Frequently Asked Questions

Students

Who is eligible to participate?

All undergraduate and graduate students at the University of South Carolina campus in Columbia, SC are eligible to participate. As long as the student is accepted into or enrolled at USC as of October 19, 2012, he/she is eligible to participate.

How much time is required to participate?

The amount of time you will need depends on both the scope of your team’s project and the requirements to complete the project by May 2013. If the project will enable you to gain an in-depth knowledge of an area germane to your course of study, you might want to approach your faculty mentor to determine if you can receive independent study credit.

How are student team selected and evaluated?

Submissions are reviewed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers and business professionals and scored based on five criteria: Composition of student teams, technical approach, innovative approach, commercial viability, and financial viability. 

The highest scoring teams are notified and the Fuel Cell Challenge team will provide challenge grants for each team and connect them with their industry sponsors.

What are the key deadlines for the program?

Student Team Submission Deadline closes at 5:00pm on October 22, 2012
Review of Student Team Submissions will happen October 24-26, 2012
Student Teams Notified of Decision on October 31, 2012
Challenge Awards Announced: November 5, 2012 at Fuel Cell Seminar & Exposition 
All projects will conclude by May 30, 2013

Where are the relevant submission forms for the program?

All forms for the final application package are available on the Apply page. Be sure to use the templates provided for your project budget (Budget) and schedule (Gantt Chart).

What goes into the challenge submission?

Student teams will need to submit the following, all of which is available in a template on the Fuel Cell Challenge website:
  • Details on the project abstract, significance, objectives, and scope of work
  • A schedule of activities in the form of a Gantt Chart.
  • A budget breakdown (using the provided budget template) that identifies how much funding will be required and the use of those funds (personnel, equipment, materials, etc.) 
  • A project management plan explaining expertise of team members, professors, researchers, and any external collaborators’ expertise/background, and how it relates to the proposal, and their expected contribution. 
  • Complete a submission packet on the Apply page.

How are awards provided?

Awards to student teams will be provided in the form of research grants in conjunction with SCRA - a member of the Fuel Cell Collaborative - and the University of South Carolina Sponsored Awards Office.  Each award will be made to an entire team based on the budget submitted in their proposal. 

How are teams matched with industry challenges?

All industry challenges will be anonymously posted online for student team review and submission of proposals. The Fuel Cell Challenge team will also host a webinar sessions that will give students a chance to ask questions about the industry challenges.   

How much funding is available?

Student teams will be provided up to $25,000 in funding to take on their fuel cell challenge project. That funding should be used to cover materials, facilities, equipment or any other needs that have been identified by the teams for successfully completing their projects by May 2013. Funding awards are at the discretion of the Fuel Cell Challenge management team and funds are not guaranteed for all submissions. Up to 3 student teams will be selected. 

What are the deadlines for student team submissions?

Student team submissions are due by October 22, 2012 by 5:00pm EST.
Student teams will be notified of pending awards by no later than October 31, 2012


Industry Questions

What is the Challenge?

The Fuel Cell Challenge is a nationally recognized industry and innovation-based initiative to advance the commercialization of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. It was launched in 2006 and to date has invested more than $5 million through more than 20 partnerships in discovery, development, and deployment projects supporting the industry. 

What types of projects has the challenge supported in the past?

The challenge has supported a range of enabling projects including: fuel cell forklift demonstration projects, fuel cell hybrid transportation technologies, fuel cell workforce development programs, first responder portable power demonstrations, fuel cell powered student design competitions, fuel cell incubation facilities, rapid prototyping of energy storage devices, and fuel cell powered Segways. The program has helped to launch 8 new startups and 15 demonstration projects in and around the Columbia, SC region.

What are the goals of this year’s challenge?

The fuel cell industry is emerging from a long period of under-performance and commercial applications for fuel cell technology are beginning to accelerate. This goal of this year’s challenge is to drive more innovation through the industry and help companies solve real world problems that will help them reach commercial viability. Innovation is the key to unlocking the full potential of hydrogen and fuel cell technologies and industry/university collaborations have become the vehicle of choice for many successful companies. This year, student teams from the University of South Carolina will have the opportunity to submit their own innovations or technologies AND compete to tackle a challenge posed by industry.

Why the University of South Carolina?

A center of excellence. For the last 10 years, the University of South Carolina has actively invested in building a world class energy research program focused on hydrogen and fuel cell technologies. To date, the University has invested more than $50 million in faculty, infrastructure, and centers of excellence that have helped to position it as one of the leading academic institutions in the world for fuel cells. The university’s investment has paid off with over 250 faculty, staff, and students, more than 125,000 square feet of laboratory space dedicated to energy research, and a cadre of world renowned researchers such as Dr. Brian Benicewiz, Dr. Ken Reifsnider, Dr. John Van Zee, Dr. Jochen Lauterbach, and Dr. John Weidner.

Who can participate in this year’s program and how?

Private Sector
If you are an entrepreneur, innovator, or technology/services, you can participate by becoming a partner and submitting a challenge for this year’s competition.

Government
If you are a non-profit, higher education institution, or government agency focused on the hydrogen and fuel cell industry you can submit a concept or challenge for this year’s competition as well.

Students
If you are a student in the fields of business, engineering, chemistry, or other technical fields you can participate by recruiting other talent students to form a submission team. Your team will compete for funding and support to advance your own idea or technology or solve a real world business challenge.

What are the key deadlines for the program?

Student Team Submission Deadline closes at 5:00pm on October 22, 2012
Review of Student Team Submissions will happen October 24-26, 2012
Student Teams Notified of Decision on October 31, 2012
Challenge Awards Announced: November 5, 2012 at Fuel Cell Seminar & Exposition 
All projects will conclude by May 30, 2013

Industry

What kind of challenge are you looking for from companies?

The “challenge” will target interdisciplinary student teams at the undergraduate, graduate, PhD, and post-doctoral level. Where the business need requires an interdisciplinary approach, students will be encouraged to form teams that marry technical knowledge with business knowledge. Student teams will be targeted from the College of Engineering and Computing, The College of Arts and Sciences, and the Moore School of Business. So, your challenge submission could be technical in nature, could be business plan oriented, or could be product marketing driven.

How do I submit a challenge?

Submissions have closed for the year. Subscribe to our mailing list, and we'll let you know  From there, you’ll download a submission form that should take less than 30 minutes to fill out. Once complete, submit it to info@fuelcellcollaborative.com. You should hear back from a representative within 48 hours of your submission with details.

What’s the Process?

Its simple:
  • Industry submits an idea or a challenge
  • The Challenge Team reviews and vets those submissions
  • The Challenge Team posts the submissions and promotes them through a month long competition within the university
  • Student teams submit proposals for either: 
    • Their own innovation or
    • To address an industry-driven challenge
  • Submissions are reviewed by an interdisciplinary team of researchers and business professionals and scored based on five criteria: Composition of student teams, Technical approach, Innovative approach, commercial viability, and financial viability
  • The highest scoring teams are notified and the Fuel Cell Challenge team will provide grants for each team to pursue their projects and connect them with their industry sponsors.
Want more details? Click here (insert link to FCC IV Timeline) to learn more.

How Are Industry Submissions Reviewed?

Industry submissions will be reviewed by a review team consisting of representatives with both business, industry and scientific expertise. The review panel will review your submission to determine:
  1. If it is a viable concept to take on
  2. Whether your concept is a good fit with USC’s capabilities, and 
  3. Whether this is a project that would be novel and interesting for a student team to take on. 
Once reviewed, you will be contacted by a representative from the Fuel Cell Collaborative by the end of July 2012 confirming your participation. Your submission will be bundled with other submissions and promoted throughout the University of South Carolina and through a series of Lunch & Learns.

Any submission recommendations?

Your “challenge” will be posted and viewed by hundreds of students/faculty during the open competition, so only submit information you are comfortable sharing with a wide range of people. Your submitted challenge will remain anonymous throughout the submission and review process.
Make sure to clearly address the technological or business challenge that you are addressing and fill out the challenge submission form with as much detail as you can. Remember, your audience will be submitting ideas based on the material you provide.
Make sure you clearly communicate the impact solving this challenge will have on either your business or the industry. What will this enable you to do?
What are the deadlines for industry submission?
Industry submissions are due by June 29, 2012 by 5:00pm EST

How are you handling sensitive information?

As this is an open innovation and commercialization competition, submitting entities should take care to not provide sensitive or proprietary information that they would be uncomfortable having in the hands of student teams. Your submission will remain anonymous throughout the submission and review process. If the student team who selects your challenge wins the grant, you will then be connected with them and no longer anonymous to allow them to work directly with you on solving your challenge.

How are you handling intellectual property generated from the competition?

In the event that intellectual property is created as a result of this competition, the University of South Carolina will work to reach a mutually beneficial agreement to transfer that intellectual property to the appropriate industry partner. As companies are not providing funding for projects directly, the University will be responsible for any intellectual property that results from the Fuel Cell Challenge.

What if I would like to leverage my budget by investing in the program?

This program represents a great cost effective way of tackling some of your most challenging technical or business challenges. As such, any company wishing to participate financially in the program is encouraged to do so. The Fuel Cell Challenge team will manage any additional financial grants provided to students from participating companies.

How much access will we have to the student teams?

Industry participants are encouraged to engage the students to ensure proper understanding of the challenge, offer any solutions or ideas that may be helpful, and provide mentoring for any teams of interest. However, engagement with the teams will be structured and companies can engage through 1) faculty advisors and 2) through a series of kick off and update meetings to keep the teams on track.

What does the final product look like?

Depending on the nature of the project, the final product could be anything from a working prototype to a business plan to a set of new materials. It really depends on the type of challenge the teams are working on. A final presentation and a project report will be made to officially conclude the project with the teams in May 2013.