LBJ School Assistant Professor of Public Affairs Varun Rai led a team of students from The University of Texas at Austin to the finale of the national Startup America Policy Challenge on May 21. The team was recognized as the runner up in the energy category for its proposal: SolarConnect— An Online Social-Media Platform to Reduce the Information Costs for Prospective Adopters of Residential Solar PV.
SolarConnect seeks to increase adoption of solar technology by providing a central, authoritative source of information and a social platform to facilitate communication between peers. After being selected from among finalists to move on to the finale, the team presented its proposal to a panel of high-profile expert judges in Washington, D.C.
The Startup America Policy Challenge is a competition launched by the White House in 2011 to challenge the American public to serve as entrepreneurial problem-solvers. Participants are asked to identify ways in which the U.S. government can use new learning, clean energy and healthcare information technologies to break down barriers to entrepreneurship.
According to Professor Rai, this success is one of the many examples of how the research done at the LBJ School of Public Affairs is influencing policy-making at the highest levels nationally.