Autodesk announces software giveaway for cleantech companies

revit_architecture_2009_interface_screen_shot_screenshot_crackl Autodesk, maker of 3-D modeling software used to design buildings and other structures, announced today that it will be choosing 100 companies to receive $150,000-worth of software each under the banner of its Clean Tech Partner Program. The application process is open to any young company working on sustainable technologies, though there is a slight focus on renewable energy innovations.

Startups chosen for the program will receive five licenses for the following suite of Autodesk applications: AutoCAD Inventor Professional, Autodesk Showcase Professional, Autodesk Vault Manufacturing, Autodesk Navisworks Manage, Autodesk Revit Architecture and Autodesk Alias Design. These programs were written to manage construction projects from start to finish, even through manufacturing.

Autodesk, which is touting the program as a new brand of seed support for early-stage enterprises, has already initiated the giveaway with a small pilot program benefiting two companies: Syncromatic and green building powerhouse Serious Materials. The former has already used the software it received to create a more efficient bus-tracking system that utilizes GPS and mobile-location technology. Essentially, the company modeled its potential assembly line and discovered an inefficiency that was subsequently eliminated to speed up the entire process.

Autodesk plans to announce its grant recipients on a rolling basis, giving the software company time to provide condensed training and to learn more about how it will be implemented to advance sustainable causes. The overarching goal is to give startups that aren’t necessarily well-funded the ability to realistically render a digital prototype, rather than having to build a series of expensive physical prototypes.

While the grant program could easily be viewed as a massive $15 million marketing ploy to boost the software’s profile during the recession (its revenue is predicted to drop 30 percent by the start of 2010), it isn’t Autodesk’s first foray into the cleantech space. In February, Intel’s chief sales and marketing officer, Sean Maloney, gave a talk at the Cleantech Forum on the software’s potential to further green building initiatives. He demonstrated how the software could be used to model environmental impacts on structures, highlighting that architects could predict where shadows would fall to determine ideal placement for solar panels — and could even model air circulation to create more efficient ventilation systems. He urged the cleantech company leaders in the audience to use the software to avoid building costly prototypes — perhaps Autodesk itself was listening.