scientific, or other data you receive from a generative AI model. You want to avoid repeating “made up” facts or reciting information from an out-of-date training set. AI models have built-in biases as they are trained on limited underlying sources; they reproduce, rather than challenge, errors in the sources.

Responsible Data Use, AI, and IP:

Beware of putting any proprietary data into open-source models. Your data, ideas, models, etc. may no longer be considered protected data that is confidential. AI generated work is also in most cases not patentable or copyrightable and may even be considered automated plagiarism because it is derived from previously created texts, models, etc. without cited sources.

Stay True to You

Generative AI is great at analysis and feedback, but as mentioned above, it cannot replace your unique creativity or thought process. Judges do not want to hear what ChatGPT thinks about your idea – they want to hear the excitement and enthusiasm directly from you. You and your team must craft and verify your work. Cutting and pasting without understanding will not advance or validate your ideas. Remember that AI tools lack the critical thinking and abductive reasoning to evaluate and reflect, as well as make judgements.

Cite Your Sources

Acknowledge work done by a generative AI model like you would another team member. For example, indicate in a footnote or other citation where rough drafts or graphics were generated by AI and through which platforms. You are ultimately responsible for the impact of any content produced and presented by your team, including AI-generated material.

Interested in entering the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge? Want to meet other students who want to join your team? There are multiple ways to find team members:

  1. StartupTree
  2. Team Tuesday Meetups
  3. Team Formation Events
  4. Environmental Innovation Practicum
  5. Capstone Course in Your Major

As long as you have one student on the team who is enrolled in a college or university in the Cascadia Corridor – Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia, as well as Alaska, your team can enter the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge.

Questions? Email Lauren Brohawn at [email protected]

  • Team Formation Events
    Many entrepreneurship events are held on the UW Seattle campus where students can come out and find others who have an interest in working on solving problems together. Many go on to enter the Hollomon Health Innovation Challenge, Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge, or the Dempsey Startup Competition. Visit the Events section on UW StartupTree or look for Buerk Center events through the UW Foster Events website to learn more. See the Entrepreneurship Events page for current information.
  • StartupTree
    Find teammates through UW Startup Tree online. Students create a free profile with their UW email address. In this web portal you will find some students who have an idea and need more team members and you will also find students with specific skills who are interested in innovation and want to join a team. Think of it as a match-making site for innovators! This site also has a calendar with event and deadlines posted by the Buerk Center. (Site for current UW students only.)
  • Team Tuesday Meetups
    Connect with other students from disciplines across campus at this weekly meetup. Share your ideas, share your skills, and learn more about bringing them together as a team for one of the Buerk Center Competitions. View upcoming dates and RSVP on StartupTree.
  • Environmental Innovation Practicum
    The fall quarter hands-on Environmental Innovation Practicum course is another way students can dive in and learn about environmental challenges while working on team-based projects. Many of the class teams decide to continue into the extracurricular Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge where they will connect with mentors and further develop their concepts. Learn more in the Environmental Innovation Practicum: ENTRE 443/543 tab.
  • Capstone Course Teams
    You may be in an engineering, environmental science, or other major that requires a capstone project as a degree requirement. Why not build on that capstone by bringing it into the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge where the visibility of your accomplishments can be increased and mentors you connect with can help you take it to the next level?

Environmental Innovation Practicum

Practicum Fall Quarter 2023 | 2 credits (C/NC) | Tuesdays, 4-5:50 p.m.
Cross-listed: ENTRE 443/543, ENGR 498, ENVIR 495

This course is designed to help you discover how entrepreneurial innovation is addressing some of our most pressing environmental issues, why sustainability should be embedded in the DNA of every business and the process involved in taking a great idea forward.

It’s instructed by Chris Metcalfe, president and co-founder of Korvata, a company he was inspired to create after taking this exact practicum course years ago as a student at UW!

Learning objectives:

  • Gain awareness of our most pressing environmental challenges and how businesses large and small are beginning to tackle them.
  • Learn from subject matter experts about solutions emerging in various industries.
  • Evaluate business opportunities in cleantech and environmental innovation as explored with guest speakers, required readings/viewings and world news.
  • Gain hands-on experience in developing an innovation concept through the teams project.

How the Team Projects Work
The team projects are a significant part of the Environmental Innovation Practicum contributing 50% of each student’s total course points; 10% of your total points will be determined by your team members who will assess your contribution just as you’ll assess theirs. The project culminates in a team video submission outlining the team’s idea against the assignment rubric. Teams formed in class are encouraged (but not required) to go on to compete in the annual Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge (EIC) on March 31, 2022.

Class Plan
The following class plan from 2020 illustrates the course design. Speakers, topics, required readings and assignment deadlines are subject to change.

For information on the course, the prototype funding, or the EIC contact Lauren Brohawn, [email protected]

Date Topic Confirmed Class Speakers
Class 1: October 6 Environmental Innovation Today Heather Trim, Zero Waste WA
Class 2: October 13 Waste Not – Addressing the Global Garbage Problem Zahlen Titcomb, Regenerated-Textiles
Class 3: October 20 Transforming Food Production
  • Professor Eli Wheat
  • Virginia Emery, BetaHatch
Class 4: October 27 Customer Discovery – Knowing Who You’re in Business to Serve
  • Kevin Green, Center for Behavior and the Environment
  • Eric Berman, E8
Class 5: November 3 Concept Development – Going Beyond an Idea Adam DeHeer, Leapfrog Design
Class 6: November 10 Thinking about Systems and Life Cycles
  • Amy George, Earthly Labs
  • Ben Packard, UW EarthLab
Class 7: November 17 Renewable Energy
  • Steph Speirs, Solstice
  • Chris Alemian, CT Fusion
Class 8: November 24 Infrastructure in a Changing Climate
    Elizabeth Leavitt and Marin Burnett, Port of Seattle
December 1 Building a Sustainable Business
  • Henry Okafor, Amazon Transportation Services Sustainability Solutions
  • Stephen Bay, Earthup
Class 10: December 8 Going Beyond a Class Concept EIP and EIC Alum: Rob Sinclair and Austin Hirsh (2050 Company)

Prototype Funding

Prototype funding can spur development and help convey your idea to a broader audience. We have funding available to teams that are entering the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge this year to help with creating a physical model, object, or device.

Learn More: Prototype Funding Application

Deadlines: November 30, 2023 | January 11, 2024

Teams need only submit to ONE deadline listed above and will be notified of the amount of funding they will be awarded 2-3 weeks after submission.

Open to registered students attending WA colleges or universities.

Learn more: Virtual Prototype Funding Info Session (optional)
November 28, 3 – 3:30 pm

Student teams are invited to apply for funds that can be used to:

  • Purchase materials
  • Rent equipment
  • Pay for access to makerspaces and pay-for-use research facilities

Teams must commit to entering the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge if they are awarded prototype funding.

Awards are generally between $500-$2500, although other requests will be considered.

Funds can NOT be used for:

  • Marketing
  • Business cards
  • Displays
  • Signage
  • Computers
  • Digital devices
  • Legal or professional fees
  • Third party software app development
  • Paying team members or consultants
  • Transportation
  • Lodging

Information you will need to complete the application:

  • Current student team member’s information. (We understand this may change.)
  • Description of the problem you are attempting to solve.
  • Description of the solution you are proposing.
  • Description of the prototype you will build to demonstrate your solution.
  • budget estimate (itemized list) to build your prototype. Changes are expected but any major changes must be approved by Lauren Brohawn, [email protected].

Teams will be notified of the amount of funding they will be awarded 2-3 weeks after the application deadline.

Questions? Contact Lauren Brohawn, [email protected].


Thinking of entering the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge? Here are some Buerk Center and external resources you should know about:

Buerk Center Resources

Resource Nights (Business Plan Practicum (ENTRE 440/540)): Every Tuesday night during winter quarter, the Buerk Center offers Resource Nights to help teams prepare for both the Alaska Airlines Environmental Innovation Challenge and the Dempsey Startup Competition. Visit the Startup Resources page under the Resource Nights tab for video recordings. (recommended for all EIC teams)

StartupTree: Connect to other entrepreneurial students to build teams or use StartupTree to gain advice from our industry advisers by asking them questions as you prepare your 5-7 page business summary. This platform will also have event and deadline updates from the Buerk Center. (Site for current UW students only.)

Business Summary: view 5-7 page business summaries from previous years under the Preparation & Criteria tab.

Technical Resources

Research Training Testbed: Part of the Washington Clean Energy Testbeds system, the RTT houses state-of-the-art fabrication and characterization instrumentation available to UW lab groups. The RTT is staffed by research scientists and is centrally located in the Nanoengineering and Sciences (NanoES) building. Instrumentation includes inert-atmosphere fabrication for batteries and solar cells, ICP-MS & GC-MS, and PPMS for electrical and thermal property measurements. To learn more, contact [email protected].

RyeStrategy: A student-operated environmental consultancy founded at the University of Washington, RyeStrategy is working to make carbon neutrality accessible to businesses of all sizes and stages. Their services include carbon footprinting, mitigation strategies, offset portfolio creation, and advice on leveraging the results of neutrality for optimal business outcomes. High-level guidance on these processes can be accessed for free by committing to their carbon neutrality pledge, while for industry-low prices, their team offers a comprehensive beginners package to smaller organizations and startups, making carbon neutrality affordable, straightforward and highly beneficial.

Networking & Community Resources

Seattle GoGreen Conference: For more than a decade the GoGreen Conference has been an action driving sustainability learning experience for community leaders, business and public sector decision-makers in the Pacific Northwest. Featuring regionally focused content and recognized leaders from our communities, GoGreen works across industry silos to foster peer-to-peer learning and collaborative solutions. They believe sustainability in the business setting is a powerful and indispensable tool for navigating the tumultuous waters of today’s global economy and solving our climate woes.

Cleantech Alliance: CleanTech Alliance represents over 1,100 member organizations spanning ten U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. The Alliance facilitates the generation and growth of cleantech companies and jobs through a variety of educational programs, research, products and services. CleanTech Alliance members come from all facets of the clean technology industry sector. A diverse membership allows the CleanTech Alliance to drive impact via the generation of cleantech jobs, and growth of products and services to advance the cleantech economy. Events include conferences, learning series, advocacy events, and networking events.

EnviroStars: EnviroStars is the free, one-stop hub for Washington businesses to get information, assistance and recognition for actions that protect the environment and employee health and safety. This program is led by a coalition of utilities, cities and counties and advised by a diverse volunteer business committee. The Office of Economic Development along with other City departments offer direct assistance, and free resources to help businesses find new ways to be efficient, safe, healthy and profitable, while contributing to a more sustainable community.

Sustainable Seattle: Sustainable Seattle (S2) works to build a thriving future through initiatives that deliver environmental, economic and community benefits, promote equity, and build resilience. They envision a thriving, regenerative, sustainable Seattle which centers reciprocity, liberation, and restored abundance. The S2 community includes upwards of thirty thousand people, twenty-five community organizers, and over a dozen gatherings a year. Community events include happy hours, think tanks, soirees, and more.


Element8: Element 8 (E8) is a member organization of accredited angel investors and organizations using the power of enterprise to scale both environmental impact and investment returns. For entrepreneurs, E8 provides vital early-stage funding, participation in follow-on rounds, and expert feedback, coaching and networks to support your success.

Vertuelab: a nonprofit fighting climate change by providing funding and holistic entrepreneurial support to cleantech startups. Vertuelab’s Climate Impact Fund makes strategic investments in early stage cleantech startups that have high potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The fund is fueled by philanthropic capital from individuals and foundations that are driven to have an impact and believe in the power of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Breakthrough Energy: Breakthrough Energy Ventures is an investor-led fund that aims to build the new, cutting-edge companies that will lead the world to net-zero emissions. Their strategy links government-funded research and patient, risk-tolerant capital to bring transformative clean energy innovations to market as quickly as possible. Any stage and any size company are welcome to apply, funding criteria include: climate impact, scientific possibility, potential for other investors, and ability to fill gaps in clean tech.

Accelerator Programs

Cascadia Cleantech Accelerator: Cascadia CleanTech Accelerator is a business accelerator program powered by the CleanTech Alliance and VertueLab. The mostly virtual 15-week program delivers mentorship, curriculum, connections and funding opportunities designed specifically for early-stage cleantech startups. Applications for each year’s cohort open early every year.

Maritime Blue Innovation Accelerator: Washington Maritime Blue is working to direct capital towards maritime innovation and entrepreneurs. They act as a resource and pipeline to projects, start-ups, and investments that lead towards their vision for a sustainable, innovative and growing blue economy in Washington State. Startups receive access to Washington Maritime Blue industry and ocean leaders alongside a global network of mentors and advisors.

Cleantech Open: Since 2005 Cleantech Open (CTO) has trained over 1600 early-stage clean technology startup entrepreneurs through its annual business accelerator. A majority of CTO alumni have survived the merciless technology startup “valley of death” and gone on to raise $1.2 billion and create over 3,000 clean economy jobs. CTO’s one-of-a-kind innovation ecosystem built over the last 11 years of programming spans key cleantech innovation hubs in the U.S. and globally.

Interweave: Facilitated by Sustainable Seattle (S2), Interweave is a community-led sustainability accelerator program consisting of a peer-to-peer network of visionaries with unique-but-aligned methods for sustainability. S2 provides specialized support so that Interweave peers can focus on leading their sustainability efforts, and spend less time and resources navigating expensive administrative and technical hurdles that are often riddled with bias.

Other Competitions

Zero Waste Innovation Hackathon: Hosted by Zero Waste Washington, the Zero Waste Innovation Hackathon is a free five-week virtual program and competition that provides online seminars, learning tools, coaching resources, collaboration sessions, and cash prizes to accelerate the pace of Zero Waste innovation by high school and college students and recent alums across the Pacific Northwest. It is open to high school students, undergraduate, or graduate-level students or alumni who are based in the PNW (WA, OR, ID, AK and BC). You don’t need to already have a fully-formed idea to register!

Circular Innovation Challenge: The Seattle Good Business Network hosts the annual Circular Innovation Challenge — a business pitch competition awarding cash prizes, mentorship, and access to investors for the best manufactured product idea produced from ‘waste’ or recycled materials. This Challenge is designed to spur local Circular Economy innovation; incubate and accelerate business models grounded in equitable waste prevention and diversion; and raise awareness about circular and regenerative economic development. Competition open to all.

Questions? Contact Lauren Brohawn at [email protected] or 206-685-3813.

The Environmental Innovation Challenge is sponsored by Alaska Airlines.

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