NEXUS-NY Blog


NEXUS-NY 2016 Demo Day

7 Clean Energy Startups Changing the World

To date, NEXUS-NY has helped launch 15 startup companies. Eight graduates have gone on to raise more than $6.5MM, and four have generated initial customer revenue.

Interested commercializing your clean energy technology? Apply to NEXUS-NY.

Now meet the graduates of the 2016 Cohort of NEXUS-NY. Each presented at our annual Demo Day in Rochester, NY after completed the NEXUS-NY clean energy seed accelerator program.

Phase Innovations (SUNY Alfred)
Phase Innovations is developing a low-cost, advanced air conditioning system without chemical refrigerants, and which uses less energy than conventional systems.

Ducted Turbines International (Clarkson University)
DTI is a wind turbine company working to provide the lowest cost per kWh in the small turbine market (<10kW).

MIMiC (RPI)
The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is developing modular, switchable heating and cooling systems that reduce building energy consumption, while increasing occupant comfort.

Dimensional Energy (Cornell University)
Dimensional Energy is breaking new ground in artificial photosynthesis by converting waste carbon dioxide into green fuels using only sunlight as an energy source.

NanoHydro (SUNY Buffalo)
NanoHydro has developed a novel, proprietary nanomaterial capable of generating hydrogen gas from water, on demand and at room temperature.

BioEnergySP
BioEnergySP is working to commercialize its patent pending industrial equipment for wastewater treatment. Its Electroactive Attached Growth (EAG) modules save energy and expand treatment capacity for municipal and energy customers.

Cellec Technologies (RIT)
Cellec Technologies is using patented carbon nanotube (CNT) technologies to increase the performance of high-end lithium ion batteries by 40% for defense and intelligence applications.

About NEXUS-NY
NEXUS-NY is a clean energy seed accelerator. Each year we provide financial, business and educational support to around 10 entrepreneurial teams, which are selected through a competitive application process. Program participants are eligible to receive $50,000 or more of equity-free financial support, plus additional service from NEXUS-NY mentors and partner organizations. Our entrepreneurs come from research universities and the general community, and share several common traits:

  • They are passionate about their technology and want to start a great company
  • They want to solve big problems for real customers
  • They recognize the need to demonstrate their technology and business model though meaningful proof-of-concept prototypes and customer interactions

NEXUS-NY provides a structured customer commercialization process organized around answering three fundamental questions:

  • What is the best commercialization pathway for a given technology? Could it be through a startup?
  • Does technology work in a way that’s relevant to intended customers?
  • Will a customer actively engage to help validate the technology and business model?

The most promising graduating companies are eligible to receive follow on equity investments. NEXUS-NY is a program of High Tech Rochester (HTR) and is funded largely through a proof-of-concept center grant from NYSERDA.

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Cornell Research Team Competes for $20M Carbon XPRIZE

NEXUS-NY’s Cornell Team, Dimensional Energy, Moves to Round 2 of Carbon XPRIZE Competition

We’re energized to share Dimensional Energy’s latest milestone – a feature in Engineering.com for their participation in the Carbon XPRIZE competition! The Cornell research team as now been selected as a semi-finalist in the competition with judges saying they are more confident than ever that real breakthroughs are about to happen!

The XPRIZE Foundation is running the competition, which awards $20 million to the team that designs the best solution for converting carbon into something that can be sold to offset the cost to capture it.

Dimensional Energy GraphicDimensional Energy has developed a photoreactor that converts sunlight, CO2 and water into usable energy, such as methanol and other fuels.

Watch -> Dimensional Energy’s Promotional Video

Entrepreneurial lead Jason Salfi says the team has created an efficient solution to convert the sun’s energy without electricity. Through the development of a novel fiber optic waveguide, the process allows the photoreactor to direct sunlight to a specific location.

When the sunlight reaches a surface that’s coated with a nanofluid catalyst, also developed by Dimension Energy, the covalent bonds of the CO2 and H2O molecules break. As the component elements form new bonds, hydrocarbon fuels are created.

New this year, NEXUS-NY connected two scientific researchers, Dr. David Erickson and Dr. Tobias Hanrath of Cornell University, to test the commercial potential of using their joint technologies to convert CO2 into methanol. Salfi and partner entrepreneurial lead, Clayton Poppe, have been assisting with the testing and commercialization of this method.

Dimensional Energy has now been selected into Round 2 of the $20MM Carbon XPrize Competition. Dr. Paul Bunje and Dr. Marcius Extavour’s latest blog post announces the competition’s Round 2 Semi-finalists, as well as provides more information about the NRG Cosia Team Summit, which will be held in New Orleans on December 7-9.

We’ll keep you posted on the latest details as they unfold!

Learn more -> NEXUS-NY Pilots New University Research Opportunity

 

NEXUS-NY Grads Receive Competitive DOE Grants

American Fuel Cell and Avatar Sustainable Technologies Awarded DOE Grants in Round 2 of Small Business Voucher Program

The DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has started a new innovative Small Business Vouchers (SBV) program to accelerate the transformation toward a clean energy economy.

As part of the program, several small businesses work directly with experts at DOE national laboratories to help commercialize the next generation of clean energy technologies. This national effort provides millions in funding for U.S. companies, and access to the resources available within the national laboratory system.

“Small businesses will get access to NREL’s expertise and facilities to overcome research and commercialization challenges while NREL staff gain better insight into industry needs,” stated NREL Commercialization Program Manager Matt Ringer is a press release.

SBV vouchers range from $50,000 – 300,000. Industries include Wind, Bioenergy, Solar and Fuel Cells and Advanced Manufacturing.

NEXUS-NY graduating companies, American Fuel Cell (AFC) and Avatar Sustainable Technologies are among two of the businesses selected for Round 2 of this prestigious collaboration. Out of hundreds of applications, only 43 vouchers were awarded in this round. AFC and Avatar were also the only winners from New York state.

“American Fuel Cell applied for a grant under the voucher program in partnership with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory to work on high-speed, thin film coating manufacturing quality control,” says AFC CEO and Co-Founder Daniel O’Connell. “The program through the DOE is significant at $200,000 with additional cost share from AFC.”

While O’Connell says that winning the award was a long shot, his team is very excited about the potential. “We’re looking at completing this program with Kodak and Oak Ridge Labs to ensure we get a quality product out of the process,” he added.  

American Fuel Cell is the premier supplier of individually tailored Membrane Electrode Assemblies (MEA) for multiple fuel cell applications. In a recent interview with NEXUS-NY, O’Connell shared with us how AFC is powering the future, and bringing high tech fuel cell jobs to the Rochester area by creating high performance, low cost MEAs.

Across the nation, small businesses provide a tremendous opportunity to accelerate America’s clean energy economy. Small businesses develop innovative technology and produce more than 15 times as many patents per employee as larger patenting firms, according to the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.

American Fuel Cell will begin the new project with the Department of Energy this October. Work will continue throughout 2017. The first step is to execute a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA), which O’Connell says was recently signed.

“Initially AFC will provide samples to Oak Ridge for defect analysis. Oak Ridge personnel will then visit our facility in Rochester to see the equipment we have and determine how best to error proof our production process and reduce waste, thereby lowering our cost,” explains O’Connell. “We expect to be in volume production over the duration of the project starting in early 2017.”

A second company that graduated from Cohort 1 of the NEXUS-NY accelerator was also awarded a DOE Small Business Voucher. Avatar Sustainable Technologies produces cellulosic sugars from solid waste. The papermill waste is processed into fermentable sugars that can be converted into environmental-friendly commercial products, including several biofuels and bioplastics applications.

“We couldn’t be more pleased,” said Avatar Founder Bhavin Bhayani. “I’d like to thank NEXUS-NY, Syracuse COE, ESF, SUNY ESF, CenterState CEO and several others who have helped us lay the foundation.”

Avatar is based in Syracuse, NY. The clean energy startup will collaborate with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) as part of the DOE SBV program.

“It’s amazing that two companies from the NEXUS-NY program received this funding. It really speaks highly of NEXUS, HTR and the innovative clean energy startups in Upstate NY,” says O’Connell.

More details on the application process for Round 3 of the Small Business Vouchers program will be release this Fall. You can find Process & Timeline information, as well as Eligibility requirements at https://www.sbv.org.

HTR Pre-Seed Workshop, Clean Energy Ideas Wanted!

Thinking about applying to NEXUS-NY? Get a head start by joining HTR’s Pre-Seed Workshop

Are you ready for innovation? NEXUS-NY isn’t holding back the “energy” this Fall, with Demo Day 2016 scheduled for October 5, Cohort 4 applications opening on October 18 and the next High Tech Rochester Pre-Seed Workshop kicking off on October 27!

Apply to HTR Pre-Seed WorkshopLimited to ten teams, the HTR Pre-Seed Workshop is your chance to collaborate with top inventors, entrepreneurs and tech pros from across New York State, giving you the resources needed to turn your idea into a business.

“As a result of our Pre-Seed Workshops, over 100 new companies in NYS have been formed, and they’ve secured over $50 million in the past five years,” says HTR Technology Commercialization Manager Mike Riedlinger. “What I believe has made the program so successful is the team of people we assemble around each idea champion.”

Designed as a structured two-day program, each inventor (or “idea champion” as Mike likes to say) is paired with industry experts, including IP attorneys and financial specialists. Students from the University of Rochester round out the team by assisting with research, conducting background on the technology and gathering industry information. Teams also receive over $10,000 in support services and market research reports to help make their ideas take flight.

“The workshop is ideal for people who have a clean energy concept or who have worked in the lab to build an early prototype that might be commercialized,” Riedlinger says. “By running through important business model canvas elements, and surrounding inventors with a core team of experts, we’ve seen ideas turn into products, licensed someplace else or created into a service that makes a product, he added.

Riedlinger says companies that have participated in the Pre-Seed Workshop come from across New York State, referencing Ecolectro in Ithaca, NY as a great success story.

EcolectroHTR Pre-Seed Workshop is a clean energy startup spun from Cornell University. The company is researching ways to revolutionize how we power the nation by developing structurally robust and highly conductive polymer membranes for a range of applications, including fuel cells and electrolyzers. Before graduating from the NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Seed Accelerator, Ecolectro Cofounder and CEO Dr. Gabriel Rodríguez-Calero began his path to commercialization as a participant of the HTR Pre-Seed Workshop.

“I heard about the HTR Pre-Seed Workshop through Susi Varvayanis of the Cornell BEST program. I was looking for some help from people who had started a business before. I had a rough idea of what I wanted to achieve, but I needed guidance to turn my idea into something more concrete,” says Rodríguez-Calero.

When he entered the Pre-Seed Workshop, Gabriel and his cofounders were surrounded by subject matter experts including Doug Buerkle, Executive Director of the NEXUS-NY and David Wetter, Cofounder of American Fuel Cells, while Susi participated as the team coach.

“It was a varied and diverse group of individuals with a lot of expertise. I was able to float my ideas by them, and with their help refine the ideas. This is exactly what I needed – a channel of communications,” explains Rodríguez-Calero. “It was an excellent way to get familiar with the business model canvas, Ecolectro’s potential customer base and define the business, all within a very concise two-day program.”

Gabriel says that after coming out of the HTR Pre-Seed Workshop he had a refined idea and understood better the problem he was trying to solve with his solution, which were much different than when he started. “Even if you find out your idea isn’t worth pursuing in a commercial enterprise, the networking and the learning experience is completely valuable. I highly recommend it.”

After completing the HTR Pre-Seed Workshop, Ecolectro took their refined solution and applied for the NEXUS-NY accelerator.

“During the Pre-Seed Workshop we were able to see how Gabriel engaged with his team members, and it was exciting to witness his interest in moving the technology ahead,” says Doug Buerkle, NEXUS-NY Executive Director. “So when he applied for NEXUS-NY, we already had a clear understanding of the technology and his commitment to commercializing it, which are two main factors in our competitive application process.”

Rodríguez-Calero says that becoming familiar with the terminology of the lean startup principles and business model canvas helped him advance in the NEXUS-NY accelerator because it wasn’t his first time hearing and practicing the concepts.

And it’s not only NEXUS-NY who will be keeping an eye out for innovations being launched out of the Pre-Seed Workshop. Each cohort ends with the investor delivering a 10-minute presentation to a panel of successful entrepreneurs, angel investors and early-stage venture funds.

“Many inventors move on to successfully receive SBIR grants or seed stage funding to form businesses based on their efforts from the Pre-Seed Workshop,” says Riedlinger. “Others realize their idea isn’t a fit and pivot to create something new, moving onto great success like Ecolectro.”

Now working out of Cornell’s Kevin M. McGovern Family Center for Venture Development in the Life Sciences, Rodríguez-Calero says he’s in position to raise his first round of investment, and the startup is actively seeking investors. Ecolectro was also chosen as a semifinalist for the 76West Clean Energy Competition, and was recently awarded a competitive NSF SBIR phase 1 grant. Through the grant’s funding, Ecolectro was able to increase the scale of polymer manufacturing by 15 times. The team finished this project on July 31, and have already applied for phase two of the grant. If they receive this additional support, Ecolectro will continue to develop their manufacturing process to make their materials at scale.

“Also exciting is that we’re in active conversations with potential customers to do joint work together. The partnership will entail testing our materials in their products, providing further market validation,” says Rodríguez-Calero.

Now’s your chance to get in on the action! If you have a clean energy idea to test and evolve, apply for the HTR Pre-Seed Workshop. Application deadline is October 14.