Figures released in February suggested that VC investment in cleantech startups, particularly those focused on energy efficiency, was on the rise.

To help prepare college students for jobs in this emerging green economy, Columbia University and IBM are announcing the launch of the Smarter Cities Skills Initiative.

The Smarter Cities Initiatives opens IBM's global resources to Columbia faculty and students, including access to the 40 IBM Innovation Centers worldwide. The intiative builds upon Columbia's existing research efforts on sustainability issues, spanning several academic disciplines including business, law and engineering. The initiative will provide students with free access to:

  • IBM software, both on campus and in the cloud, to develop software for sustainability and green projects
  • Technical support for green technology courses that show students how to build energy efficient IT infrastructure for smart buildings, smart grids and smart water systems
  • Energy efficiency and open standards software development tools on IBM developerWorks
  • 100,000 global business partners and academic communities through 40 IBM Innovation Centers in 30 countries

"Smart urban infrastructures are key to long term environmental and economic sustainability," said Rich Lechner, vice president, IBM Energy and Environment. "IBM and Columbia share a common goal to ensure the next generation of entrepreneurs have access to the skills they need to accelerate sustainability projects and to be competitive when they enter the workforce."

Lechner says the necessary skills for being successful in the emerging green economy include technical skills, particularly in the areas of data analytics, visualizations and security, understanding of business processes, and the historical and policy-based knowledge that can help transform industries like the energy sector.

In recognition of Earth Day, the initiative will be announced on Thursday at Columbia University to faculty, students, venture capitalists, policy analysts, and industry leaders at the first annual Smarter Students for a Smarter Planet forum. More than 150 schools around the world are expected to participate via webcast. The forum will explore the skills necessary to prepare students for green jobs, and help academia and industry jumpstart a global collaboration toward developing sustainable technologies and a green economy.