Tag: NYSERDA


Biological Energy Wins $250,000 in 76West Competition

NEXUS-NY graduates Adrian Cosma and Jose Lozano, cofounders of Biological Energy, awarded funding in 76West Clean Energy Competition

Designed to advance clean energy technologies and further develop a clean energy ecosystem in the Southern Tier, 76West is one of the largest clean energy competitions in the world. Funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), a total of $2.5 million was recently awarded to six innovative companies from New York and across the United States. This is the second time Biological Energy has competed in 76West. In 2016, Biological Energy was a semifinalist.

“It feels great, we’re excited to be among the small handful of clean energy companies recognized at 76West,” said Adrian Cosma, CEO and cofounder of Biological Energy. “Now it’s time to move forward, and speed up our process to scale.”

Biological Energy (formerly BioEnergySP) has developed a breakthrough, patent-pending technology for wastewater treatment that is novel in its capacity to reduce energy use, dramatically increase water treatment capacity, and eliminate over 95 percent of nutrients harmful to the environment. The company’s modular, drop-in design is scalable, cost-effective, and can be deployed in existing infrastructures. Cosma developed the technology with CTO and cofounder Dr. Jose Lozano, laboratory director for the Ithaca area Wastewater Treatment Facility. Cosma and Lozano completed the NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Accelerator in October 2016.

READ -> 7 Clean Energy Startups Changing the World

Biological Energy is currently running a 1/5th scale demonstration pilot Albany County Wastewater Treatment Plant, where they have launched in scale the technology they are trying to commercialize. Cosma says the company is running two separate units. One of them is utilizing Biological Energy’s technology, which allows the team on a weekly basis to test how much better their system does compared to the controlled units at various treatment speeds.

“I think the biggest differentiator from being a semifinalist last year to a winner this year, is our demonstration pilot program with Albany Wastewater, a facility that has been such a huge advocator of our technology. We’re collecting data to validate how our technology is better than the conventional treatment method at significantly faster treatment rates,” said Cosma. “We have momentum on our side and we will keep progressing and growing fast, trying to commercialize the technology. Just be be considered as a finalist, and to win, is a testament to our growth,” he added.  

Cosma says the funding received from 76West will allow Biological Energy to build full-size commercial EAG units for deployment at municipal and industrial wastewater treatment plants. This will increase their treatment capacity without the need of new construction or changes to hydraulics of their treatment processes. Cosma also anticipates hiring several teammates in the next three months as they look to scale up and find a customer to adapt their technology.

“Specifically, we’re going to use the funding to create jobs on the operations side. We’ll be looking for a design engineer to spearhead the scale of our modular units, and we’ll also need to hire someone to oversee the operational applications and running of the units at other facilities.”

Cosma revealed that the potential customer pipeline for Biological Energy is pretty attractive right now. The co-founders are in discussion on expanding their services to private customers, such as food and beverage companies, that generate a lot of wastewater in their operations.

76West complements “Southern Tier Soaring” – the region’s strategic plan to generate robust economic growth, community development and job creation. Winning companies have proven technology or innovation that advances clean energy efficiency, renewable energy or decreases nonrenewable energy use.

Biological Energy was awarded a $250,000 prize during a special ceremony in Binghamton. The $1 million win went to Skyven Technologies, a solar heating company from Dallas, TX. As a condition for the awards, winning companies must either relocate to the Southern Tier or establish a direct connection with the region, such as a supply chain or strategic relationships with Southern Tier entities that creates jobs.

“76West is another example of creative economic development strategies spurring startups in the industries of the future,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul in a press release. “Investing in renewable energy and other clean energy solutions also ensures a cleaner environment and stronger economy for future generations of New Yorkers.”

“There are amazing resources in the Southern Tier for companies like ours looking to scale up. Manufacturing in the region is world-class, as are supply chain partnerships, said Cosma. “We will be working with both to help build out our technology, and we’re thankful to 76West, NYSERDA and NEXUS-NY for supporting us with their various programs.”

This is the second year of 76West Clean Energy Competition. The competition will run annually until 2019.

This year, MicroEra Power (NEXUS-NY 2017) was also a finalist in 76West. In 2016, two NEXUS-NY affiliated companies received funding. Micatu, Inc (2014) was awarded the $1 million grand prize. ChromaNanoTech (2015) received $250,000.

Sign up for NEXUS-NY newsletters to find out when applications for Round 3 of the 76West Clean Energy Competition open.  

NEXUS-NY Phase 2: On the Path to Commercialization

7 Clean Energy Research Teams Start De-Risking Technology in NEXUS-NY Phase 2

The difference between success and failure is finding focus as early as possible. This is a primary mission of the NEXUS-NY clean energy seed accelerator, and over the last several months, participants have been developing and testing numerous business hypotheses through interactions with industry participants to find this focus. The desired outcome is to validate whether a viable and scalable business model exists, and to decide whether and how best to pursue their commercialization objectives – a process the teams will continue to explore in NEXUS-NY Phase 2.

As Phase 1 of the program came to a close, each team presented to a room of judges and industry experts to share the latest results around their business opportunities. These presentations played a large role in determining which participants would move onto de-risking their technology by building prototypes and seeking third party validation.

When selecting which teams to advance into Phase 2, NEXUS-NY Founding Executive Director Doug Buerkle said, “We asked the entrepreneurs to convince themselves of the business opportunities first. When that happens, it’s usually easy for them to convince us that they’re ready to move to the next level.”

NEXUS-NY selected several judges from the business community to evaluate the team’s business opportunity pitches. The judges looked for answers to key questions. Some of them included:

  • Is there a large market opportunity?
  • Has the team identified a compelling business model?
  • Is the product unique and compelling?
  • Does the technology promise a major energy impact?
  • Can the team make significant progress in the coming 6 months?

Jim Senall, President of High Tech Rochester, was among the judges. He remarked on the quality of the team presentations as being excellent. “It’s always so impressive to see how much the teams accomplish in just twelve short weeks from the kick-off of the program,” said Senall.

NEXUS-NY is one of the many programs run by High Tech Rochester (HTR). Senall says it’s unique in its statewide diversity of teams, and the high-impact technologies that are being developed. In his experience having watched each cohort participate in Phase 1, some teams learn that their initial assumptions may have been wrong, and that there may not be a market for what they are developing. Senall believes this is a good thing, as teams gain valuable knowledge in months versus years. If one particular idea doesn’t pan out, they have the opportunity to move to a different one.

“Each year the NEXUS-NY teams seem to get stronger and stronger. It’s never easy at the end of Phase 1 to select which teams to move on. It’s usually the market that makes that decision,” added Senall. “We look forward to seeing the others take what they’ve learned in Phase 1 and apply it to their next ideas.”

NEXUS-NY Finalists Represent the Most Promising Clean Energy Technology in NY

The teams moving to the next round of the NEXUS-NY accelerator include: BioƎnergySP, Clarkson University, Cornell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Rochester Institute of Technology, SUNY Alfred State and University at Buffalo.

NEXUS-NY Research Teams | RIT at Cohort 3 KickoffRyne Raffaelle and Brad Sparks are leading the charge of the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) team. RIT researchers are working on a novel technology that incorporates patented carbon nanotubes within lithium ion batteries to improve their performance. Sparks says this is what makes their product unique and compelling.

“This has been demonstrated to provide 30-40% more energy than currently available off-the-shelf batteries,” said Sparks. “In particular, this is extremely important for our military and intelligence communities, where extending mission life is critical.”

In addition, the team from RIT is working on a technology that allows these batteries to be stored and shipped safely without charge to meet ever increasing shipping regulations. The core team has been working together for over a decade to develop these technologies.

“We see our primary market opportunities as the military and intelligence communities,” added Sparks. “Specifically, we are looking at developing our high-end batteries for small satellites, remote sensing and unmanned aerial vehicle applications.”

Since joining NEXUS-NY, the RIT researchers have spoken with dozens of potential customers to better focus on the specific market segments. Over the course of the next 6 months in the accelerator, the team will work towards commercialization on the technical side by spending a bulk of their time on improving their initial prototype. Their intent is to reduce the product cost without sacrificing the battery performance. On the commercial side, their goal is to find one or two initial customers to provide market feedback so they can continue to refine their products.

Now in Phase 2, all the researchers will begin building early prototypes and working towards third party validation of customer discovery. Buerkle said, “Typically during Phase 2, teams build prototypes which are aligned with the minimum features that customers want to test based on the interactions they had in first half of the accelerator.”

Theodorian Borca-Tasciuc and Berardo Matalucci represent the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) team. They are seeking to commercialize a novel modular and scalable building system for personalized comfort that can result in energy savings, increased productivity and healthier indoor environments.

RPI presented an early-stage prototype to the judges during the business opportunities event. They are now looking forward to building prototypes that are fully functional, making sure their demonstrations can move from proof-of-concept to real-world applications by verifying their assumptions.

“It’s time to build a complex version of the model. We see it as a portable device, something compact in order to overcome a couple important technical challenges, for example the effects on people and the energy savings,” said Matalucci.

In order to achieve this, the RPI team will take the insights gained from the Phase 1 customer discovery process and from the judges to couple energy efficiency with some other value, having learned that saving energy isn’t as important of a factor to customers as originally anticipated.

“We found that with our product, energy efficiency isn’t a necessity for the customer,” explained Matalucci. “Instead, it’s more important to provide thermal comfort to everyone with  a scalable product, especially one that engineers are interested in.”

Matalucci says this is not a simple task, and there are significant problems his team will have to overcome to deliver multiple benefits, including reducing the installation cost, while still providing high aesthetics.

“We’re close. We have already built something that offers a two-fold value proposition. By providing a system for localized heating and cooling we  can maximize the comfort of people, and on the other side condition a space where and when needed.” This allows our systems to avoid wasting energy, explained Matalucci. “And since our units are stand alone, meaning they don’t need to be plugged into ducts or pipes, which are unsightly, we also reduce installation costs and technical spaces like shafts and drop-ceilings. All of this combined caters to the customer and increases the real estate value of the building.”

Now the RPI team has to focus on being cost-competitive. This is an obstacle they must overcome by somehow containing the return on investment for their modular building systems to five years or less. For larger installations Matalucci says this could be pushed to 10 years, but after that it doesn’t hold the client’s interest any longer.

The team’s last big takeaway was from the judges, who stressed the importance of addressing product customization for manufacturing. For example, if your product is pink instead of gold, or in a circular shape, how customizable you want it to be impacts the costs related to manufacturing. This is a major concern that Matalucci says his team needs to consider – how to contain the cost of manufacturing while offering a product that is customizable.

To help them on their path to commercialization, the RPI team is in the process of hiring a couple of mechanical engineers to work on an advanced prototype. They are also in contact with some students from the Lally School of Management at Rensselaer to assist them in moving forward with patenting and funding applications.

NEXUS-NY Partnerships Help Catalyze Commercialization Process

Something that distinguishes NEXUS-NY from other accelerators is the program’s partnerships with business leaders to catalyze the commercialization of novel clean energy technologies.

As a NEXUS-NY Phase 2 activity, NEXUS contracts with Excell Partners to provide due-diligence support for each team. Excell is a Venture Capital Fund that invests in seed and early stage high-tech startups in New York state. Over the next several months, program participants will reveal more of their technology and business plans through a series of presentations to Excell.

“The first presentations will focus on getting to know the teams and technology; Excell will provide initial feedback, indicating where they see deficiencies in the business case,” explained Buerkle. “During subsequent presentations, Excell will have a chance to see how their advice has been implemented before assigning analysts who will work as part of the research team. This is certainly not the typical start-up/VC relationship. This is much more friendly.”

NEXUS-NY Midterm JudgesNEXUS-NY Phase 2 participants will also continue working with the teaching team which includes a few HTR employees plus several serial entrepreneurs who provide strategic and tactical guidance. New this year, NEXUS-NY advisors, are committing a few hours per week to provide additional support to participants. These advisors are all proven entrepreneurs who would typically not have the time to engage in full mentoring roles, yet they have all agreed to provide high level advice and connections. Advisors include: Christine Whitman, Chairman, CEO and President of Complemar Partners; Alex Zapesochny, President, CEO and Cofounder of iCardiac Technologies; David Dassault, Founder, President and CEO of P1 Industries; Mark Barberio, President of Markapital and board member of Buffalo Angels and Rochester Angel Network; John Frater, local entrepreneur and Adjunct Professor at RIT; and Don Golini, Founder of SANICA Ventures and QED TEchnologies International.

NEXUS-NY Provides Direct Financial Support to Program Participants

In partnership with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), NEXUS-NY will continue to provide participants with funding in Phase 2. Each team has been charged with developing a statement of work that will define what they want to do with the funding. The statement includes what customers they would like to pursue for third party validation, and what they want to test.

“Most of the funding is allocated towards building and testing prototypes.” explained Buerkle. “In the past many teams also form legal entities before the end of Phase 2.”

NEXUS-NY offers additional support for its participants to evaluate their IP and that of potential competitors. NEXUS-NY contracts with the NYS Science + Technology Law Center at Syracuse University, which help participants develop custom IP landscape assessments which meet their individual needs.

Mark Your Calendars for NEXUS-NY Team Pitches

At the end of NEXUS-NY Phase 2, teams will present their technology and businesses to a wide audience of prospective collaborators and investors. These Demo Days will be held in western New York and New York City. They are tentatively scheduled for September and October, 2016.

Now it’s time for the teams to get back to the lab, while continuing to engage customers and develop their go-to-market plans!

Interested in applying for NEXUS-NY? The next phase of applications is available between October 18 – November 11, 2016.

NEXUS-NY Attracts Top Researchers from Across New York

72 Research Teams & Early-Stage Clean Energy Companies Apply for Next Round of NEXUS-NY Seed Accelerator

New York’s energy ideas are being watched around the globe, thanks in part to its vast number of top research universities, including Cornell, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the SUNY system. As part of their mission to accelerate clean-energy technologies from New York’s research labs into the marketplace, High Tech Rochester sought to attract these potentially groundbreaking technologies to its next cohort of the NEXUS-NY program. Now in the final stages of reviewing applications, many of which were submitted by acclaimed university researchers, NEXUS-NY hopes to produce some of the most promising clean-energy companies of 2016.

NEXUS-NY Founding Executive Director Doug Buerkle“We made an effort to reach out to universities where we didn’t have a lot of applications historically,” said Doug Buerkle, NEXUS-NY Founding Executive Director. “This year we received applications from almost every major research university in the state.”

From Western New York to the Southern Tier, and even a handful of applications from NYC, 14 different universities from across New York applied to join Cohort 3 of the NEXUS-NY clean-energy accelerator.

NEXUS-NY is one of three NYSERDA-funded proof-of-concept centers. Participants in the NEXUS-NY program are provided educational, financial and business support to catalyze the commercialization of their technologies.

Six dozen research teams & early-stage clean energy companies applied for NEXUS-NY Cohort 3. Each application was first screened to assure compliance with program objectives and then forwarded on to an independent screening committee.  The committee is comprised of clean energy subject matter experts and those who specialize in analyzing new ventures and new technologies.

NEXUS-NY Clean-Energy Seed AcceleratorA specific set of criteria ultimately determines if a candidate is right for the NEXUS-NY program. The criteria include:

  • Technology state. Applicants will ideally propose technologies with TRL levels between 1 and 3. Extra consideration is given where significant research has been conducted and/or fundamental research has been funded by DOE or NSF, etc.
  • Business state. NEXUS-NY applicants will ideally be at the pre-venture state. Some early-stage ventures are considered if they are still searching for problem-solution fit and have not yet engaged in a significant way with customers.
  • Strength of IP. Intellectual property rights and patent law is an emphasized criteria for the NEXUS-NY program as IP strength commonly leads to increased innovation.
  • Potential energy benefit. If successful, how much energy would the applicant generate or save and/or how much CO2 might be reduced or mitigated?
  • Fit with the NEXUS-NY program. This criteria encompasses many things: There should be an obvious commercial objective; the applicant should hope to gain more than just seed capital; and the applicant needs to be willing to commit the necessary time and effort to the process of commercialization.
  • Commercialization potential. Is there reasonable technical merit and/or a belief that the applicant might be commercially successful or can disrupt their intended market. If the proof-of-concept is successful, they will ideally go on to obtain follow-on funding and/or grants, and advance to make a big difference.

This year, 24 finalists were selected for one-on-one interviews to join NEXUS-NY’s next cohort.

“We receive a lot of great applications that don’t always align well with the NEXUS-NY program,” said Buerkle. “Perhaps the entrepreneur is in the idea stage instead of the tech stage, or they have already made good progress developing prototypes or customer relationships.”

AMBIS | NEXUS-NY Cohort 2As NEXUS-NY is committed to commercialization, judges take great care to emphasize the responsibilities associated with their 12-month program, which includes a 2-phase process.

In Phase One of the NEXUS-NY program, the discovery teams develop and test numerous business hypotheses through interactions with industry participants. The desired outcome is to validate whether a viable and scalable business model exists, and to decide how best to pursue their commercialization objectives. Each team then competes for a spot in Phase Two.

In Phase Two, teams de-risk their technology by building prototypes, while continuing to engage customers and develop their go-to-market plans. Some teams will form companies during this period, and those companies will seek third party validation of their technologies and business models. As Phase Two concludes, teams prepare for Demo Day, a formal presentation of their technology and/or business to a wide audience of prospective collaborators and investors. These events are held in western NY and New York City.

NEXUS-NY New Energy Magazine 2015NEXUS-NY historically receives many applications around fundamental materials science technology, such as battery materials or materials for hydrogen generation. Interesting system level technology, people working on novel heat pumps, high-efficiency wind turbines, and systems that can improve the efficiency of wastewater facilities are also commonly seen from applicants. New this year, NEXUS-NY sought to identify a couple high potential technologies where significant research has been conducted within a university, but which lack a clear “commercialization champion.”

“Many of the most prolific researchers with the best technologies don’t raise their hands to get involved with the commercialization process. We decided to find a few high impact technologies and see if we can build teams around them.” said Buerkle. “This year’s finalists include two technologies which have already won prestigious ARPA-E grants. We’re excited to see how this pilot program evolves.”

NEXUS-NY is soon to announce the research teams participating in their clean-energy seed accelerator. The next program is scheduled to begin in January, 2016.

Photo Gallery: NYC Cleantech Summit

History in the making! Leading cleantech startups from the NEXUS-NY and PowerBridgeNY programs were celebrated at the NYC CleanTech Summit this fall. The event was held at the New York Law School and featured champions from the Northeast’s cleantech business community, including President of NECEC Peter Rothstein and John B. Rhodes, President and CEO of the New York Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA). Keynote for the 2015 NYC Cleantech Summit was Drew FitzGerald, cofounder of JUST and founder of Facet Creative. FitzGerald spoke about celebrity giving and philanthropic cleantech investments. The Cleantech Summit is part of the NECEC’s NorthEast Cleantech & Energy Innovation Tour, a two-week series of events in NYC and Boston designed to bring together the Northeast’s leading cleantech business community. Participating NEXUS-NY startups included AMBIS, ChromaNanoTech, eColectro, Molecular Glasses, PEMtek and Xallent.