Student Entrepreneurs Get Assist from Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster Companies

Research Triangle Region, N.C. – Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster (RTCC) companies plan a full-court press Tuesday serving as judges and expert panelists for the U.S. Department of Energy’s second annual ACC Clean Energy Business Plan Challenge at N.C. State University. Top executives from ABB, Duke Energy, Power Analytics Corp., Schneider Electric, Sensus and Siemens will judge business plan presentations made by teams from 10 competing Atlantic Coast Conference schools. The winning team will receive $100,000 to seed its venture and the chance to compete in the National Clean Energy Business Plan Finals.

“These student entrepreneurs and their universities are our future,” said Kevin O’Hara, vice president of smart grid operations for Siemens and RTCC founding board member, one of the cluster executives volunteering as judge. “They are key drivers of innovation in new energy and resource technologies. So, it’s exciting to play a role in launching their ideas and ventures.”

While judges tally scores Tuesday, RTCC Managing Director Lee Anne Nance will moderate a panel of cluster executives discussing “Cleantech Entrepreneurship: From Seed to Start-Up to Seasoned Enterprise.”

“Our region’s cluster companies are global leaders in industry innovation in clean technology,” Nance said. “It’s exciting to offer students and business people attending the competition a rare opportunity to hear how these Research Triangle Region-born companies grew from idea to enterprise.”

Featured panelists will be:

  • John Bluth, vice president of PowerSecure International, an RTCC founding board member headquartered in Wake Forest, discussing his company’s work in energy and smart grid solutions for electric utilities and their commercial, institutional and industrial customers.

  • Scott Bolin, CEO of seed company Tethis, who will discuss how his water management company launched from a lab at N.C. State less than a year ago. Tethis develops super-absorbent biodegradable foams to treat highly concentrated brine wastewater.

  • Tim Fairchild, director of the global utilities practice at SAS, another RTCC founding board member, discussing his company’s journey from regional startup to world leader in advanced analytics and its growing importance to the utility industry.

  • Bob Kingery, co-founder and CEO of Southern Energy Management, a fast-growing gazelle headquartered in Morrisville, who will talk about his company’s triple-bottom-line mission to deploy residential solar power systems and reduce carbon emissions.

  • Rachele Haber-Thomson, an Impact Fellow at Investors Circle, who will share her view of how supporting institutions can build the investing ecosystem for emerging sectors like cleantech. 

The RTCC will also co-host a networking reception with N.C. State, Wake Economic Development and the Pew Charitable Trusts Clean Energy Program.

The public is invited to attend the competition and awards ceremony. Visit for details.

The Research Triangle Cleantech Cluster is an initiative of business, government, academic and nonprofit leaders working to accelerate the cleantech economy and is led by a 10-member board of directors. The Research Triangle Regional Partnership (RTRP) formed and manages the RTCC with funding from industry members ABB Inc., Duke Energy, Field2Base Inc., Power Analytics Corp., PowerSecure International, RTI International, SAS, Schneider Electric, Sensus and Siemens. RTRP is a public-private partnership that leads economic development strategy for the 13-county Research Triangle Region of North Carolina. For more information, visit

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Contact: Lee Anne Nance, (919) 840-7372, ext. 4075

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