NEXUS-NY Blog


NEXUS-NY 2016 Teams Ready for Demo Day

NEXUS-NY is a clean energy seed accelerator. Each year the program provides financial, business and education support to entrepreneurial teams selected through a competitive application process.

Participants primarily come from NY research universities and share several common traits:

  1. They’re passionate about their research and want to start a great company
  2. They want to solve big problems for real customers
  3. They recognize the need to demonstrate their technology and business model through meaningful proof-of-concept prototype and customer interactions

Innovation Together - Proof of Concept CentersVIDEO: Innovating Together – Proof of Concept Centers

Mae-ling Lokko, founder of AMBIS Technologies and NEXUS-NY graduate featured by NY American Science and NYSERDA on the power mentorship through the NEXUS-NY’s proof-of-concept center.

“Our program strives to determine if someone should start a company, see if the technology actually works, and gain 3rd party validation of the technology and business model,” explained NEXUS-NY Executive Director Doug Buerkle. “In prior cohorts, many companies fell short of validation until well after the program ended. But for the 2016 teams, validation is a strong theme. Four of our graduating companies are, or will shortly be, conducting some type of customer demonstration study. This process validates the technology in a relevant environment and sends a strong signal to the rest of the market.”

Excited to showcase the 2016 participants in the NEXUS-NY program on Demo Day, here’s a racap of where the seven teams stand to date, and “Doug’s Take” on each team pitching on October 5 at the Rochester Public Market. Join us in celebrating their groundbreaking achievements! 

BioEnergySP – Saving Energy for Wastewater Treatment

BioEnergySP is a newly incorporated clean energy company that has invented novel 4th generation compartment free Microbial Fuel Cells. This patent pending industrial equipment Electroactive Attached Growth (EAG) technology saves energy for municipal and industrial customers, allowing facilities to significantly reduce operating expenses or to expand with minimal capital outlays.  Since the start of Phase 2 of the NEXUS-NY program, the leaders of BioEnergySP are excited to have built their first Pilot Scale prototype, which will be deployed in October in a New York State Wastewater Treatment Plant.

“This is an exciting milestone for our company that could not have been achieved without the mentorship and help of the NEXUS-NY program,” said Entrepreneurial Lead Adrian Cosma. “The pilot this fall will allow us to validate our technology and will get us one step closer to commercializing our technology. Recently we validated our technology in the lab, and there is the opportunity to offer tremendous value for our customers while having a positive effect on the environment.”

Doug’s Take: “Another great success story. In addition to being a 76West semifinalist, BioEnergySP has established a partnership with a leading engineering and construction firm that is going to build their pilot.  Their first system will be deployed at a New York wastewater treatment facility in the very near future.”

Cellec Technologies (RIT) – High-end Lithium Ion Batteries

Cellec Technologies is using patented technologies to improve the performance of high-end lithium ion batteries for small satellites, remote sensing and UAV applications in the defense and intelligence communities. The team is primarily composed of researchers from Rochester Institute of Technology. The Cellec team successfully exited phase 1 of the NEXUS-NY program in April, 2016 and has since been working on phase 2 deliverables. The team is working with several potential customers and expects to have its first orders shortly.

“Our efforts have primarily focused on improving our battery cell prototypes to meet customer deliverables. We have developed initial pouch cell batteries that show a 40% performance improvement over commercially available alternatives; while searching for ways to reduce the total cost of the battery cells without sacrificing performance,” explained Entrepreneurial Lead Brad Sparks. “Our multiple patents provide intellectual property protection and we have worked with the NYS Science + Technology Law Center to map the patent landscape.”

Doug’s Take: “RIT has built a functional prototype and could be in position to announce their first customer at Demo Day. This customer will deploy Cellec’s technology in a very unique and exciting application.  While many advanced battery companies are promising high energy density, these guys have demonstrated performance in prototypes which have been cycled hundreds of times.”

Dimensional Energy (Cornell) – Transformative CO2 Conversion Technologies

Growing concerns about rising CO2 emissions and related climate change have added urgency to the endeavor of carbon capture and conversion. To do so, Dimensional Energy focuses on creating artificial photosynthetic systems for hydrocarbon production. The technology at the heart of this clean energy startup integrates advanced light harvesting technology with novel nanostructured photocatalysts. While the prospect of mimicking natural photosynthesis to convert sunlight and CO2 to fuels has intrigued scientists and engineers for years, Dimensional Energy is exploring recent breakthroughs in catalyst development as an opportunity to develop CO2 conversion technologies based on materials that nature has not yet had the opportunity to work with.

“We embrace the high-risk, high-reward nature of this challenge as an opportunity to develop potentially transformative CO2 conversion technologies,” said Entrepreneurial Lead Jason Salfi. “The ambitious strategy outlined in our presentation builds on a solid platform of prior engineering and entrepreneurial experience within our team and access to state-of-the-art experimental facilities at Cornell University.”

Doug’s Take: “While it’s still early, the Cornell team has recently started generating promising data in their lab.  During their tenure in NEXUS, they’ve entered the $20MM Carbon XPRIZE competition and have won an Atkinson Venture Award from Cornell.  They are close to marrying their bioreactor and catalyst technologies into a single prototype. I believe they’ll have a very interesting story to tell come demo day.”

Ducted Turbines International (Clarkson University) – Twice the Energy Capture of Conventional Turbines

The Clarkson University team has been busy this summer turning their research into a company called Ducted Turbines International, as well as ordering parts, designing geometry and building the prototype that will soon be tested at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

“Waterloo has the size we need to place our turbine test rig right inside the wind tunnel,” said DTI product commercialization consultant Paul Pavone. Pavone and Visser describe how the turbine test rig will provide the data needed to validate the Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) modeling. The design was first generated on a computer, with the help of two Clarkson Ph.D. students to optimize the duct efficiency and performance of the rotor blades. “We’re looking forward to meeting this milestone soon and revealing preliminary data at NEXUS-NY Demo Day in October,” added Pavone.

Doug’s Take: “The Clarkson team appears to be making great technical progress, and has also developed some exciting partnerships. Paul Pavone joined this team through an introduction from a NEXUS-NY mentor, and they’ve recently started working on some manufacturing opportunities with P1 Industries, a company led by NEXUS-NY advisor, Dave Dussault.  All these little pieces came together through the NEXUS-NY program.”

MIMiC / Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (CASE) – Modular Indoor MicroClimate

The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is working on a technology for localized heating and cooling, which reduces energy consumption and increases occupants comfort. The RPI team, known as MIMiC, plans to go to market initially with a novel modular unit using thermoelectric technologies, which has low energy draw and no moving parts. The technology enables supplemental heating and cooling in a single device without the need to dump heat outside, a huge opportunity to revolutionize portable devices.  

Since the beginning of Phase 2 of the program, we have focused our efforts to strengthen the business case and push forward the functional prototype,” said Berardo Matalucci, PhD Candidate at CASE leading the RPI team. “We understood that there is a clear and compelling business case for novel heating and cooling technologies. However, we need to show a functional prototype to convince our clients that the technology works. We envision a future in which building occupants can set their own preferences without increasing energy consumptions. The NEXUS-NY program has brought us unique help and support to derisk the technology, while accelerating the commercialization process,” he added.

Doug’s Take: “Berardo and his team have made fantastic progress on their prototypes.  This business opportunity carries a lot of technical and market risk, but Berardo and Theodorian continue to make very strong inroads in both areas. They’ve identified a potential pilot customer museum in NYC. Attendees can expect RPI to display a highly refined prototype at Demo Day.”

NanoHydro (University at Buffalo) – Hydrogen Storage & Generation Technology

NanoHydro, winner of the NYSERDA Energy / Sustainability award at the NYS Business Plan Competition, has been engaged in overcoming technical and business milestones during phase 2 of the NEXUS-NY program. At this stage, the team’s biggest milestone has been investigating and validating a process for large scale production. With this research, NanoHydro is looking to move from an expensive gram scale production method, to a kilogram scale production method using an inexpensive precursor. NanoHydro founder Parham Rohani started this research in collaboration with Buffalo Manufacturing Works. NanoHydro is also investigating hydrogen generation performance of their nanomaterial in pellet form.

“We’ve learned several invaluable lessons in this process that will help us in near future,” said Rohani. “In parallel with our lab research, NanoHydro has been deeply engaged in business plan development, customer discovery and market research. We believe that the hydrogen storage market for portable/remote applications is unserved and significant, and that our hydrogen storage/generation technology has great potential to successfully accelerate electricity generation using fuel cells in wide variety of applications,” he added.

Doug’s Take: “Parham knows his hydrogen producing nanomaterials work, the real question is if he can make the material in high volume. That’s why his new partnership with Buffalo Manufacturing Works on scale up is so important. Parham’s technology is being noticed by key customers; he will be presenting at the Defense Innovation Technology Acceleration Challenges in Austin, TX this November. This is a great potential funding and collaboration opportunity for NanoHydro.”

Phase Innovations (SUNY Alfred State) – Innovative New Cooling System

The team from SUNY Alfred State has invented an advanced cooling system that uses water instead of chemical refrigerants to cool buildings. Over the last several months, the researchers have formed a company called Phase Innovations and have diligently worked to test many different materials and designs for the development of their advanced prototype.

“We have identified a new class of materials that has a lot of promise for improved performance and cost,” said Entrepreneurial Lead Steve Wood. “The 2-ton cooling module for this initial customer validation prototype is anticipated to occupy a footprint of about one cubic meter.”

Doug’s Take: “We’re really happy with the progress the Alfred State team has made over the last 8 months.  They have a functional prototype and a pilot customer lined up for when they graduate the NEXUS-NY program. You can’t ask for anything more. They are working on membrane heat pump (MHP) technology, one that has been identified as very promising by the Department of Energy..”

Interested in the NEXUS-NY Proof-of-Concept Center?

Cohort 4 applications for the NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Seed Accelerator open on October 18. Researchers and aspiring entrepreneurs will have until November 11 to submit their ideas. Get a head start on the application process!

Introducing Ducted Turbines International, a Clarkson University Research Company

Preparing for NEXUS-NY Demo Day 2016

Another successful season for the NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Seed Accelerator. Now the members of Cohort 3 are preparing for Demo Day 2016 on October 5 in Rochester, NY.

“We’re taking a new approach to Demo Day this year. The event will be much bigger than anything we’ve done in the past,” said NEXUS-NY Executive Director Doug Buerkle. “It’s going to be more of a public celebration with a live band, local beer and food trucks!”

Here’s a sneak peek at some of the researchers at Clarkson University who are tackling real problems and changing the world with their innovative clean energy technology. Join us in celebrating their accomplishments on October 5. Register here for NEXUS-NY 2016 Demo Day.

Ducted Turbines International, a Clarkson University Research Company

Aeronautical engineering professor, Ken Visser, and the Clarkson University team have been busy this summer turning their research into a company, ordering parts, designing geometry and building the prototype that will soon be tested at the University of Waterloo in Canada.

The Clarkson researcher has teamed up with product commercialization consultant Paul Pavone. Pavone brings incredible experience to the table working with URS Corporation – a premier, fully integrated professional and technical services firm positioned to design, build, finance and operate infrastructure assets around the world for public and private-sector clients.  

“My friend worked for NYSERDA and told Ken (Visser) to call me. I was semiretired living in California. I came back and we connected,” added Pavone. “What we’re doing has never been done before that we know of on a ducted wind turbine, and we’re very excited about it.” Paul and Ken launched Ducted Turbines International (DTI) and are moving forward toward commercialization.

Pavone says DTI is building an actual 8 foot diameter turbine that they are planning on testing at Waterloo tunnel this September. Their optimized ducted wind turbine uses a specially designed aft rotor system to accelerate the wind and increase the power output of the turbine rotor, with the promise of twice the energy capture of a conventional turbine of the same size.

“There are not many wind tunnels big enough in the state,” said Pavone. “Waterloo has the size we need to place our turbine test rig right inside the wind tunnel.” Pavone and Visser describe how the turbine test rig will provide the data needed to validate the Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) modeling. The design was first generated on a computer, with the help of two Clarkson Ph.D. students to optimize the duct efficiency and performance of the rotor blades. “We’re looking forward to meeting this milestone soon and revealing preliminary data at NEXUS-NY Demo Day in October,” said Pavone.

The next step for DTI is to raise more money to commercialize. Pavone says small wind isn’t such a large market because of the characteristics of current turbines, however Clarkson’s turbine produces twice the energy of a traditional open-blade wind turbine. DTI is also pursuing a NYSERDA ACE grant for alternative energies for which no other funding is available. This grant could yield up to $1 million in funding over 3 years if it’s determined the technology is aligned with New York State’s energy goals.

Pavone stated that P1 Industries in Schenectady has now partnered with DTI to manufacture their primary prototype turbine blades designed by Visser. “Dave understands what we are doing and he’s excited about it,” added Pavone. “This is huge! Working with P1, and with Dave advising us as a strategic partner on the process, will be critical to our success.”

Visser and Pavone connected with Dussault through Doug Buerkle, Executive Director of the NEXUS-NY program. They say Dave’s experience in manufacturing in combination with his experience as a successful entrepreneur has provided their early-stage company with a great starting point.

“Outside of the amazing progress Clarkson is making on the technical side, the team has also crystallized some incredible partnerships. Paul Pavone was added to the team, and they were able to connect with Dave Dussault of P1 Industries. All these little pieces came together throughout the NEXUS-NY program,” said Buerkle.

Through his research at Clarkson, Ken has been showing theoretically that his ducted wind turbines work very well, but Pavone admits venturing into an unknown area is very difficult. That’s why they believe these partnership are so important. “NEXUS-NY and the partnerships we’ve been able to connect with during the program have allowed us to get over this hurdle,” said Pavone.

Pavone says small wind won’t solve all the energy problems alone, but in combination with other distributive generation devices, the team feels confident they can succeed in not only validating NYS’s long term energy goals, but in disrupting the energy market. Their plan is to concentrate on microgrids and backup tower systems for critical facilities on a smaller scale so there is more of them.

“Look at it this way,” said Pavone. “Siemens and GE produce a microgrid that could power Fulton, NY when the power goes down. What we can do through a smaller microgrid is power a police station, fire station or fallout shelter for schools. This makes the telecommunications industry our target audience.”

DTI is also partnering with the NYS Science and Technology Law Center at Syracuse University to handle their IP landscape as they look to patent their technology.

NEXT -> Join us in celebrating Ducted Turbines International and all the NEXUS-NY Cohort 3 teams at Demo Day on October 5. Register for this cutting-edge event featuring the latest in clean tech innovations, live music, local food trucks and more!

And don’t forget to make your calendars. NEXUS-NY will open the applications for Cohort 4 on October 18th. The deadline to apply is November 11th. Here’s the form to get started.

Phase Innovations Identifies New Class of Materials

Over the last several months in the NEXUS-NY program, SUNY Alfred State startup, Phase Innovations, has been hard at work diligently testing many different materials and designs for development of their customer validation prototype.

Dr. Jon Owejan, assistant professor of mechanical at Alfred State, along with mechanical engineering technology student Nathan DeMario, have invented an advanced cooling system that uses water instead of chemical refrigerants to carry heat out of buildings.

Featured in an article by The Research Foundation for the State University of New York (SUNY RF), Phase Innovations is using waste heat to improve chilling efficiency. Owejan said, “It’s an enhanced evaporative system that is energy efficient, small in size, and uses no toxic refrigerants.”

Steve Wood, assistant director of innovative services at SUNY RF is also working with Phase Innovations. He says some of the materials tested have performed less than expected, giving the researchers additional hurdles to vault, but the team has been able to assemble a viable bill of materials that will work for this initial prototype.

“Although some of these materials are more expensive than we had hoped, we have also identified a new class of materials that has a lot of promise for improved performance and cost,” added Wood.

Phase Innovations has also made several quantum leaps on their system design. This progress has increased simplicity of component design leading to fewer differentiated parts and decreased cost of manufacturing.

“The 2-ton cooling module for this initial customer validation prototype is anticipated to occupy a footprint of about one cubic meter,” explained Wood.

Come NEXUS-NY Demo Day, Phase Innovations will reveal several prospective customers who are willing to help the startup validate their prototype by providing space for a testing environment in actual operating conditions. Wood says one prospective customer in particular is a local plastics manufacturer that is very dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency, which makes a perfect fit with Phase Innovations’ goals for their advanced cooling technology.

“We’re really happy with what the team at Alfred State is doing. They have a function prototype and pilot site lined up for when they graduate the NEXUS-NY program. You can’t ask for anything more,” said Doug Buerkle, NEXUS-NY Executive Director. “They’ll now dig deep throughout the next several weeks leading up to Demo Day to finish their prototype and generate some data.”

NEXT -> Join us in celebrating Phase Innovations and all the NEXUS-NY Cohort 3 teams at Demo Day on October 5. Register for this cutting-edge event featuring the latest in clean tech innovations, live music, local food trucks and more!

NEXUS-NY is also soon to open applications for Cohort 4. Mark your calendar and get ready to submit your applications from October 18-11. Here’s the application for to get a head start.

Micatu Changes the Way the World Senses with Light

Micatu: Upstate New York’s Next Generation Optical Sensor Company

Micatu Co-founder & CEO Michael OshetskiNew York native, Michael Oshetski, is proud to be an entrepreneur. As the CEO of Micatu, Mike speaks with passion about his company and plans to not only revolutionize optical sensor technologies, but create high-paying jobs for the Southern Tier region.

A recent semifinalist in the 76West Clean Energy Business Competition, Micatu provides next generation optical sensor technologies that create more efficient and sustainable measurement capabilities in the areas of smart grid, wind, power, transmission and aerospace. Micatu combines these technologies with engineering, manufacturing and OEM professional services anchored on the team’s more than fifty-years of optics experience.

“I was born and raised in Chemung County and went to RIT. I’ve started this company out of my garage. It would be an honor to move forward in the 76West competition. If a company from the Southern Tier wins, we all win. There’s no better time than right now to do business in New York,” beamed Oshetski.

Micatu was founded in 2011. Oshetski and co-founder Atul Pradhan were sitting in an airport in Hong Kong. Mike turned to Atul and said, “You wanna start a company?” It was as simple as that and the duo hasn’t turned back since, stating they have incredible achievements over the last five years. Micatu now strives to do what the Internet did for communications.

“Some people said we were crazy. Others called us brilliant,” laughed Oshetski. “So in the true spirit of being entrepreneurs, we took a calculated risk that, so far, has paid off. Everyone starts somewhere, and I believe as long as you’re passionate and true to your values, you’ll be successful.”

Micatu Seeks to Create High Paying Tech Jobs for the Southern Tier

Over the course of five years the company has already surpassed major milestones moving from Mike’s garage, to IncubatorWorks in Painted Post, NY, and now occupying a 10,000 sq ft facility at the IST Center in Horseheads, NY.

Already employing 20 people, Oshetski said based on demand for the technology and the company’s sales forecast, Micatu is ready to expand once again. The Micatu team is projecting to hire at least one new employee each month for the next five years and expand operations to a 70,000 sq ft facility in Chemung County. Oshetski said recent company developments will help them achieve this growth.

“Micatu is on the frontline of smart grid and distribution grid technology, putting us in a great position to grow threefold in the coming years. With more orders at larger volumes coming in, we’re under the gun to scale production quickly. We’re also shipping internationally now,” explained Oshetski. “We’re ready to create more high-paying tech jobs in the Southern Tier, and proud to know for every one job we create, five additional jobs are created for the community based on the Jobs Multiplier Effect.”

Micatu Optical Sensor Technology

The Need for Integrated Volt/VAR Optimization (IVVO)

When electricity is delivered to a customer’s home or a business, it must be delivered at a level between +,- 5% to remain within ANSI standard C84.1-2011 regulations. On a 120V system, this range is defined as 114 volts to 126 volts to ensure all electrical devices can operate properly. Most utilities address this challenge by over producing energy to ensure the high end of the voltage range is maintained.

“Utilities face both a legislative and operational challenge of ensuring they are delivering  efficient voltage within this range when it arrives at the customer’s home or business,” said Oshetski.

Overproduction of energy increases distribution losses and increases requirements for peak demand production. This problem is further exacerbated by the introduction of renewable energy generation which further leads to grid instability.

What the Micatu team was able to discover is utilities are actively seeking deployment of Integrated Volt/VAR Optimization, which allows them to control the voltage on the distribution grid and produce what is actually needed for each feeder circuit.

Micatu is Revolutionizing Optical Sensor Technologies

Focused on making the power distribution grid smarter, Micatu’s technology hangs on the power grid and measures voltage and currents very precisely. This helps the distribution grid to become more efficient, and enables analytics and integration as renewable power sources.

“Deployment of Micatu’s sensors for Integrated Volt/VAR Optimization typically results in a 1% energy savings for each 1% in voltage reduction. Micatu provides a cost effective solution, which is also one of the most accurate solutions for measurement of voltage and current on the smart grid today,” said Oshetski.

He continued to explain how over time, more renewables and co-generated sources will cause the grid to be less stable. Micatu technology was created to provide greater stability, allowing operators to figure out how much energy the grid is making, as well as calculate the demand.

Oshetski is now preparing to share this insight with the high-tech optical ecosystem at the 2016 Annual NFOC Communications Conference. Invited by leaders of the telecom and communications industry, he said he looking forward to talking about next generation of optical applications that will fundamentally create a new industry for optical sensing solutions.

“It’s exciting to see how Micatu’s optical sensor technology can have a big impact on the efficiency of power transmission and generation on our power grid. We have the potential to reduce greenhouse emissions, lower operating costs for utilities and ultimately savings for the end users,” said Oshetski.

The NFOC Communications Conference will take place on September 21-22 at the Turning Stone Casino and Resort.

Micatu Graduates from NEXUS-NY with Go-to-Market Products, Services

Something that sets Micatu apart from other companies is the startup’s two-pronged business model. In addition to offering a product, Micatu’s experienced consulting team knows how to take their product and make it solve problems for other companies. Oshetski said these professional business services are inherent to their product.

“Not every customer is the same and some require a unique solution,” he said. “Micatu provides additional value add services by integrating our technology into the final solution. This process saves millions in kw of energy, which in addition to being efficient, is good for the environment. We’re very much linked to making the environment more green.”

This connection to sustainability made Micatu a perfect match for the NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Seed Accelerator. As a proof-of-concept center in partnership with High Tech Rochester and partially funded by NYSERDA, NEXUS-NY helps catalyze the commercialization of early-stage technologies across New York state. During the NEXUS-NY program, Micatu was challenged to develop their idea into a technology for condition monitoring in wind turbines. To achieve this, Oshetski said the team focused on verifying their concept by talking to the end user.

“NEXUS-NY was a great learning experience and a huge value add to our company, said Oshetski. “We learned that just because we had developed a better widget, it didn’t mean that people were automatically going to buy it. The customer discovery process triggered a pivot, which required us to concentrate on the points that made sense in the industry.“

Now as a graduate of the NEXUS-NY accelerator, Micatu continues to use 3rd party testing to confirm the performance of their technology in partnership with NYSERDA and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).

“We’re very proud of our progress. What takes big companies years to complete, we’ve managed to achieve in less than five as a small company with limited resources. Plus, Micatu hasn’t taken funding from any outside investors, and we’ve been cash flow positive since day one,” said Oshetski. “This didn’t come from having the best business plan in the world, because in our field business plans are outdated before they are complete. We’ve been able to do this by carefully forecasting our revenue and acquiring the employees needed to fulfill our orders. There’s nothing more to it. It’s a simple equation with a lot of points.”

Micatu Strives to Enhance New York’s High-Tech Ecosystem

Micatu also attributes this wave of success to support from the community at all levels. “Small business can’t do everything on their own, but when we work together, we can,” he said.

As our call came to a close I could hear Mike’s kids (5, 2) laughing in the background. Yes, in addition to building a successful startup, Mike has also been busy starting a family, But regardless of the challenges, Oshetski said he’s excited about the opportunity to bring more technology jobs to the area and build something bigger than himself.

“We can make the community better, and that starts with good paying jobs,” he insisted. “Right now Micatu pays more than the industry average and we’re proud of that. We inject a significant about salaries each month into the southern tier.  We have a great team of dedicated employees and we’re achieving this success together, for our families and our community.”   

For more details on this company, take a look back at NEXUS-NY New Energy Magazine.