Category: Blog

Top Clean Energy Companies Demonstrate Groundbreaking Technologies

Meet the Founders at the 2017 NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Demo Day October 10 in Rochester

NEXUS-NY is soon to complete another season of moving innovative energy technologies from research labs to the market. You’re invited to meet the founders of some of the top clean energy companies in Upstate NY. Each founder will demonstrate their prototypes, and reveal what’s on the horizon for their ventures.

Get free tickets -> 2017 NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Demo Day

Here’s a look at the companies graduating from NEXUS-NY this year, including exclusive insights from NEXUS-NY Executive Director Doug Buerkle.

Active Energy Systems
Cornell University / Oak Ridge National Lab
Mitchell Ishmael, CEO; Levon Atoyan, COO

Active Energy Systems | NEXUS-NYActive Energy Systems’ large-scale (> 10 MWh) energy storage technology makes major improvements in round trip efficiency (> 95%) when compared to today’s batteries. The company’s innovation enables it to capture and convert low temperature waste heat, which side-steps the efficiency barriers that limit most conventional energy storage technologies. In addition, by storing energy thermally, Active Energy SYstems uses safe, low-cost materials. The founders are currently de-risking their technology at Oak Ridge National Laboratory through Innovation Crossroads, a DOE sponsored entrepreneurship program.

Doug’s Outlook: It has been great to watch Mitchell progress, first as a Commercialization Fellow at Cornell, then through NEXUS-NY, and now as a member of the DOE’s Innovation Crossroads program at Oak Ridge National Labs. He, and co-founder Levon, are working on a unique solution which makes maximum use of low grade waste heat. Their energy storage solution could be a game-changer for large data centers which consume more than 70B kWh of energy.”

More ->

Syracuse University
Ryan Milcarek, CEO; Dr. Jeongmin Ahn, Inventor

Firepower - Syracuse University - Ryan MilcarekFirePower is a Syracuse, NY based technology company focused on enabling self-powered residential furnaces, hot water heaters, and boilers. Self-powered furnaces are able to power parasitic loads like blowers and igniters when the electricity goes out. FirePower uses innovative and patented fuel cell technology to enable the production of electricity from post combustion exhaust gas in furnaces, boilers, or hot water heaters. The company’s technology produces enough electricity to provide constant power to furnaces plus supplemental power to an external outlet for cell phone charging or other critical loads during a power outage.

Doug’s Outlook: Ryan and his team have made tremendous progress with their prototype and customer understanding. They’ve demonstrated they can overcome one of the key limitations that has inhibited broader adoption of solid oxide fuel cells. More specifically, they’ve achieved a high number of thermal cycles. Soon they’ll have their technology fully integrated into a commercial furnace.”

More -> From Customer Discovery to De-Risking Technology – It’s Time for NEXUS-NY Phase 2

Lux Semiconductors
SUNY Polytechnic Institute
Shane McMahon; Graeme Housser

Lux Semiconductors is poised to become a leading manufacturer and supplier of high quality substrates to the rapidly growing flexible electronics industry. The company is developing a patent pending thin-film recrystallization process capable of producing highly crystalline flexible semiconductor films on low cost rolls and sheets. Electronics manufacturers no longer have to compromise on performance or cost when designing the next generation of lightweight, flexible devices, including photovoltaics, OLED displays, lighting, wearables, batteries, and sensors.

Doug’s Outlook: “Shane and Graeme are working on what could become a very disruptive innovation. Their lightweight, high quality substrates solve problems for many customers, including those manufacturing weight-constrained solar panels. Early proof-of-concept devices have demonstrated a high degree of crystallinity. They are currently optimizing their processes, working to produce Germanium substrates, and engaging the numerous commercial and research partners who’ve demonstrated commercial interest.”

News -> Albany Business Review; Times Union

Rochester Institute of Technology
James Sinka; Dmitry Liapitch

AmbientPV | NEXUS-NYAmbientPV makes energy harvesters that are uniquely effective at capturing indoor light. AmbientPV outperforms silicon solar by more than 3X in its target applications. Its solar cells are less costly to produce, and can be molded to custom shapes to maximize the surface area available for energy collection. AmbientPV’s technology can be used to supplement, and in some cases totally replace batteries in wireless applications such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Ambient PV’s customers benefit from extended operational lifetime and reduced battery waste.

Doug’s Outlook: James is the first undergraduate who has ever participated in the NEXUS-NY program. When we first met him, we were immediately impressed with his intellect and passion around solar technologies. He decided to put off his PhD because he didn’t want to delay solving big, real-world problems. James and Dmitry have surpassed our every expectation; their early prototypes are outperforming commercial silicon cells in indoor applications, and they are gaining traction with early customers.”

More -> Simone Center Innovation Spotlight

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Mark Durniak, Principal Scientist; Clint Ballinger, CEO

SelfArray | NEXUS-NYSelfArray, Inc. has developed a novel manufacturing technology which will enable the broad adoption of direct-view LED displays. These displays are 30x brighter, 100x faster, and 10x more energy efficient than the best LED, OLED, or projection displays. SelfArray’s diamagnetic directed self-assembly technology promises to increase manufacturing speeds by 10x while lowering overall system cost by up to 50%. The company’s technology enables fast and simple arrangement of LEDs into a grid for assembly into “pixel panels.” SelfArray intends to sell these pixel panels to leading display makers. The company is located in Troy, NY.

Doug’s Outlook:NEXUS encourages researchers to: 1) validate market opportunities; 2) de-risk technologies; and 3) demonstrate customer interest. Most researchers struggle to fully embrace the process of learning from customers, but Mark Durniak has thrived during NEXUS-NY. He and his co-founders have gained audiences with the world’s largest display makers and have pivoted numerous times based on their learnings. You won’t want to miss Mark’s presentation and SelfArray’s demo on October 10.”

More ->

Sunny Clean Water
University at Buffalo
Matt Singer, CEO; Qiaoqiang Gan, CTO; Zongmin Bei, COO

Sunny Clean Water | NEXUS-NYSunny Clean Water is a startup company from the University at Buffalo that has developed a carbon-based cloth, to enhance solar powered evaporation.  This technology has been applied to solar water distillation to help bring clean drinking water to developing regions around the world. It’s initial target application is in Lithium mining, where the technology promises to speed salt recovery while simultaneously providing fresh drinking water to mine workers. (Buffalo)

Doug’s Outlook: ”SunnyClean is probably the most altruistically motivated participant in cohort #4 of NEXUS-NY. Co-founder, Matt Singer wants to bring clean, affordable drinking water to third-world countries. Throughout the NEXUS program, his mentors have encouraged him to also consider how his enhanced solar still technology might provide unique value for commercial applications like salt mining. As a result, SunnyClean anticipates installing its first prototype with the help of a large Lithium mining company later this year.”

More ->

In addition to these cleantech companies, Demo Day guests will also hear an update from past NEXUS-NY participate Dan O’Connell, Founder and CEO of American Fuel Cell.

American Fuel Cell is the premier supplier of individually tailored Membrane Electrodes Assemblies (MEA) for multiple fuel cell applications. Noted for bringing high tech fuel cell jobs to Rochester, NY,  American Fuel Cell aims to power the future by creating cheaper, more efficient and more practical cells. Dan will share progress on manufacturing underway at the Kodak Eastman Business Park, and the latest on the company’s fundraising efforts.

To date, NEXUS-NY has helped launch 21 startup companies. 15 graduates have one on to raise more than $22 million in follow on funding, and five companies have generated initial customer revenue. Is your idea next? Applications for NEXUS-NY Cohort 5 open on October 2. Sign up for newsletters to receive a direct link to the online application form.

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.  

Leveraging Upstate NY funding sources to spur next generation clean energy companies

The NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Accelerator has worked with dozens of emerging clean technologies – ranging from renewables and energy storage, to wind turbines – all of which have great potential. But with the continued decline of cleantech angel investments and venture capital, clean energy company founders frequently stress difficulty locating funding sources to commercialize their inventions.


VC investment in cleantech companies on the decline


Hear from some of our founders on Overcoming Hurdles on the Track of a Clean Energy Future

NEXUS-NY aims to assist clean energy companies with their proof-of-concept and go-to-market strategies. These fresh commercialization tactics include ensuring the availability of capital to help bring breakthrough cleantech to market. Whether in the form of solar panels, new kinds of batteries, or even environmentally-sustainable dog treats, providing new and more diverse approaches to finding funding sources for New York’s great cleantech companies is a NEXUS-NY priority.

“For the past four years, NEXUS-NY has been focused on providing the resources and know-how to catalyze commercialization of clean energy innovations discovered by New York researchers,” said Doug Buerkle, Executive Director of NEXUS-NY. “In that time, our clean energy seed accelerator has helped form 20 companies; half of which have gone on to raise roughly $20 million in additional funding. This is a testament to our program and the strong partnerships we have developed with equity investors such as Excell Partners.”  

Upstate NY VC firm believes in partnerships to help commercialize innovative clean technologies

Excell Partners, Inc. is a seed stage venture fund that invests in emerging technology spinning out of Upstate NY universities and our regional communities. With a portfolio of nearly 50 companies and counting, Excell is playing an important role in accelerating the commercialization of game-changing new technologies, including cleantech.

“Rami (Katz) and I have known each other for years,” said Theresa Mazzullo, CEO of Excell Partners.“ He was working for High Tech Rochester and our paths would cross regularly. Our organizations have been strong collaborators from the start.”

High Tech Rochester (HTR) is a nonprofit with a mission to be a catalyst for entrepreneurship and innovation-based economic development. HTR provides a suite of services including technology commercialization for very early-stage opportunities, business incubation for high-growth startups and growth services for existing manufacturing companies seeking to improve their top and bottom-line performance. The NEXUS-NY clean energy proof-of-concept center (POCC) is one of the programs under the HTR umbrella.

“When NYSERDA came out with the POCC program, we knew it was something HTR wanted to pursue,” said Jim Senall, President of High Tech Rochester. “We were excited about the prospect of leveraging our previous lean startup experience, and applying that to very early stage opportunities, that were mostly physical sciences based, and not even actual companies yet. With partners like Excell Partners, we knew we could build a world class program, and we couldn’t be happier with the results so far!”

Excell Partners, Inc is a statewide brand. Whether the fund is interested in investing in companies out of Rochester, Buffalo and Syracuse, Excell’s leadership team first looks for venture development agencies like High Tech Rochester, and resource programs such as NEXUS-NY that are wrapped around the technology.

“Everything is about relationships. Life is about relationships. It’s that simple. We’ve known HTR for a long time. There’s a comfort level and mutual trust with all the people in the organization,” said Theresa. “Upstate and the Finger Lakes region have been operating on fumes for so long. I feel we’ve made great strides with very little resources, and this is because we try to see how we can help each other regularly. You don’t typically see this kind of relationship in other places. We’re proud of it,” added Theresa.

“We realize there are limited funding sources to go around, so we’re very thoughtful in how we approach each investment,” said Rami Katz, COO of Excell Partners. “It’s about partnering instead of going it alone.”

The collaboration between NEXUS-NY and Excell starts early with due diligence

Standing on the policy of how Excell and NEXUS-NY work together, Rami says the proof-of-concept center does a great job at sourcing and vetting early-stage clean energy technology from across the state.

“Before we decide to invest, Excell enacts a thorough due diligence process that includes five strategic steps. By design, and throughout our partnership, we have originated these steps into  the NEXUS-NY application process. This helps us provide feedback on the promise of the young companies very early in the process, much earlier than most VCs.”

This collaboration allows for the team of coaches at NEXUS-NY to work closely with the companies and founders, while Excell provides an outside perspective. Each NEXUS-NY participant meets with Excell at least twice throughout the accelerator. These meetings, and Excell’s feedback, are structured to identify specific gaps that must be addressed in order for a specific company to improve its chances of obtaining venture funding.

“This process is what truly differentiates Excell Partners from other venture funds. The first meeting is what we consider a ‘friends and family session.’ We tell them to stand up straight, get rid of a slide from their pitch deck and slow down their presentation,” explained Theresa. “The second round includes pairing the teams with domain experts. These professionals help challenge the tech at a deeper level.”

To date, Excell Partners has invested in four NEXUS-NY portfolio companies

Excell Partners reviews approximately 1000 deals a year. This gives them an overall picture of what is available in New York State. About 150 of those applications are reviewed in depth, and roughly 50 are considered for investments.

“Our experience gives us a good feel for what makes a good opportunity. We make sure the market is large enough, there are resources in the founder’s community to help the company grow faster, and check if they have the right management team in place,” said Rami. “If we feel confident in these areas we look for elements in which we can help close the gap, and ultimately push the venture forward.”

Participants of the NEXUS-NY program receive up to $75,000 of equity-free direct financial support, which is largely supported by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

NEXUS-NY portfolio companies Excell Partners has invested in include:

American Fuel Cell (Rochester) – Premier supplier of individually tailored Membrane Electrode Assemblies (MEA) for multiple Fuel Cell applications;

Conamix (Ithaca) – Commercializing new Cornell technology that has the potential to dramatically increase the performance of lithium ion batteries;

Full Circle Feed (Syracuse) – Healthy, environmentally-sustainable dog treats made from meats, vegetables, fruits and breads from restaurants that make more that can be served; and

Molecular Glasses (Rochester) – Develops organic semiconductors for OLED and organic electronic applications, which can be used to manufacture lower-cost and high-performance TVs, smartphones, tablets and lighting devices.

“We realize the amount of money we put in alone isn’t always sufficient. The company may need additional capital in 18-25 months. So we address this up front by leading the deal and committing to helping the company seek other funding sources or capital matches,” explained Rami. “This is why building strategic partnerships is so important to us, as seen in several successful co-investments with HTR, as well as other funds and venture development organizations across New York State.”

Recently Excell was selected by Empire State Development as the only fund manager for a pilot minority grant. Through this appointment, Excell was able to assist in getting Molecular Glasses certified as a M/WBE business, and eligible for matching funds from the state. “With Excell’s assistance, we were able to complete this process successfully,” said Mike Molaire, Founder and CEO of Molecular Glasses.  Molecular Glasses was selected as one of five companies in the state to receive funding to spur M/WBE innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation.

“Our mission is to assist clean energy companies commercialize. Continuing to partner with local investors like Excell Partners, and connect our founders to more novel sources of funding such as Shell’s GameChanger program, is a strategy we stand by at NEXUS-NY,” added Buerkle.

Ready to commercialize your clean energy innovation? Apply online to pitch Excell Partners or contact NEXUS-NY to learn more about our proof-of-concept accelerator.

NEXUS-NY helps research-derived innovations find commercial success

NEXUS-NY works with scientists who want to actively explore the commercial potential of their research-derived, energy innovations.

We improve the likelihood of commercial success through our financial & business support and by providing a structured commercialization process. Since its inception, NEXUS-NY has worked with 39 business discovery teams (mostly university-based pre-ventures and the occasional pre-seed company). To date, we’ve helped launch 19 startup companies, 12 have raised more than $18.1M in follow-on funding. 5 of our alumni have achieved the most important early milestone – the sale of products to paying customers!

Scientific innovation has the potential to significantly improve the human condition. Unfortunately, most research-derived innovations languish due to inadequate resources and insufficient commercialization expertise. What if there was a better way to rigorously test the commercial potential of scientific innovations and to accelerate the most promising ones? At NEXUS-NY, we work with Sciencepreneurs to do just that.

NEXUS-NY Sciencepreneurs share or aspire towards several common traits:

–        They recognize commercialization is a full contact sport. They are willing to get out of their labs to actively engage, and learn from potential customers and industry participants.

–        They enjoy learning about problems just as much as they like developing solutions.

–        They recognize that commercial solutions require more than just “better technology.” Customers are seeking solutions which directly address significant business drivers without adding disproportionate business risk and without unduly affecting upstream or downstream processes.

–        They invent cool things which promise a step function improvement as compared to existing and other emerging solutions. They endeavor to understand the technology and IP landscapes and can easily cite their unique and compelling advantage(s).

–        They recognize the inherent biases which accompany scientific discovery (see confirmation bias). They actively look for and listen for reasons why their innovation might not achieve commercial success.

–        They know we all have personal limitations and blind spots. They actively and enthusiastically engage those with complementary skills.

–        They are good story-tellers. They enjoy talking about their technology and can explain their science and its benefits to technical and non-technical audiences alike.

Over the past few years we’ve learned a lot about how, and how not, to accelerate the commercialization of research-derived innovations. In this series of blog posts, I will highlight our key findings so as to help scientists determine whether to join us; and in hope that other organizations might benefit from our successes and mistakes.

From Customer Discovery to De-Risking Technology – It’s Time for NEXUS-NY Phase 2

After three months of intense preparation, the NEXUS-NY midterms mark a milestone in our program.

At the beginning of 2017, nine innovative early-stage technologies were selected to join NEXUS-NY’s proof-of-concept center based on their potential to make an impact, and solve big energy and environmental problems. These teams entered into a structured process for testing the commercial potential of their innovations, guided by a network of business advisors and supported by early-stage funding for prototyping and customer development.

Now it’s time to assess how much each team has accomplished, and determine who will move forward into Phase 2 of our clean energy accelerator. Panelists comprised of industry experts helped answer this question by judging team pitches and providing feedback during our midterm presentations.

“I’m always blown away by how much progress these very early stage NEXUS teams are able to make in a few short months. By getting out and talking with potential customers early on, the insights they gain are remarkable, and significantly accelerate their path to market – with products and services that solve real problems,” said Jim Senall, President of High Tech Rochester.

NEXUS-NY Cohort 4 Midterm JudgesAlongside Jim on the judges’ panel was entrepreneur Dorrance Lamb, Tim Wilson, Chairman of Rochester Angel Network, and Jeff Peterson, Program Manager with NYSERDA. “This years cohort is no different. From next gen combined heat and power, to photovoltaics, to LED displays, the technologies and markets are different, but the process and results are the same. I look forward to seeing even further advancement after Phase 2 has completed,” added Senall.

In Phase 2 each team will receive up to $75,000 for further prototyping, IP services, investor due diligence reporting, entity formation and travel, along with help securing additional grants and investments.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of the teams advancing forward with NEXUS-NY!

A novel way to generate heat and reduce energy.

From refrigerators and sump pumps, to cell phones and computers, when your power goes out, Firepower saves the day.

Firepower - Syracuse University - Ryan Milcarek Firepower is a novel fuel cell-assisted, resilient heating and power technology derived from Syracuse University. Dr. Jeongmin Ahn, director of the Combustion and Energy Research Lab, originally developed part of the concept with his colleague Dr. Khalifa. It’s a way to create a self-powered, grid-independent and self-contained furnace made possible by having a fuel cell that operates directly in a flame.

“This is completely different than anything else in the industry. We’re addressing a problem that furnace manufacturers have never been able to address before.” said Ryan Milcarek, Entrepreneur Lead of Firepower. “Using this technology, your furnace generates heat and electricity enabling it to power itself and give homeowners a choice of what else to power.”

Ryan was working with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Industrial Assessment Center program and interested in HVAC. When he came across the patent at Syracuse University, he liked the idea of a furnace and a fuel cell, so he decided to do his PhD on the technology.

“Heat is a need, and we need power for that heat. But when the power goes out, we have no heat,” explained Milcarek. “Last winter when my power went out and I had a 10-month-old in the house, I was concerned.”

After graduating, Ryan stayed with the project because he believes in its commercial potential. In addition to providing an alternative source of power, Ryan says the technology is a  low-cost system that reduces NOx emissions and saves energy. “In all, Firepower is tackling a $1.8 billion industry,” he added.

Firepower has also received a significant amount of funding to take its early-stage technology and do something with it. This includes an AMTEC grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, and a NYSERDA PON 2606 for single cell testing. NEXUS-NY and the Syracuse Center of Excellence have further supported Firepower, and Ryan was the recipient of a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Syracuse University’s tech transfer office is now working with Ryan to help the Firepower team license the technology so they can form a company and further accelerate their commercialization efforts. The NYS Science and Technology Law Center at Syracuse University is also assisting with IP and market assessment

With a nondisclosure agreement already in place with a large component manufacturer that is ready to sell their technology, Ryan says the next step is for Firepower to develop an actual furnace. “We already have a working prototype, now we need to prove the electrical efficiency, and test some materials.”

Ryan believes Firepower is two years away from commercialization.

Opening a new market with affordable, flexible and lightweight solar panels.

Lux Semiconductors - SUNY PolyFounded by two PhD students in their research lab at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, Lux Semiconductors is drastically reducing the cost of lightweight and flexible solar cells.

Shane McMahon and Graeme Housser met while working in the same research group, one dedicated to clean energy technologies. Familiar with thin film solar, the two partnered together to combine their technical and industry knowledge to create a high quality product not found on the market today.

“The solar industry is growing at an average rate of 60% year over year, and all of this growth is based on standard silicon solar panels. These panels are great, but they can’t be installed everywhere that people want to put them, because of their shape and weight,” said Graeme. “So we are developing a new technology to produce lightweight, flexible solar cells, and importantly without sacrificing performance or affordability.”

Having interviewed over 60 potential customers in Phase 1 of the NEXUS-NY program about their flexible and lightweight solar cells, Shane and Graeme feel confident they’re on the right track.

“Ensuring that our technology has product-market fit is what the customer discovery process is all about. Through constant interaction with potential customers, we’ve been able to identify new ways to direct the development of our technology that will deliver the most value to our future customers,” said Shane.

“We were a little naive when we first started, we wanted to take on the entire solar industry,” added Graeme. “We quickly learned that we need to focus on a niche application first, and then scale from there.”

Shane and Graeme have found three major markets in the solar industry that Lux Semiconductors could target. The first is portable power applications, where solar packs are used for extended military deployments, emergency responders, and outdoor enthusiasts. The second is building and vehicle-integrated solar panels, such as awnings, solar canopies, carports, trucks with overnight cabins, small boats, and RVs. And the third is commercial and industrial weight-constrained rooftops, where nearly 40% of all malls, big-box retailers, and industrial warehouses across the U.S. have weight-constrained roofs.

“Portable power looks like a solid entry market. It’s lower scale with high margins, but not as big as integrated buildings or industrial rooftops,” said Graeme. “It’s our plan to scale up to those other larger markets over time.”

Now accepted into NEXUS-NY Phase 2, Lux Semiconductors will focus on creating high quality,  thin film substrates that are used as the underlying materials for solar cells.

“We are planning to purchase additional equipment to fabricate our unique substrate materials, which we expect to be nearly 100 times cheaper per unit area than today’s industry standard wafer version,” said Shane.

Lux Semiconductors already has several partners who are interested in testing their samples in their devices.

Quick and easy assembly of small LED chips into a grid array.

SelfArray - RPI - Mark DurniakSelfArray’s novel system utilizes diamagnetic levitation for the self assembly of LED’s for displays. This assembly process is not only quick and easy, it helps enable digital billboards, which are more energy efficiency, brighter, and with higher contrast.

SelfArray was developed by electrical engineering professor James Lu in the Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Engineering Research Center at RPI. The company was incorporated in 2015, and after receiving NSF SBIR funding last year, Dr. Mark Durniak was added to the team as a full-time principal engineer.

“Dr. Lu had been following my research. So when I graduated we connected about bringing his technology to market,” said Mark.

SelfArray CEO Clint Ballinger heard about NEXUS-NY during an information session at RPI. The team has spent the last several months working on customer discovery and prototyping.

“Originally developed for lighting panels, we learned through market research that, though our technology could deliver very high resolution for TV sized displays, competing with the LCD market wouldn’t be wise, said Mark. “We now believe the technology is better suited for large-scale indoor digital displays.”

SelfArray is on track to complete Phase 1 of their National Science Foundation (NSF) deliverable, which includes a low resolution display. Mark said this is a good first step, but the industry wants to see something more in line with products today.

“When you walk into the Apple store you see a 1mm pitch display in the back,” explained Mark. “With our novel system utilizing diamagnetic levitation, we can assembly those large displays in minutes rather than weeks.”

SelfArray’s go to market strategy involves selling directly to top display makers. They are now working with an LED supplier to join forces with a display maker and further test their technology. Mark anticipates the company will be generating revenue as early as 2018, with a product launch scheduled for 2019.

With funding from NEXUS-NY Phase 2, SelfArray will push forward with these objectives. They are also seeking to raise an additional $1 million from individual investors.

Several Other Teams Move Forward to NEXUS-NY Phase 2

Among them include:

Active Energy Systems (Cornell University)
Thermo-mechanical energy storage system for data centers. AES utilizes waste heat and phase change materials to enable high round trip efficiencies at low cost.

Printed Photovoltaics (Rochester Institute of Technology)
Lightweight, moldable, printed solar cells for indoor applications. Printed PV enables extended life of wireless IoT devices.

Sunny Clean Water (University at Buffalo)
Nanomaterial and system that enables rapid water evaporation for two key applications: water desalination and purification; and increased throughput of salt recovery in mines.

Continue to follow the progress of these passionate inventors and entrepreneurs. Sign up for NEXUS-NY newsletters to receive special invites to industry events, including Demo Day this fall in Rochester, NY.

Dimensional Energy Wins 2017 Venture Showcase

Dimensional Energy takes first place at CU Energy Symposium Venture Forum pitch event in the early-stage category

It’s 4 a.m. and Jason Salfi is behind the wheel en route to NYC to participate in Columbia University’s Energy Symposium. The event featured early and mid-stage companies, including Dimensional Energy, a Cornell research-derived startup that Jason serves as CEO.

“It was a fun day of adventure,” said Jason. “Filled with solid speakers and impressive pitches.”

Dimensional Energy has created an artificial photosynthesis process that converts waste carbon dioxide from power plant emissions into useful fuels and feedstocks of high values. Jason says, think of the process as operating a horizontal chimney:

“We’re creating a platform technology that will allow companies to divert large scale emissions from going into the atmosphere, utilizing what would otherwise be waste (CO2 and other GHGs) by running them through our reactor.”

Dimensional Energy will use the prize money from the Energy Symposium Venture Forum for fundraising related travel, and advanced graphics to best represent how their technology works. Jason says this is part of their big picture communications strategy.

Fully understanding customer requirements

Jason believes Dimension Energy stood out at the Energy Symposium because their technology is a bigger picture look at an untapped opportunity, whereas a lot of other pitches were early-stage, with many assumptions based on how they were going to take over the respective markets.

“Our pitch was more generalized. It laid out an open roadmap for how we’re going to go to market, who we’re talking to, and how a decision process is going to be formalized,” said Jason.

Most importantly, Jason shared how Dimensional Energy fits into the plans of a much bigger industry. These factors (market size and growth potential) echo what each team learns during the NEXUS-NY discovery process.

The power of a solid team

Jason credits the early success of Dimensional Energy to a core team of experts from different disciplines that bring together two departments of Cornell University and fellow NEXUS peer Clayton Poppe.

In 2016, NEXUS-NY piloted a new way to test the commercial potential of university research. David Erickson, Associate Professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell, paired his technology with that of Tobias Hanrath, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering.

These principal inventors, along with a diverse team of scientists, entrepreneurs and MBA students from the Johnson Business School at Cornell, have proven the experiment successful.

Learn More: NEXUS-NY Pilots New University Research Opportunity

The ability to capture resources can make or break your startup

In a podcast produced by the New York Academy of Sciences, NEXUS-NY Executive Director Doug Buerkle said, “The thing that differentiates a successful startup from a failed startup is the ability to capture resources….and the way you get resources is if you’re able to tell your story in a compelling way.”

Dimensional Energy first captured the attention of Columbia Energy Symposium organizers during NEXUS-NY’s Demo Day in NYC last year. Jason believes it’s these kind of networking opportunities made possible by NEXUS-NY that are positioning Dimensional Energy front and center of this budding industry.

“The feedback from the judges at the Energy Symposium was positive. They could understand what Dimensional Energy was doing at a higher level,” added Jason. “Our presentation was relatable. It included slides with key takeaways and 40-point font. NEXUS-NY helped shape the way we communicate our technology, and we’ve had success as a result.”

Jason says over the last several months his team has been introduced to a whole new slew of industry partners ranging in size from small researchers from across U.S. and Canada, to corporations like Shell. “NEXUS-NY was the catalyst to getting a broad introduction to these resources, as well as assisting us gain an understanding of the carbon dioxide utilization market, and the needs to be met.”

Dimensional Energy preps for round 3 of Carbon XPrize Competition

Around the time NEXUS-NY’s 2016 accelerator was ending, Dimensional Energy started engaging deeper with the XPRIZE Foundation, which hosts a competition that 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.

Having already moved into phase two, Jason says the team is currently building a Highlight Reactor as they prepare to compete in the next and final round of the Carbon XPrize Competition. Jason says the prototype will be available soon to test in the lab with a simulator.

“Through a partnership with Cornell’s Combined Heat and Power (CHP) Plant, a 30 mw facility, we’ll pipe emissions into our reactor and see what we get out the other end.”

Dimensional Energy will continue to refine their prototype, and have the results validated by a third party standards XPrize team. This process will determine if Dimensional Energy moves forward to round three, and unlocks $500,000 in funding.

“If we can scale quickly enough and prove out the efficiency of our reactor, it will make sense and align with industry partners to raise the money for the installation,” added Jason.

In total, the XPrize Competition will award $20 million in prize money, with the two winning teams each receiving $7.5 million.

Watch Dimensional Energy’s Promotion Video

Stay current on NEXUS-NY portfolio companies, our 2017 teams, industry events and more. Sign up for NEXUS-NY newsletters.

NEXUS-NY Portfolio Companies Raise Millions in Funding

NEXUS-NY portfolio companies continue to attract attention after graduating our clean energy proof-of-concept accelerator.

These clean energy companies have ventured on to raise millions in funding. We caught up with a few of our talented founders to get the latest on their successes.

Molecular Glasses closes $200,000 seed round; Wins 2nd grant from the Department of Energy for OLED testing 

2016 was a big year for Molecular Glasses Founder, Mike Molaire. His team moved into the Eastman Business Park and incorporated their business, which develops organic light-emitting diode (OLED) materials that work like semiconductors. These materials can be used to manufacture lower-cost and higher-performance TVs, smartphones, tablets and lighting devices.

While participating in the NEXUS-NY accelerator Mike began discussing funding opportunities with Rochester-based venture capital firm, Excell Partners. At the end of the program, executives at Excell expressed an interest in working with Molecular Glasses, and began the due diligence process.

Mike’s goal was to raise $400,000. With Excell’s investment requiring 50% matching from other investors, Mike first had to raise $200,000 from individual investors, friends and family. Excell recently started a new MWBE fund sponsored by NY state to support women and minority-owned businesses. Eligibility for that fund requires MWBE certification.

“With Excell’s assistance, we were able to complete this process successfully,” said Molaire. “At the end of December 2016 we secured a $100,000 match and were able to close on the first $200,000. We are now working toward closing the next $200,000 by the end of March. We have a $50,000 match already committed.”

Molecular Glasses will use its first round of seed funding to support patent activities and manage day-to-day operations. Currently, Molecular Glasses has five pending U.S. and twelve international patent applications. Mike says this is an important part of the company’s strategy.

“Our IP is very strong, and needs to be protected both nationally and internationally,” he added. Most of the people we are dealing with in this space are international companies from the far east, Europe, Japan and China. It’s important we maintain our patents.”

Last year Molecular Glasses was also awarded a grant from the Department of Energy, which helped the company fund its benchmark work. OLEDWorks in Rochester produced the 90 OLED devices under contract with the DOE. Mike says having his materials tested in a DOE certified laboratory provided credibility to the benchmark results, specifically 6 to 15x improvement in device lifetime.

“We took full advantage of this resource,” said Molaire. “We’re now working with OLED chemical suppliers, device manufacturers and independent nonprofit centers in Europe and Asia under nondisclosure agreements to continue this process.”

Mike continues to explore various grant options that will assist in the development of the technology. He says it will be exciting to supply these companies with samples so they can conduct their own tests using his materials. Mike believes this process to will be completed within the next 3-4 months.

American Fuel Cell Closes First Seed Round

Together with the support of High Tech Rochester, Excell Partners and independent investors from the Finger Lakes region, American Fuel Cell has closed its first seed round.

American Fuel Cell (AFC) is a premier supplier of individually tailored Membrane electrode Assemblies (MEA) for multiple Fuel Cell Applications. Through uniquely tailored chemical formulations, system level optimization expertise and high speed, thin film manufacturing machinery, AFC is producing high quality, low cost MEAs specific to any fuel cell application.

AFC Cofounder and CEO Dan O’Connell says the seed funding will be used to bring on additional resources and gear up for volume production. This includes acquiring new capital assets and purchase of raw materials. AFC is also looking for Process and Quality engineering talent, as well as those skilled at final assembly.

“The support American Fuel Cell is getting from the area is amazing. Between High Tech Rochester, Excell Partners, Greater Rochester Enterprise, NYSERDA, M&T Bank, Pathstone, SUNY Alfred State and RIT, we’re leveraging academia, industry, and state resources to expand our industry connections and take huge strides in extending our testing capability,” said O’Connell. “We consider ourselves very fortunate to be tapped into the local startup scene and bringing R&D/Manufacturing jobs back to NY state.”

In addition to closing this seed round, AFC has numerous funding opportunities in the pipeline that will accelerate research into the next generation MEA technology.

Ecolectro wins $150,000 with the Grants for Growth initiative 

Gabriel Rodriguez-Calero first heard about Grants for Growth from the Cornell network. As a co-Founder and CEO of Ecolectro, his mission is to advance his business by putting Ecolectro’s materials into the hands of customers early on in the material design process.

“Before applying to a funding source, I like to learn more about the objectives of each program,” explained Rodriguez-Calero. “If there are milestones associated with the program, if the funds can be used for manufacturing and business development, and how the funding can help Ecolectro reach more clients and potential customers.”

Gabriel says Grants for Growth was a perfect fit for what he’s aiming to accomplish. Ecolectro has developed structurally robust and highly conductive polymer membranes for a large range of applications, including hydrogen generators and fuel cell systems. Having already received $12,500 from the Grants for Growth program, Ecolectro was able to do material characterization and better understand the physical properties of their materials. The research also allowed the Ecolectro team to fine tune their value proposition for potential clients. Ecolectro has now moved on to Track 2 of the Grants for Growth program.

“We get a certain amount first, and as we hit milestones we unlock additional amounts of funding,” added Rodriguez-Calero.

In 2017, Ecolectro is busy making materials and doing evaluation work with customers, as well as reaching out to more clients. This process involves talking to clients and finding more potential synergy with system integrators that can use Ecolecto’s materials in their devices.

Ecolectro has recently opened an investment round. The team remains busy shipping samples and working through collaborative efforts with customers. Gabriel says Ecolectro is receiving a lot of customer interest.

“I love doing this. It’s pretty great,” he said. “I came to the university (Cornell) to work on things that had applications beyond pure research. That’s exactly what we are doing at Ecolectro!”

Other NEXUS-NY portfolio companies making big strides include:

  • Lionano recently closed its Series A;
  • Micatu won $1 million in the 76West Clean Competition, and ChromaNanoTech received a $250,000 prize;
  • Conamix received seed funding from Excell Partners, with the help of High Tech Rochester;
  • AMBIS Technologies partnered with CASE-RPI and the Mmofra Foundation in Ghana for a pilot testbed project;
  • And Dimensional Energy took home first place at Columbia University’s Energy Symposium 2017 Venture Showcase

Since the start of our clean energy accelerator, NEXUS-NY has worked with 30 participants, engagements from which 18 startup companies have been formed. With our help, numerous university licenses have been received, and each of the NEXUS-NY portfolio companies have completed, or are in the process of completing, successful pilot/customer evaluations.

We’re now working with 9 new NEXUS-NY portfolio companies in our 2017 cohort. Here’s a look at the next generation clean energy talent from across New York.

Stay updated on clean energy news, events and funding opportunities. Sign up for NEXUS-NY newsletters. You can also follow us on Twitter and LinkedIN.

9 New Clean Energy Technologies Chosen to Power the Next Generation

Meet the 2017 NEXUS-NY Research Teams

NEXUS-NY’s proof-of-concept accelerator is ready for another year of helping to catalyze the commercialization of research-derived clean energy technologies. After months of meetings at colleges and universities across NYS, the NEXUS-NY team has selected 9 rockstar clean energy innovations that have major potential to power innovation, and fuel the future.

Here’s your first look at the promising early-stage clean energy technologies NEXUS-NY will invest in, and mentor in 2017.

Active Energy Storage (Cornell) – Thermomechanical energy storage
AES technology intelligently manages different sources of thermal energy to inexpensively store electricity. This helps incorporate renewable resources into the power grid. Diurnal temperature swings can further enhance storage efficiency when storing electricity as thermal energy. AES technology represents a step forward over conventional pumped-heat electricity storage units.

Levon Atoyan | NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Levon Atoyan
Graduate Research Assistant and PhD candidate of Electrical, Computer Engineering at Cornell University. He is a participant in Technology Entrepreneurship at Cornell. Levon received a Bachelor of Engineering from McGill University. Publications include: Helical Plasma Striations in Liners in the Presence of an External Axial Magnetic Field and Early time studies of cylindrical liner implosions at 1 MA on COBRA.

Mitchell Ishmael | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Mitchell Ishmael
Tester Lab Research Assistant and PhD candidate of Materials Sciences & Engineering, Thermodynamics & Energy Storage at Cornell University. Mitchell is a recipient of a Commercialization Fellowship. He received a Bachelor of Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Chemical Engineering. He’s interested in understanding heat capacity of fluid mixtures under supercritical conditions.


Alta Films (formerly CQuest Partners LLC) (Clarkson) – Carbon nanosheets for energy storage
Alta Films is commercializing the next-generation, renewable energy storage technology for supercapacitors, lithium-ion batteries and beyond. Alta Films holds several of Dr. Mitlin’s patents related to producing a unique graphene-like carbon nanosheet material from low cost agricultural products.

David Hessler | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: David Hessler
Numerous consulting assignments including Innovation Advisor, and EIR with the NYS Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA); Business Advisor with MicroGen Systems; Board Member with the Reh Center for Entrepreneurship at Clarkson University; and Advisory Board Member with the iCLEAN Incubator. David received an MBA and MSE from the University of Michigan, and a BSME from Clarkson University.

Dr, David Mitlin | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Dr. David Mitlin
Professor and GE Chair in Oil and Gas Systems at Clarkson University jointly in the Departments of Chemical/Biomolecular and Mechanical Engineering. He has published over 130 peer-reviewed journal articles and presented over 80 keynote talks. David holds 3 U.S. patents, is an Editor for the Journal of Materials Science and serves on the Board of Review for Metallurgical and Materials Transactions. PhD from Berkeley.

FirePower (Syracuse) – Flame-assisted fuel cells for micro-CHP
FirePower seeks to create cleaner combustion through the combined use of fuel cell and combustion theory and technology by reducing the formation of nitrogen oxides (NOx) in combustion processes. The concept utilizes a two-stage combustor, also known as a rich-burn, quick-mix, lean-burn or RQL combustor, with a fuel cell integrated between the fuel-rich and fuel-lean combustion zones. This flame-assisted fuel cell generates electrochemical power at high efficiency, as well as heat for a range of applications including combined cycles, space heating, and jet engines.

Ryan Milcarek | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Ryan Milcarek
Lab Manager at the Combustion and Energy Research Laboratory, and PhD candidate of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering Syracuse University. Ryan earned a Graduate Research Fellowship from the National Science Foundation and an ASHRAE Graduate Grant-In-Aid, Life Member Club designation. His various publications include Micro-tubular Flame-assisted Fuel Cell Stacks.

Dr. Jeongmin Ahn | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Dr. Jeongmin Ahn
Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Syracuse University, and affiliated with the Combustion and Energy Research Laboratory (COMER). Jeongmin’s current research includes Solid Oxide Fuel Cells (SOFCs). He was elected as Fellow of ASME, and received the Sustainable Aviation Research Society Science Award. He has nearly 200 publications.


LuX (SUNY Poly) – Thin film crystallization for PV
LuX is developing and commercializing technology to provide highly crystalline, roll-to-roll semiconductor films for photovoltaic and LED industries. This exciting platform technology is adaptable to a range of valuable materials and will disrupt the typical tradeoffs of cost and quality for high throughput manufacturing.

Graeme Housser | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Graeme Housser
PhD candidate at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Graeme is also a Graduate Student Intern at U.S. Photovoltaic Manufacturing Consortium (PVMC). Prior to this, he was a Site Engineer at Suncor Energy. His several publications include Demonstration of PV Modules with Lightweight Mounting Systems on Commercial Rooftops.


Technical Lead: Shane McMahon
Phd Candidate and Research Assistant at SUNY Polytechnic Institute’s Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering. Shane received the Presidential Scholar Honorary Alumni Speaker award at Siena College (2016) and a $500,000 NYSERDA Bench to Prototype Grant (2015). Shane’s publications include Textured (111) Crystalline Silicon Thin Film Growth on Flexible Glass by E-beam Evaporation.


MicroEra Power (RIT Venture Creations) – Combined SOFC/IC engine system for distributed power generation
MicroEra Power is developing a highly efficient Enhanced Generator System, combining a natural gas engine and solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). MicroEra Power envisions an energy management platform to provide backup power generation, peak-shaving, Demand Response, and the efficiency benefits of combined heat and power (CHP), and combined heat and cooling power (CHCP).

Eleanor Rusling | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearchersEntrepreneur Lead: Eleanor “Ellie” Rusling
CEO of MicroEra Power, housed in RIT’s Venture Creations Incubator. Board Member of Highland Hospital Foundation, Secretary of AHEAD Energy, 501c3 and Exec. Director of their Clean Energy Commercialization Center. As an experienced entrepreneur, Ellie has skills in technologies to market, grant writing, and investor relations. BA from Smith College and MS from the University of Rochester.

James Grieve | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: M. James Grieve
CTO of MicroEra Power and Chairman of AHEAD Energy, 501c3. He is also a Board Member of the NH3 Fuel Association. James was a Chief Scientist for Delphi Corporation, and a Powertrain Systems Engineer for General Motors. He has 30 years of automotive engineering experience with emission controls, engine management systems, solid oxide fuel cells (SOFC), hybrid vehicles and alternative fuels. James received his MBA from IESE Business School. He is named on over 40 patents.


Printed Solar (RIT) – Solution Processed Solar Cells
Printed Solar is developing a fully solution processed photovoltaic device that can be scalably manufactured using roll-to-roll techniques. Their solar cells outperform silicon in low light, enabling them to provide sufficient energy for low power electronic devices in ambient conditions.

Dmitry Liapitch | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Dmitry Liapitch
Dmitry received a Master of Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He is now pursuing a Master of Science from the Golisano Institute for Sustainability. Dmitry is also a professional Physics tutor and a former Research Fellow with the National Wildlife Federation. He was a finalist in RIT’s Tiger Tank in 2016 for his proposal on WoW Energy Systems.


James Sinka | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: James Sinka
James is a materials scientist and entrepreneur specializing in perovskite photovoltaics with deep interests in sensing technology. He is pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Projects include The Characterization of Novel Donor Materials for OPV by Cyclic Voltammetry, which reveals the electric potentials at which an analyte is oxidized and reduced.


SelfArray (RPI) – Directed self-assembly tech for LED & PV
SelfArray is an SBIR Phase I startup spun our of research conducted within LESA at RPI. SelfArray’s directed self-assembly (DSA) manufacturing technology uses magnetic levitation and vibration to rapidly arrange massive numbers of LED chips into a pixel-array for display applications. The company’s DSA technology differs fundamentally from both the widely accepted pick-and-place and the emerging transfer printing/stamping manufacturing methods, overcoming many issues associated with those technologies. DSA’s approach enables scalable, fast, and accurate self-assembly of micro-scale LEDs arrays at low capital and labor cost for the manufacturing of energy efficient LED direct view displays.

Mark Durniak | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Dr. Mark T. Durniak
PhD in Materials Science and Engineering at RPI. As a Sandia National Laboratory Excellence in Engineering Research Fellow at RPI, Mark was first to grow and achieve green luminescence from cubic GaN/GaInN. Published in Compound Semiconductor Magazine and Advanced Electronic Materials. He now focuses on characterizing magnetic directed-self-assembly of mm-scale LED chips for display and lighting applications.

Clinton Ballinger | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Clinton Ballinger
Clint is an Executive Entrepreneur in Residence at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute where he teaches and leads an NSF-funded I-Site program. He’s also an EIR with IgniteU NY, Strategic Advisor for Buzz Media Solutions and CEO of Evident Thermoelectrics. Prior to this, Clint was an Adjunct Professor at RPI and a Senior Scientist at Lockheed Martin. He received a PhD in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Michigan.

Suny Clean Water (UB) – Solar powered water purification
Suny Clean Water has developed an inexpensive solar sill that uses sunlight to purify dirty water up to four times faster than current commercial versions. Research shows this process is 88% efficient at channeling the energy in sunlight into evaporating water. The technology will allow people to generate their own drinking water much like they generate their own power using rooftop solar panels.

Matthew Singer | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherEntrepreneur Lead: Matthew Singer
Matthew is pursuing a PhD in Electrical Engineering from the University at Buffalo Graduate School. He has held engineering internships at Siemens and Crestron Electronics. Matt has also participated in GRoW Home at UB, which is part of the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon, an international competition with the goal of educating the public about energy-saving residential designs.

Chenyu Li | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Chenyu Li
Former Research Assistant with the Nano-optics and Biophotonics Lab at University of Buffalo and the Quantum-Dot Materials and Devices Research Group at Tianjin University. Master of Science in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Buffalo. Chenyu’s projects include fabricating plasmonic super solar light absorber, building surface plasmon resonance detector and fabricating quantum dots anode.


Tacus Technologies (Cornell) – Energy harvesting solutions
Tacus Technologies has developed a piezoelectrically powered RF Transponder that leverages a 3D-printed plastic structure to achieve low frequency sensitivity and a broadband response. By using a mechanical switching mechanism for transmission, Tacus has eliminated the use of traditional CMOS IC’s and achieved a zero-power sleep state. Tacus seeks to commercialize the technology in remote areas where there is no power readily available or in environments where replacing batteries for wireless nodes is too costly.

Entrepreneur Lead: Donald McCullough
Former Entrepreneurial Lead with the NYCRIN I-Corps Regional Cohort. Don graduated from the ILR School at Cornell University in 2015 and Wake Forest University School of Business in 2016 with a MA in Management. While at Wake Forest, he served as a graduate consultant for Cigna Healthcare and Vulcan Materials. Don was also a Student Ambassador, and a member of the Beta Gamma Sigma International Honor Society.

Sahil Gupta | 2017 NEXUS-NY ResearcherTechnical Lead: Sahil Gupta
Former Entrepreneurial Lead with NYCRIN I-Corps Region Cohort, Graduate Research Assistant with SonicMEMS Laboratory at Cornell, and Engineer for Boeing. Sahil received a Master of Engineering from Cornell, and placed first in the Hilton Head MEMS Shark-Pup Tank Entrepreneurship Competition. Publications include Vibration powered RF-Transponder for Sensing Low Frequency Motion Events.


In Phase I of the NEXUS-NY accelerator, each team will now work with world class mentors and industry experts to identify market opportunities for their clean energy technologies, including developing comprehensive business plans and conducting customer discovery.

We’re excited to continue assisting these entrepreneurs and scientists propel their amazing technologies forward. Join us by signing up for NEXUS-NY newsletters. We’ll release updates on the teams, and more details on events leading up to Demo Days in Rochester, NY and New York City.

Overcoming Hurdles On the Track of a Clean Energy Future

Survey of top 25 U.S. research universities uncovers missing links in technology transfer process

With $70 billion spent and approximately half of U.S. basic and applied research taking place at US research universities, one might guess that the inventors and founders have the necessary resources to succeed. But a recent survey conducted by NEXUS-NY’s clean energy proof-of-concept center reveals that this is not the case.

“We surveyed the top 25 research universities in the U.S. and found there is limited to no available proof-of-concept funding, a lack of business and entrepreneurial expertise, and poor understanding of customer-solution fit,” says Doug Buerkle, Executive Director of NEXUS-NY.

By answering if the technology can be translated into a product that solves a compelling problem, proving the technology works, and helping companies acquire a customer base to validate business interest, NEXUS-NY aims to help scientific founders overcome these hurdles.

“We’ve found it doesn’t take a lot of money to move the needle for a given tech when it accompanies the structure and support provided by NEXUS-NY. People are the key, and customer engagement can’t start too early. But it can be harmful if done improperly,” added Buerkle.

For the past three years NEXUS-NY has been focused on providing the money and resources to catalyze the commercialization of clean energy innovations discovered by New York researchers. In that time, the clean energy seed accelerator has helped form 18 companies; half of which have gone on to raise $16.4 million in additional funding. Four NEXUS-NY graduates have also achieved some initial customer revenue.

3 NEXUS-NY graduates speak about the obstacles of research-derived tech transfer in Upstate NY

During a panel discussion hosted by the Inaugural Licensing Executives Society (LES) Western New York Chapter, three cofounders of NEXUS-NY portfolio companies shared the unique challenges associated with commercializing research-derived innovations. The discussion included how these founders have pushed forward, and explored suggestions as to how regional communities can work more effectively to overcome existing hurdles.

Be transparent throughout the university tech transfer process

Dr. Ryne Raffaelle is the VP of Research at the Rochester Institute of Technology and cofounder of Cellec Technologies.

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

Given his position as VP of Research with RIT, spinning out a company that he would be associated with would probably set a new record in terms of possible of conflict of interests.

A core challenge for us was Cellec’s collaboration with RIT’s Battery Prototyping Center. Although this state funded center exists to support the emerging battery industry, it falls within my organizational responsibilities at the university. There was only one way to avoid conflict of interest – tell everyone, and make sure there is plenty of independent oversight,” says Dr. Raffaelle.

In addition to startup founders working with their university, Ryne also suggests working together as a region. RIT has been an NSF I-Corps site for many years, having recently teamed up with Cornell and the University of Rochester on a successful NSF I-Corps node proposal. This new node will provide another resource for scientists who hope to develop technologies, products and processes that benefit society. Ryne believes getting involved with collaborative programs like I-Corps is a great way to harness resources from outside a founder’s university and learn from others.

Universities can help the transition by waiting for profitability

Dr. Jon Owejan is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at SUNY Alfred State and the cofounder of Phase Innovations.

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

Jon feels, to help catalyze commercialization of research startups, universities should treat tech transfer as licensing agreements that don’t kick in until the company is making money.

“Inventors of research-based technology are highly trained individuals. They could go elsewhere and make significant salaries. Instead they are committed to building something, and that commitment should be valued as part of a partnership with the universities,” says Dr. Owejan.

Jon recognizes that universities are not nonprofits, and just as they charge other companies and government agencies to use their facilities, founders should be prepared to negotiate a percentage of their business as part of this process.

Funding people is the key to moving technology forward

Dr. Gabriel Rodríguez-Calero is the cofounder of Ecolectro, a polymer company derived from Cornell University.

Ecolectro has developed structurally robust and highly conductive polymer membranes for a range of applications, including electrolysis and fuel cell systems, which are produced for less cost and promise double durability.

After finishing his PhD, Gabriel decided to start a company based on a polymer technology developed at the Energy Materials Center at Cornell University. During this time he began postdoc research at a half time capacity, until he realized the full scope of challenges in growing a business.

“I needed to be full time to find ways to move the business quickly, and to find a ready supply of resources. This includes having the necessary funds to produce enough product samples to meet market demands and pay partners – but even so, these funds are often available for technology development, not for people,” says Dr. Rodríguez-Calero.

Nasir Ali is the cofounder of nonprofit Upstate Venture Connect and an angel investor with the Seed Capital Fund of CNY. He says while certain grants may only focus on funding the technology, venture capitalists and investors will fund an inventor’s salary because they are investing in people. “What percentage of your raise goes into having a roof over a founder’s head is directly related to being able to develop the product to the next level,” says Ali.

NEXUS-NY prepares for another year of taking university research to market

Interviews are being conducted for NEXUS-NY’s 2017 Cohort, and participants will be announced soon. Sign up for NEXUS-NY newsletters to stay informed on the latest clean energy technologies in Upstate NY, solving big problems for real customers.

Two NEXUS-NY Graduates Win 76West Clean Energy Competition

Micatu Inc (NEXUS-NY Cohort 1) received the $1 million grand prize in the 76West Clean Energy Competition. Six winners out of 175 applicants were awarded funding to help develop clean energy technologies, grow their businesses, create jobs and advance New York’s clean energy economy.

Micatu makes an optical sensor that gives highly accurate voltage readings so utilities can reduce energy use, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions. CEO Michael Oshetski says this is a win for the entire region as Micatu plans to create more high-paying jobs for Upstate NY.
ChromaNanoTech Wins 76West Clean Energy CompetitionChromaNanoTech (NEXUS-NY Cohort 2) was awarded a $250,000 prize. Based in Binghamton, NY with research derived from Binghamton University, ChromaNanoTech produces a dye that keeps windows transparent, but blocks ultraviolet radiation so buildings stay cooler and air conditioning loads are reduced. Dr. Bill Bernier accepted the prize on behalf of his team.

Other clean energy startups who won prizes include Charge CCV (C4V), Besstech, DatArcs and Global Thermostat.

Applications for 76West Round 2 are open. The deadline to apply is March 13, 2017.


Ducted Turbines International – Producing Twice the Energy of Traditional Wind Turbines

As part of the NEXUS-NY clean energy accelerator, university researchers and pre-revenue clean energy businesses have been working towards commercializing their novel technologies. Backed by education, finances and business support provided by the NEXUS-NY program, Ducted Turbines International (DTI) found a solution that reduces the time it currently takes to return the high capital cost investment of existing small wind technologies.

Ducted Turbines InternationalCompany: Ducted Turbines International


Description: Ducted Turbines International (DTI) is a wind turbine company working to provide the lowest cost per kWh in the small turbine market (<10kW). Its wind turbine encompasses two patent pending technologies and produces twice the energy of an open bladed, traditional wind turbine of the same diameter. This solution reduces the payback period by half the time, and provides customers with a quality product designed to last more than 10 years in the field.

Location: Clarkson University | Potsdam, NY

Founding Team: Dr. Ken Visser (President and CEO, Founder); Paul Pavone (VP Product Commercialization, Founder)

NEXUS-NY Research: Thanks to the NEXUS-NY program, DTI made great technical progress on their technology and towards commercialization. Their optimized ducted wind turbine uses a specially designed aft rotor systems to accelerate the wind and increase the power output of the turbine rotor.

DTI’s first key technology is in the rotor design, which creates a proper twist of the blade to perform more efficiently than an open blade rotor in the presence of a duct. DTI’s second key technology lies in the rotor location. Ducted turbines have traditionally placed the rotor at the throat of the duct, the location of the highest velocity. DTI discovered that if the rotor is moved farther into the duct, the power output of the turbine increases dramatically.

Based on these patent pending technologies, DTI plans to concentrate on microgrids and backup tower systems for critical facilities on a smaller scale.

“Our customer discovery confirmed that it is the cost per kWh is a key driver in the business. Our approach will allow customers to generate more energy per unit cost. Our target is to cut the ROI for their money by half”, says Ken Visser.

DTI also made exciting connections with industry experts including NEXUS-NY advisor David Dussault of P1 Industries, who manufactured the turbine blades for their prototype. And they partnered with the NYS Science and Technology Law Center at Syracuse University to handle their IP landscape as they look to patent their technology.

“The small wind wind turbine market is set to expand tremendously. The market needs a less expensive and more efficient turbine. We can deliver this by focusing our attention on the IP, which is centered around an optimized integrated design approach. The rotor blades and duct need to be designed synergistically. It’s not easy, but it is doable.  This will then open up more markets by enabling increase energy harvesting at even lower wind speeds, reducing one’s overall costs,” added Visser.

Next Steps: After graduating the NEXUS-NY clean energy accelerator, Ducted Turbines International has recently completed a series of very successful wind tunnel tests at the University of Waterloo in Canada. This turbine test rig provided the data needed to validate the Computation Fluid Dynamic (CFD) modeling. DTI will soon be releasing the results of these tests, which will help them move forward to commercialization. DTI is also pursuing a NYSERDA ACE grant for alternative energies. This grant could yield up to $1 million in funding over three years.

Contact: 315.268.7687 |

Phase Innovations – Advanced, Low Cost Air Conditioning System

Over the past year, several university researchers and pre-revenue companies have been working diligently with NEXUS-NY to accelerate the commercialization of their early-stage, clean-energy technologies. Now with the educational, financial and business support of the NEXUS-NY clean energy seed accelerator, Phase Innovations will continue commercializing their membrane heat pump (MHP) technology. Researchers with Phase Innovations have worked to test many different materials and designs for the development of their advanced prototype. These materials are showing improved performance and cost, and their air conditioning technology has been identified as very promising by the Department of Energy.

Phase Innovations - SUNY AlfredCompany: Phase Innovations


Description: Phase Innovations is developing a low-cost, advanced air conditioning system without chemical refrigerants that uses less energy than conventional systems. The company’s technology is based on water permeable membrane modules that enable precise control of temperature and humidity in any climate. Capacity is easily scaled between residential and commercial applications. The unique, patent pending design offers customers the option to use low temperature waste heat, as opposed to electricity to drive the cooling process. The two-ton cooling module for Phase Innovation’s initial customer validation prototype is anticipated to occupy a footprint of about one cubic meter.

Location: SUNY Alfred State, 10 Upper College Dr, Alfred, NY 14802

Founding Team: Nathan DeMario, Cofounder; Matt Lawrence, Cofounder; Jon Owejan, Cofounder; Tanya Waite; Business Advisor; Steve Wood, IP Advisor

NEXUS-NY Research: Like most other teams, Phase Innovations consists primarily of technical people with backgrounds in research, engineering, and design. This experience is an exercise of technology transfer – a process that involves not only technical expertise, but also requires business acumen and clear communication with the many different parties to bring the technology to market.

It has been challenging, but developing these skills makes us all much better at what we do. As one of our team members says, ‘What is the point of research if we don’t find a way to make breakthroughs like this available to everyone?’ This experience has tremendous benefit to all involved, and without this opportunity, many technologies, like those developed through the NEXUS NY program, are destined to live only in a lab or journal article. – Jon Owejan, Cofounder, Phase Innovations

Phase Innovations: Cofounders Nathan DeMario and Jon OwejanNext Steps: After graduating the NEXUS-NY clean energy accelerator, Phase Innovations will move forward with product validation and market development.

“Product validation is, obviously, the most exciting thing for a new company like ours,” says Owejan. “To see something go from the idea stage to the prototype stage is very satisfying.”

Additionally, validation and optimization are well suited to the skill set of the Phase Innovations’ technical team, whereas Jon says market development, however, is new to most of the team.

“The customer discovery process helped us establish dialog with many interested parties, so we have a very clear picture of customer expectations. But as you might expect, we are apprehensive of getting the product out to customers.  Will they like it?  Will it truly be the answer for a persistent customer problem?  We won’t know until we actually install the system at a customer’s business.  It’s going to be a very exciting next few months,” says Owejan.

Contact: 585.905.8140 |

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).

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 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.

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.

Stay on the pulse of clean energy news, deals and events. Sign up for NEXUS-NY newsletters.

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 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

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.

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.

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 Represents at 76West Clean Energy Semifinals

Come for the Competition. Stay for the Transformation. That’s the intent around the 76West clean energy initiative.

May was an exciting month for NEXUS-NY, with five of our seed accelerator graduates, and one Cohort 3 team pitching at the 76West Clean Energy Competition Semifinals.

76West is a business competition focused on attracting founders to build clean energy startups and create jobs in New York’s southern tier. Candidates selected for the semifinals demonstrated a significant clean energy impact that solves important problems customers would pay to address.

NEXUS-NY graduates and participants joined dozens of clean energy companies from across the state, country and globe to compete for a spot in the finals, which guarantees them prizes ranging from $250,000 to $1 million! Sponsored by NYSERDA and implemented by the Southern Tier Startup Alliance, in addition to funding, each finalist will receive incubator space, support services and national recognition.

Adrian Cosma is the Cofounder and CEO of BioEnergySP. Cosma and his partner, Jose Lozano recently entered into Phase 2 of the NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Seed Accelerator. Cosma says being part of NEXUS-NY helped prepare him to pitch in the semifinals of the 76West Competition.

“The information we received from our advisors and mentors at NEXUS-NY was a key component in being selected into the 76West semifinals,” said Cosma. “Throughout the program we’ve learned how to identify our customers and uncovered the value proposition to offer potential customers as part of the customer discovery process. This gave us a lot of insight into what customers want and how we convey our technology to them, or anyone who wants to acquire or purchase our technology. NEXUS-NY has really challenged us to learn what company we are, and what company we want to become. We applied all of these lessons into our pitch for 76West.”

BioƎnergySP is a newly incorporated clean energy company. Cosma and Lozano have invented novel 4th generation compartment free Microbial Fuel Cells. This patent pending industrial equipment Electroactive Attached Growth (EAG) technology saves energy for wastewater treatment, allowing facilities to grow to meet demands beyond limited in-house wastewater capacity, limited municipal capacity and local laws.  

This technology, combined with a leadership team working towards commercialization and profitability, makes BioƎnergySP a perfect fit for the 76West Clean Energy Competition. Their technology broadly reduces energy consumption and improves the efficiency of energy utilization at the consumer and industrial scale. It also improves the processes and systems that use energy, while providing a solution to permeate the marketplace.  

76West Clean Energy Competition, Supported by NYSERDA“76West is designed to further develop the regional community of clean energy technology innovators, industry experts, educators and investors, as well as help startups get early users for their technologies.” –

The team chose the name BioƎnergySP based on Lozano’s background in physics and biology, harnessed to create the technology. “SP is used in biology to signify ‘any’ – so any form of biological derived energy is the key. An inverted ‘E’ means energy in physics, so we apply it to Energy Bio of any type,” explained Lozano. “We are dealing with wastewater and SP of any kind, which is kind of neat. It’s demanding and sophisticated and requires a lot of innovation to create the breakthroughs needed to make it an energy producer,” he added.   

Prior to the 76West pitch sessions, each candidate was brought to the Ithaca, NY area to explore the Southern Tier’s ecosystem. What they learned on these tours allowed Cosma and Lozano to incorporate what impact BioƎnergySP would have on the region and New York State.

“They took us to Corning, Binghamton and Cornell to show us the culture of the startups so we could get an idea of what they are looking for,” said Cosma. “At the same time it was very valuable to meet so many entrepreneurs and and learn about the programs and resources that would help us commercialize. From the tech centers and equipment, to the surrounding pool of talent, we can really see ourselves accelerating there.”

In one example Cosma referenced Cornell University’s new Blackstone LaunchPad. Lozano holds a PhD in Biology and Ecological Physiology from Cornell, so BioƎnergySP would be able to tap into those resources. Another part of the tour that caught their attention was the innovation center being developed at Binghamton University. “It would make it very easy for us to engage future employers and students from the area to help research and advance our technology,” said Lozano.

In speaking with representations from the Southern Tier Startup Alliance, finalists will be announced within the next few weeks. The $2.5 million in prize money will be payable in increments based on a series of milestones accomplished. During this time, startups will work with technical and industry experts, companies, incubators and mentors to craft their engagement with the region. If BioƎnergySP advances to the next round, Cosma and Lozano intend on taking full advantage of the funding and support offered. The team is committed to concentrating 100% of their focus on the company to develop a full commercial pilot.

“If we make it into the finals you can expect larger, better plans because we’ll be able to tackle more than one use of the methodology,” said Lozano. “With more than one product we’ll go to market even faster, and contracts with manufacturers and engineering firms will result in the creation of type A jobs at the same time.”

President of BIOEnergySP Adrian Cosma

BioEnergySP President Adrian Cosma presenting at the NEXUS-NY Business Opportunities event.

Engineers are key components of the strategy because the way wastewater works is through engineering firms. Lozano said their first hire would be an environmental engineer with experience in wastewater or biology to help develop their technology faster and impact more industries.

“By speaking with people about our project and presenting to an audience we also realized how significant our business is on the energy market, and the impact BioƎnergySP will have on the broader environmental society by supporting other businesses in the community,” said Cosma.

Cosma explained that there are 600 wastewater treatment facilities in New York, and over 20,000 in the country. This, he said, makes BioƎnergySP’s market very significant. He added that the costs for energy usage on a yearly basis is around $600 million to run wastewater treatment plants in NYS alone. BioƎnergySP focuses on the activated sludge process which uses around 50% of that energy. This means that BioƎnergySP’s target is in NYS is $300 million, and Cosma says BioƎnergySPs’ technology can provide a 60% reduction.

“That’s $180 million a year in cost savings, and that’s only in NYS,” continued Lozano. “There’s also larger states like Texas and California that have much bigger use of energy.”

BioƎnergySP doesn’t just impact wastewater treatment facilities. With an increased capacity of infrastructure, the technology has the potential to grow other industries and communities. This includes any industry that uses activated sludge to treat their wastewater, such as pharmaceuticals and breweries.

“A lot of municipalities are limited. Wastewater effects whether private companies go into a certain area or not. Imagine that someone wants to build a new hotel in NYS. They can’t because the wastewater treatment is to capacity. Or a brewery might have to ship out their wastewater because they are full to capacity, said Lozano. “The hotel can’t be build, and the brewery cannot expand. These are indirect impacts that are also very significant. In each case, they would have to build their own wastewater treatment facility, which is very costly, or contract the process out to another state. Either way, they don’t grow as quickly, and the revenue is pushed outside of our region.”

As part of the 76West Clean Energy Competition, winners outside of New York must relocate to the Southern Tier region. If a startup already exists in NYS, like BioƎnergySP, and can demonstrate how their company will have a positive impact on the Southern Tier, they don’t have to relocate. Here is a complete list of competition details.

“What’s clear to us is that we are committed to New York State, and we want to be a NYS enterprise. Our primary goal is to have an impact in NYS, and tackle the NYS energy crisis. New York has significant resources available that is only going to make us better and help BioƎnergySP get to market faster.”

NEXUS-NY Affiliated Teams Who Pitched at the 76West Clean Energy Competition

AMBIS TECHNOLOGIES – Upcycling the World’s Most Underutilized Material Resources to Cool Our Buildings

CHROMANANOTECH – Letting the Light In While Keeping the Heat Out

eCOLECTRO – Regenerating the Fuel Cell Economy

LIONANO, Inc – Batteries Engineered at Nanoscale

MICATU, Inc – Fundamentally Changing the Way the World Senses Light

NEXUS-NY Teams Showcase Business Opportunities

Phase 1: Seeking Problem-solution Fit Through Customer Discovery

Over the course of the last several months, NEXUS-NY participants have been working on their interim “business opportunities presentations.” In a closed session for a few members of the NEXUS-NY community, each team debuted their progress in Rochester, NY.

NEXUS-NY is a clean energy proof-of-concept center sponsored by NYSERDA, charged with moving innovative energy technologies from research labs into the market. Operating under a seed accelerator business model, participants strive to complete three primary objections:

  • Seek problem-solution fit as informed by customer and industry interaction
  • De-risk their technology by building early prototypes
  • Work towards third party validation of customer discovery and prototypes

The past 10 weeks of Phase 1 has been dedicated to customer discovery, and their final presentations reflected the current views of their business opportunities, which is different from pitches startup founders traditionally give to investors.

During this milestone, researchers and entrepreneurs were tasked with answering several key questions surrounding market opportunity, plans for commercialization and if there is a large energy benefit.

“The teams have been working hard and showing tremendous progress,” said Doug Buerkle, NEXUS-NY Executive Founding Director. “In addition to identifying if their market opportunity is of sufficient size, they have been focusing on if their envisioned product or service is sufficiently differentiated, compelling and protectable.”

In front of a room full of peers, mentors and NEXUS-NY community members, the teams also revealed if significant progress can be made over the coming five months as they seek approval to enter into Phase 2 of the program, which concentrates on de-risking and third party validation. 

Entrepreneurial Lead Adrian Cosma presented for BioEnergySP. He and Technical Lead, Jose Lozano, a Cornell PhD of Biology and Ecological Physiology and current Lab Director at the Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility, have invented novel 4th generation compartment free Microbial Fuel Cells. This game-changing industrial equipment Electroactive Attached Growth (EAG) technology saves energy for wastewater treatment. Based on the customer discovery process, the duo was excited to reveal a perfect problem-solution fit.

“After speaking to more than 75 potential customers as part of the NEXUS-NY customer discovery process we came across Stone Brewing in California. This facility cannot grow to meet demands due to limited in-house wastewater capacity, limited municipal capacity and local laws. With our technology they will be able to increase production,” explained Cosma.

Cosma and Lozano have also spoken with leaders at Frank E. VanLare, the largest wastewater treatment facility in Rochester, NY.

“With our patent pending EAG units, BioEnergySP can save VanLare tons of money per year in energy reductions,” added Cosma.

Nine new research teams total from across New York State took part in phase 1 of NEXUS-NY’s 2016 cohort, including a few universities that have previously not participated in the program before. These teams include researchers from Clarkson University, University at Buffalo and SUNY Alfred State.

Parham Rohani is a Chemical and Biological Engineering PhD candidate at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has developed a proprietary water-reactive nanomaterial that can split water and generate hydrogen gas from water at room temperature, on-demand, for mobile electricity generation using fuel cells.

“We turn water into fuel,” said Rohani. “We pelletize our nanomaterial and package it in a cartridge. The cartridge connects to a hydrogen generation device  to generate hydrogen gas from water. We and our partners will design the hydrogen generation device based on their requirements. The device can provide hydrogen gas for any off-the-shelf fuel cell.

Rohani says his innovation offers customers great value given a high specific energy density source of power with longer runtime. He announced to the judges a potential business opportunity with a gross rate of over 50%. If Rohani moves to the next phase of the NEXUS-NY accelerator, he plans on continuing to validate the technology, work with manufacturing partners, file new provisional patents and begin the material production development phase.

Representing research out of Clarkson University, Ken Visser, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering and Director of the Center of Sustainable Energy Systems at Clarkson, is working on an optimized ducted wind turbine that uses a slotted duct system to augment the wind flow and increase the efficiency of the turbine rotor. Over the course of the last several months, Visser has reported 70% energy extraction and improvement over open rotors of the same size.

Recognizing the high capital costs associated with using a turbine to run your home (roughly a 10kw machine at $55,000), Visser says it could take 10-30 years for homeowners to receive a return on investment. This is why the team has decided to establish a two-prong affect that caters to manufacturers and installers.

“Based on our customer discovery, it’s the cost per kWh that drives the business. Our new approach will allow manufacturers and installers to save money installing our turbine technology,” explained Visser. “The $80 million wind turbine market is set to explode. There is a new leasing model that has jumped into the industry. The market needs a less expensive and more efficient turbine. We can deliver this by focusing our attention on the IP, which is centered around moving the rotor. This will open up more markets by offering the same power at lower wind speeds, which reduces the overall costs.”

Visser says the technology has already turned the heads of several manufacturers interested in taking advantage of the cost savings. Moving forward, they will look to validate the technology and build a working prototype.

This was also our first look at how NEXUS-NY’s pilot program with Cornell University is progressing. The team of scientific researchers, entrepreneurs and students from the Johnson School of Management have been exploring if two Cornell technologies make sense together by looking at a method to convert CO2 into methanol.

“We have gathered lots of feedback that still needs to be researched in the lab based on potential synergies,” said Cornell Entrepreneurial Lead Jason Salfi. “The great news is we have identified many partners excited to take this technology to market throughout the NEXUS-NY customer discovery process.”

Additional entrepreneurs and scientists in the 2016 NEXUS-NY program include researchers from Binghamton University, SUNY-ESF, Rochester Institute of Technology and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Each team will know by mid-May if they will advance into phase 2 of the clean energy seed accelerator.

“Phase 2 is designed to be a little less rigorous,” said Doug Buerkle. “We encourage the teams to get back in the lab and deep dive into the information gathered during the customer discovery process to determine which of them might be potential sources of third party validation.”

NEXUS-NY will continue to provide each team financial support in phase 2 ($40-50,000 on average), as well as couple the researchers with various partners including the Syracuse Technology Commercialization Law Program and Excell Partners, which will assist with investor due diligence.

At the end of the program, the teams will be in position to pitch their novel technologies to investors at demo days in New York City and Rochester, NY. These events are scheduled for early-mid October.   

Molecular Glasses Wins Rochester Venture Challenge

NEXUS-NY is a clean energy startup accelerator chartered with catalyzing the commercialization of technologies discovered by New York researchers. Funded largely by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA), NEXUS-NY increases the number of scalable clean energy startup companies within the region. Molecular Glasses participated in NEXUS-NY cohort 2, enabling the company to develop more relevant concepts through the program’s extensive discovery process. As a result, Molecular Glasses is now in position to revolutionize the manufacture and applications of OLED materials.

In April 2016, Founder/CEO Mike Molaire competed in the Rochester Venture Challenge hosted by High Tech Rochester. The panel of judges based its decision on criteria that included the probability of success of the business, as well as the size of its potential economic impact. Molecular Glasses came in third, receiving $2500 in cash and $1000 rent credit for space at HTR’s Lennox Tech Enterprise Center. 

In the next six months, Mike hopes to raise $500,000 by making use of his industry contracts. Read more in his recent interview with the Democrat & Chronicle, Catching up with Mike Molaire, CEO of Molecular Glasses.

You can also learn more about the company’s proprietary NONcrystallizable molecular glasses for stable and long-lived OLED and other organic electronics in the latest edition of the NEXUS-NY New Energy Magazine.

Molecular Glasses: NEXUS-NY Cohort 2Company: Molecular Glasses


Description: Molecular Glasses has developed highly stable host materials for OLED devices.  OLEDs have become ubiquitous in small display applications but their adoption has been hampered in large display and lighting.  Molecular Glasses has created a new class of materials which combine the best features of SMOLED and PLED.  More specifically their materials enable lower total system cost and better features today and they provide a bridge to low cost, roll-to-roll device processing in the future.

Location: Eastman Business Park, Rochester, NY

Achievement: Molecular Glasses has developed a third class of OLED materials with the performance of SMOLED, which will not crystallize. This advancement will revolutionize the manufacture and applications available for these materials, while providing 50% reduction cost for large television manufacturing and enabling light extraction improvement by 30%. The company has received several awards, including a $60,000 DOE testing award. 

Founding Team: Mike Molaire (CEO, Founder); Mark Juba (COO); Dr. David S. Weiss (Advanced Research Director)

“Our materials will be used to manufacture large size television, smartphones, tablets and commercial lighting modules. The solution printing process will be a lot easier to implement with our materials. As a significant aspect of our strategy, we have designed our materials to work in the current vacuum/thermal process,” said Molaire. “Thus we do not have to wait for the emerging solution/printing processes in order to start selling materials and making money.”

NEXUS-NY Research: During the NEXUS-NY customer discovery process, Molecular Glasses has spoken with forty experts and potential customers. This enabled them to discard concepts and generate new ones more relevant to the marketplace.

Next Steps: Now seeking to commercialize their technology by selling materials to display and lighting OEMs, Molecular Glasses will complete their proof-of-concept work and begin to market their materials and will partner with an established chemical manufacturer to produce them. The company believes they are 18 to 24 months from selling their first product. They will start delivering samples to interested customers in four to six months.

Contact: | 585.210.2861 | @mmolaire


SUNY Alfred State Researchers Take Customer Discovery to Heart

The SUNY Alfred State Customer Discovery Story

Ben is a plant engineer in a manufacturing facility. Like any engineer, Ben values efficiency to save his company money. Nearly all manufacturing processes generate waste heat – this is heat required for the process, but not reclaimed or reused. Current strategies for using waste heat to improve cooling processes are very expensive.

With inexpensive membranes and water, the researchers at SUNY Alfred State have developed a low-cost HVAC system that avoids use of harmful chemicals. Now, using this Alfred State technology Ben can redirect the heat that was previously a waste byproduct and use it to improve air conditioning efficiency, save money and help the environment.  

The business model for Alfred State’s technology is also proving successful to scale, presenting a novel method to turn the liability of industrial waste heat into a resource.

Industry Interactions Determine Problem-solution Fit

NEXUS-NY participants are nearing the final weeks of the clean energy seed accelerator’s Phase 1 programming. Over the last several months, scientists and entrepreneurs have worked together to develop and test various business theories through interactions with industry participants. The goal is to determine the best problem-solution fit based on the needs expressed by potential customers, and to develop a successful go-to-market strategy.

Among the 2016 teams, and participating in the NEXUS-NY accelerator for the first time, is SUNY Alfred State. Technical lead Dr. Jon Owejan and entrepreneurial lead Steven Wood are working towards commercializing a membrane heat pump technology that provides latent and sensible cooling in a single device, without hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants. According to NEXUS-NY Executive Founding Director Doug Buerkle, the team is excelling in the customer discovery process.

“Most people have a difficult time with customer discovery because they look for confirmation and don’t like to hear the word no,” said Buerkle. “The SUNY Alfred State team has really taken the process to heart by listening to customers. In just a few weeks, they’ve had several high level conversations, which have resulted in a pivot in their business opportunity.”

Customer Discovery Prompts Change, More Value Gained

SUNY Alfred State’s technology is unique because it can fit into any refrigeration or space cooling application. However, during the team’s customer discovery process they found the industry to be somewhat risk adverse. Many customers have said they are happy with the state-of-the-art vapor compression systems currently on the market, which the SUNY Alfred State team seeks to replace with their novel technology.

“From our discovery, we learned that it took many years to get refrigerant-based heat pumps to the level of reliability we see today, and the professionals that struggled with early systems are not in a hurry to start the cycle over again,” said Jon Owejan, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology at SUNY Alfred State. “Eventually, we began to see the perfect angle for our solution. Unlike conventional heat pumps, the performance of our system can be enhanced with a waste heat source.”

Owejan explained how in speaking with potential customers, the team has been able to uncover a problem area for facilities that generate process heat and require space cooling. This includes manufacturing plants, data centers, supermarkets and dairy farms, as well as any facility that uses combined heat and power installations.

“These potential customers use their heat to keep the facility warm in the winter, but have no choice but to dump heat outside in the summer,” said Owejan.

Absorption chillers have been the only thermally activated options for many years, but the complexity and poor ROI have deterred many facilities to make a change, especially in the northern latitudes where summer cooling hours are short.

Discovering this pain point has helped the team at SUNY Alfred State discover the untapped value in their novel membrane heat pump technology. They now know customers will benefit from lower costs along with simplified architecture and maintenance when integrating their system with a waste heat source.

“The end user, typically a building occupant, will value the quiet operation and precise control of temperature and humidity realized with our technology,” said Matthew Lawrence, SUNY Alfred State Professor of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology, and a Development Advisor on the team. “Our company will derive additional value through a fully scalable design that can be sized for almost any application. Since our product is fully recyclable and void of chemical refrigerants, the environment won’t be negatively impacted during its lifecycle.”

Matthew Lawrence | SUNY Alfred State | NEXUS-NY Storytelling Workshop Pitch

Matthew Lawrence, SUNY Alfred State Professor of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology, and a Development Advisor on the team pitches during the NEXUS-NY Storytelling Session

Uncovering Big Business Opportunity

According to Research and Markets’ Global Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) Market – Forecast & Analysis, 2016-2022, the global HVAC market is projected to be worth over $151 billion in 2022. “In the U.S. alone, air conditioning is a $10 billion industry that uses over 4.3 quads (4.54 billion GJ) of primary energy, almost all of which comes from non-renewable sources,” said Lawrence.

In an effort to capture a portion of this significant opportunity, the team at SUNY Alfred State is  building a business model, which targets a small segment of this market (2%) that handles cooling with absorption chillers.

Through customer discovery, the team found that all participants in the value chain agree that an alternative to absorption chillers is needed for several reasons. “We’re confident our technology can solve these issues,” said Steven Wood, an intellectual property attorney and Assistant Director of Innovative Services at The Research Foundation for The State University of New York.

Understanding the combined heat and power industry universally shares the pain of convincing their potential customers to adopt absorption chillers for cooling during the summer, and knowing that this industry is currently expected to grow at a rate of 15% over the next 10 years, Wood says catering to these installations represents a significant business opportunity.

Asking Questions Leads to Answers, Helping Define a Technology Roadmap

As Assistant Director of Innovation Services with SUNY RF, Wood is continually faced with new, advanced technologies. Similar to the membrane heat pump developed by Dr. Owejan at Alfred State, most of these technologies are very early stage. Often there is a bench scale or working prototype in place, and as elaborated by Wood “the primary challenge is not in figuring out the general applications, but more so the specific market niches that will really help the technology establish a commercial foothold.”  

“Many of the questions that we are forced to ask ourselves as participants in NEXUS-NY are the same types of questions that I am helping other SUNY technologies to address. And, to be totally honest, NEXUS-NY is helping me to look at other opportunities in my portfolio with the same type of lens,” said Wood. “It’s a great program that really engages participants to perform introspection and self-assessment based on a strategy of aggressive customer discovery.”

Wood suggests inventors ask themselves these questions:

  • What might be some wrong assumptions you have made?
  • What have you learned through customer discovery that has caused you to change those assumptions?
  • What do the potential customers have to say about the purported advantages offered by the technology?
  • Do the potential customers view the advantages identified by the inventor and the entrepreneur as actual advantages or do they view other aspects of the technology as more advantageous?  

Full Spectrum Perspectives Give SUNY Alfred State an Edge

Steven Wood’s background as an intellectual property attorney and startup consultant has proven invaluable to the success of the SUNY Alfred State team throughout the NEXUS-NY seed accelerator.

This real-world experience also applies to the team’s technical lead, Dr. Jon Owejan. In addition to being a mechanical engineering professor, he’s also a former employee of the GM Electrochemical Energy Research Laboratory. Having served as principal investigator for several high-profile energy research projects, Owejan has seen R&D from the corporate side, which he says has made him skeptical about new energy technologies.  

“Companies like GM are very careful about how ideas are vetted; considering not just a first principle evaluation, but also safety, material availability, comprehensive cost modeling, manufacturability, etc. The first-hand experience with successful technology development through this process has allowed me to avoid many of the common roadblocks that some academics don’t foresee,” said Owejan.

Coupling this career experience is an energetic point of view. The SUNY Alfred State team also includes the youngest NEXUS-NY participant to date. Nathan DeMario is an undergraduate in the Mechanical Engineering Technology program. He is also an intern at Oxbo International Corporation. He says even though he may lack experience in dealing with some of the NEXUS-NY objectives and working with customers, he recognizes the fundamental concept of the customer discovery process as being extremely important and valuable. Specifically, to make sure there is a market for the technology as to not waste money and time, and be able to apply the technology to multiple markets.

“The process makes sense. It is a more of a reality check. Nobody will buy your product if they have no need for it, or if something else already exists that works more efficiently,” said DeMario. “The customer discovery process has also allowed us to iterate on our designs.”

DeMario focuses on modeling and assisting in customer discovery behind the scenes. Since many of the potential customers the Alfred State team has connected with during the customer discovery process are intrigued by their technology, Nate helps them understand more about the product.

“Explanations are great, however a model that can be viewed goes further. We have especially found that a model that gives scale to how small our unit would be compared to current products has been beneficial,” said DeMario.

SUNY Alfred State Team Leads by Example

With a viable and scalable business model in place, the team at SUNY Alfred State is preparing to compete for a spot in NEXUS-NY Phase 2. This part of the program includes de-risking the technology by building early prototypes and seeking third party validation. The combination of these efforts seeks to define the technology’s commercialization objectives. A private demo day will be held mid-April. A panel of seasoned entrepreneurs and clean energy experts will assess each team’s progress and select who will be moving forward.

Representing a school that is known for making things and getting things done, the team is proud of their research and technology, and hopes to put SUNY Alfred State on the map for big innovation thinking.

“SUNY Alfred State focuses on the applied aspects of engineering that enable innovation. Real change can only happen by testing how the customer reacts, and iterating toward the best solution,” said Owejan. “The NEXUS-NY curriculum and mentorship has been invaluable in guiding us through this process, and these insights will certainly impact our students for many years to come. We hope the project and technology that results will serve as a prime example of how effective technology transfer is executed.”

Avatar Sustainable Technologies Produces Cellulosic Sugars from Solid Waste

Transforming Waste Fibrous Sources Into Green Energy & Products

Using a patented process, Avatar Sustainable Technologies produces fermentable cellulosic sugars from refuse of local industries. After completing NEXUS-NY Cohort 1, this clean energy startup based in Syracuse, NY is on its way to commercializing the process, partnering with a variety of companies.

Avatar Technologies - NEXUS-NY Cohort 1Company: Avatar Sustainable Technologies

Description: Avatar Sustainable Technologies takes papermill waste and processes it into fermentable sugars that can be converted to environmental friendly commercial products, including several biofuels and bioplastics applications.

The commercial potential of Avatar is to use the waste fiber rejects from paper mills to make bioproducts, improve the sustainability of the paper industry and offset the use of petroleum based products. This process will not only provide greener, degradable and economical alternatives, but also sustainable solutions by using a resource that is currently being landfilled.

Avatar has scaled this process from bench scale to pre-pilot scale, and the startup is currently working with several biochemical companies.

“We’ve already connected with a bunch of companies who have agreed to work with us on the process,” said Bhavin Bhayani, Co-founder of Avatar Sustainable Technologies. “This includes two Fortune 500 companies and leading companies in the paper and biotech industries.”

Location: Center of Excellence – Syracuse, NY

Achievements: In June 2015, Avatar received a competitive NSF SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation for $149,700. The funding was primarily used to research breaking down waste rejects from recycled containerboard mills. The results were successful, providing optimal process operational windows for yields, purity and downstream bioconversion efficacy. Avatar was also able to take the process from bench scale to pre-pilot scale.

“It’s not just the Avatar technology, it’s about the business model because we are connecting the paper companies with the biochemical companies,” explained Bhayani.

Founding Team: Bhavin Bhayani (Co-founder); Dr. Bandaru Ramarao (Co-founder). Avatar Sustainable Technologies also works with several PhD and Master students from Syracuse, NY who assist with wet work in the lab to complete optimizations.

“This particular area is quite competitive. After completing my PhD I received a couple big job offers,” explained Bhayani. I could have easily taken a job and stopped working on this venture, but my wife and family encouraged me to keep going. They reminded me of my passion for the research and helped keep my spirits up throughout this entrepreneurial journey.”

NEXUS-NY Research: Over the course of the 10-month NEXUS-NY seed accelerator, the Avatar team was charged with speaking to 50 customers as part of their discovery process. By Demo Day in NYC, Bhayani and Ramarao had created a network of over 150 people.

“NEXUS-NY taught me a lot. The program pushed me to go out and speak with people. So for me, it wasn’t about the funding, it was about getting out there, and without NEXUS I don’t think we would have made it this far,” said Bhayani. “I remember Demo Day in NYC. Doug (Buerkle, NEXUS-NY Founding Executive Director) joked with me about bail money because I would wait outside companies I was interested in. When someone stepped outside I would run up and ask them questions,” he laughed. “Perhaps I should have been in public speaking instead of a PhD.”

Next Steps: After completing a successful Phase 1 of the NSF SBIR, Avatar has applied for an additional grant with the National Science Foundation. The money from Phase 2 will go towards scaling their process to produce higher quantities and get more results out of it. To best compete and commercialize their product, Avatar needs to move away from small bench scale in the lab and automate their process. Bhayani hopes to hear back from NSF this summer.

Bhayani is also in the running for the prestigious Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Award. Developed in partnership with the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership, the award spotlights innovative, yet practical solutions created by young people that help make sustainable living commonplace. Out of nearly 950 applicants, Bhayani has made it to the finals. Six people will soon be selected as winners, receiving approximately $300,000 in financial support and mentoring.

“Again, it’s not about the money, it’s about being recognized by Unilever, which could open up partnerships around the world already making packaging and other applications,” said Bhanyani. “That would be ideal!”

Contact: 315.212.1159 |

NEXUS-NY Pilots New University Research Opportunity

Two Cornell University research technologies participating in NEXUS-NY Cohort 3, together

NEXUS-NY is piloting a new way to test the commercial potential of university research without scientists fully participating in the rigorous process of its clean energy seed accelerator.

New in 2016, two researchers from Cornell University will spend a few hours a week providing scientific advisory support to entrepreneurs recruited by NEXUS-NY. This experiment has resulted in a combined team, which is exploring two innovations, both as stand-alone technologies and by looking at potential synergies between the two.

“There were a couple of things that made Cornell standout for this pilot program,” said Doug Buerkle, NEXUS-NY Founding Executive Director. “First, Cornell is a leading research institution when it comes to energy innovation.  The second was due to the flexibility and willingness of Cornell’s researchers and administrators to look at novel ways of partnering to commercialize its technologies.”

NEXUS-NY assists New York’s energy researchers by providing financial, educational, and business support. Participants work through a structured and rigorous process, guided by experienced mentors in order to translate their research derived innovations into solutions that solve big problems for real customers, ideally through the formation of startup companies.

Cornell University Professor David Erickson at NEXUS-NY Kickoff Celebration in Rochester, NY

Cornell University Professor David Erickson at NEXUS-NY Kickoff Celebration in Rochester, NY

The first technology is a high-density photobioreactor that optimizes light and CO2 delivery for efficient generation of algae. Developed by David Erickson, Associate Professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University, the technology delivers sunlight efficiently through low-cost, plastic, waveguides. This process increases efficiency and decreases water and energy use as compared to conventional algae reactors.

The second technology is a hybrid organic/inorganic nanofluid. Invented by Tobais Hanrath, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at Cornell University, the technology has combined capabilities of CO2 capture and photocatalytic CO2 conversion.

While it’s not yet clear if these technologies make more sense together or if they should be commercialized alone, Erickson and Hanrath have decided to explore all combinations, recognizing potential synergies for pursuing future university research and commercialization options.

“Right now we’re working together on a combined approach and testing with as much rigor as possible before we explore separate approaches for the university research,” explained Jason Salfi, NEXUS-NY EIR. “Everything we’re doing now can be applied to the technologies separately.”

Jason Salfi is a NEXUS-NY entrepreneur lead for Cornell's research team in Cohort 3

Michael Amadori of Full Circle Feed (left) and Cornell Research Team Entrepreneur Lead Jason Salfi (right) at NEXUS-NY Celebration Kickoff

Salfi, the entrepreneurial lead for this joint Cornell University research team, says they’re first looking at a method to convert CO2 into methanol.  “We’ve managed to take two unique technologies with separate applications and combine them together in a way that might actually have scable promise,” said Salfi. “The great thing is we’re already starting to get some interest from equipment manufacturers that may be interested in incorporating our conversion technology. Essentially, we’re hoping to create a better economic value proposition by upcycling carbon dioxide.”

Historically NEXUS-NY was not able to access some of the best technologies because principal investigators for those technologies often don’t have the time or interest to participate in its full commercialization process. NEXUS-NY requires researchers to meet frequently with potential customers and industry participants in order to seek problem-solution fit and to inform their go-to-market strategies.  This is a time intensive part of the program.

“By bringing experienced entrepreneurs into contact with innovative scientists, we think we may be able to enhance our program by creating more frequent and more successful commercialization outcomes,” explained Buerkle. “We’re piloting the approach this year.  We’ll track it carefully and determine how to move forward in the future. We believe it is an interesting approach and are excited to see how it goes.”

At the onset of this process, Cornell suggested several potential technologies for the program. When working through the NEXUS-NY screening process, Buerkle interviewed Hanrath who indicated his technology required a type of photobioreactor, which sounded similar to what David Erickson had built under a separate ARPA-E project. When Buerkle found out the two had never spoken, he made the introduction.

With the technology in place, it was time to team the scientific advisors up with experienced entrepreneurs to propel business development.

NEXUS-NY is affiliated with High Tech Rochester (HTR), a nonprofit whose mission is to catalyze entrepreneurship and innovation-based economic development. HTR runs a statewide Entrepreneur in Residence (EIR) program for NYSERDA, which provided NEXUS-NY with a vetted pool of energy entrepreneurs.

“Over the past two years, we’ve created close relationships with a subset of these entrepreneurs, allowing us to select people we know and trust,” said Buerkle.

Clayton Poppe is an entrepreneur lead on Cornell's NEXUS-NY research team

Cornell Team Entrepreneur Lead Clayton Poppe (left) and Bill Bernier of Cohort 2 Team, ChromaNanoTech (right) at NEXUS-NY Celebration Kickoff

NEXUS-NY introduced several of these entrepreneurs to Erickson and Hanrath, who ultimately selected Clayton Poppe and Jason Salfi as entrepreneurial leads.

“I applaud NEXUS-NY for moving forward with this experiment;  I think it could be a big part of their program moving forward,” said Salfi. “We recently added four Johnson school MBAs as well as a few scientists from the Hanrath and Erickson groups to our team; as a result, we’ve built a diverse team of MBAs, PIs, scientists and entrepreneurs, including Clayton and myself,” said Salfi. “In only 6 weeks, this talented crew is working very well together.  It’s a real testament to the talent NEXUS-NY is attracting to its program.”

9 New NEXUS-NY Research Teams Seek to Bring Energy Technologies to Market

NEXUS-NY Invests in the Brightest Clean Energy Scientists, Engineers and Entrepreneurs

It’s kickoff for nine new research teams joining the NEXUS-NY seed accelerator. From computer scientists to aeronautical engineers, Cohort 3 members have now started their journey to develop clean energy solutions that will accelerate the pace of energy innovation.

NEXUS-NY empowers New York energy researchers with funding, business assistance and market readiness support. Through meaningful proof-of-concept prototypes and customer interaction, over the next 10 months each team will seek to transform their research-derived innovations into companies that solve big problems for real customers.

NEXUS-NY New Energy Magazine 2015Starting with two full days of intensive workshops and presentations, Cohort 3 teams gathered in Rochester to present themselves to each other, hear from past NEXUS-NY participants and begin defining their customers, business problems and solutions.

“It’s exciting to see a bunch of new teams enter the program,” said NEXUS-NY Associate Director Allison Yacci. “This week they’ll dive right into value proposition, customer discovery and market sizing.”

This year’s research teams include one scientific advisor who has already won a prestigious ARPA-E award. Cohort 2016 also encompasses a few universities that have previously not participated in the program before, such as Clarkson University, University at Buffalo and Alfred State College.

“We received applications from almost every major research university in the state,” said NEXUS-NY Founding Executive Director Doug Buerkle. “The quality of talent is outstanding, and you’ll see many participants in Cohort 3 representing universities new to the program.”

Each of these research teams join the NEXUS-NY program with a technical lead and entrepreneurial lead. Here’s a recap of the top researchers from across New York.

Ducted Wind Turbine – Clarkson University

Optimized ducted wind turbine that uses a slotted duct system to augment the wind flow, increasing the efficiency of the turbine rotor.

Ken Visser, Clarkson UniversityTechnical Lead: Ken Visser, Associate Professor of Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering and Director of the Center of Sustainable Energy Systems at Clarkson University. He completed his PhD at the University of Notre Dame. Following a research appointment at NASA Langley, he worked at the Boeing Aircraft Company, involved in development and design aspects of two aircrafts: the High Speed Civil Transport and the 767-400ER. Other activities include helping in the design of the America’s Cup Team 2000, AmericaOne and working with Fairchild Dornier Aircraft Germany. Visser currenting teaches senior aircraft design and performance courses at Clarkson, and is the AIAA faculty student advisor. His research interests are primarily experimental, focusing on applied aerodynamics and renewable energy concepts, including wind turbine design optimization, drag reduction of ground vehicles and design methodologies for aircraft wing tips.  

EntrepreAmelia Brown, Clarkson University (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)neurial Lead: Amelia Brown, MBA ‘16 candidate at Clarkson University. Focused on international studies, and having traveled to places such as Northern Ireland and Southern Sudan, Brown is now committed to impacting the world with change. She is also the Fundraising Chair for the Graduate Business Association at Clarkson, and was recently awarded the Ryan Larsen Memorial Prize. This award represents Brown’s philosophical curiosity, creativity, compassion and spiritual inquiry.

Hydrogen Producing Nanomaterials – University at Buffalo

Water-reacted and organic nanomaterials that can split water and produce hydrogen from mobile electricity generation using fuel cells.

Parham Rohani, University at Buffalo (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)Technical Lead: Parham Rohani, Chemical and Biological Engineering PhD candidate at University at Buffalo. Rohani’s research focuses on synthesis and application of nanoparticles prepared via a laser-induced pyrolysis of gas mixtures. The prepared and post-processed nanoparticles can be used in various applications, including on-demand hydrogen generation from water, which he will explore further as part of NEXUS-NY. Rohani has also worked at Mark Swihart’s Colloidal and Aerosol Nanomaterials Laboratory (CANlab) since 2012, and has three published works.

Naeim Khanjani, University at Buffalo(NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)Entrepreneurial Lead: Naeim Khanjani, MBA ‘17 candidate of the University at Buffalo.   Khanjani’s mission is to influence the world in an encouraging and insightful way. He has already received an Academic Excellence in Research award for “The New Way of Transactions in the Future, Research in New Digital Currencies (BitCoin).” Khanjani is also involved in LeaderCORE, a two-year leadership development program to enhance core management competencies, and he’s an Associate at WealthCFO Payroll and Work Force Management in Buffalo. In 2016, Khnajani received the Entrepreneurship Fellowship Award from the University at Buffalo School of Management.

Economic and Anaerobic Digestion

Increase the biogas generation and organic loading base of anaerobic digesters while simultaneously producing high value end products.

Fred Agyeman, SUNY ESFTechnical Lead: Fred Agyeman, Graduate of the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF) with a degree in Environmental Resource Engineering and MPS Environmental Management. Agyeman is a USA EPA P3 award winner and SUNY-ESF Graduate Assistant. His published works include research on anaerobic co-digestion of food waste, which he will continue to develop in the 10 months with NEXUS-NY.

Michael Amadori, Full Circle Feed (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)Entrepreneurial Lead: Michael Amadori, MS in Ecological Engineering from SUNY-ESF. As the Founder and CEO of Full Circle Feed, Amadori’s entrepreneurial efforts involve sustainably produced dog treats that result in happy dogs and a cleaner planet. By recycling unused food from restaurant buffets before it goes to a landfill, Full Circle Feed prevents the release of methane – a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. The process also reduces the environmental impact in treat production by reusing the already prepared food instead of having to grow, harvest, produce and transport new ingredients.

Membrane Heat Pumps – SUNY Alfred State

Membrane heat pump technology that provides latent and sensible cooling in a single device and without hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants.

Jon Owejan, Alfred State (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)

Technical Lead: Jon P. Owejan, Assistant Professor of Mechanical and Electrical Engineering Technology at SUNY Alfred State. Owejan is a former employee of the General Motors Electrochemical Energy Research Laboratory. He has served as principal investigator for energy research projects sponsored by the US Department of Energy and National Institute of Standards and Technology. In addition to these accomplishments, Owejan has published over 40 papers and holds 29 patents related to novel energy systems. He is also the founder of the Energy Storage Conversion (ESC) lab at Alfred State where his research is focused on energy conversion devices, including membrane heat pumps.

Steven Wood (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)Entrepreneurial Lead: Steven Wood, Assistant Director of Innovative Services at SUNY RF. In addition to his work with the Research Foundation for SUNY where he provides services to 23 SUNY agriculture, technology and comprehensive campuses, Wood is a Startup Business Consultant and Intellectual Property Attorney. He is also the Co-Founder, and IP Consultant for trakkies, a Netherland-based startup connecting people, places and objects with intelligent systems. He holds an Advanced LL.M in Air and Space Law from the Leiden University Law School, and has received several awards, including the Brookhaven National Laboratory Spotlight Award.

Microbial Fuel Cells – Ǝnergy SP

Ǝnergy SP has invented a novel class 4th generation Microbial Fuel Cells (MFCs) that are compartment-free. These MFCs are completely scalable, require no interphase membranes or catalysts and can be made at significantly lower cost than the current state-of-the-art 3rd generation MFCs.

Jose LozanoTechnical Lead: Jose Lozano, Ph.D. in Biology and Ecological Physiology from Cornell University, a former Scientist at the Boyce Thompson Institute, and currently is Lab Director at Ithaca Area Wastewater Treatment Facility. Lozano has over 20 years of experience, and more than 10 industry publications, including an impact study on Effluent and Lake Phosphorus Results, supporting the significant and positive effect on both the performance of the wastewater plant and on the water quality of southern Cayuga Lake. He has recently received an additional award from the Water Resources Institute to expand a pilot study on environmental threats to Ithaca’s wastewater treatment system. Lozano is in the process of commercializing his Microbial Fuel Cells with Co-Founder Adrian Cosma, in NEXUS-NY’s Cohort 3.

Adrian Cosma, Simon Business School (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)

Entrepreneurial Lead: Adrian Cosma, has an MBA from the Simon Business School at the University of Rochester. He has more than 8 yrs. of business experience including 5 yrs. on Wall Street, and currently is the Director of Corporate Relations at Simon Business School. He is responsible for developing new, and maintaining existing relationships with alumni and multinational corporations. Cosma was involved in a prior successful start-up and recently he helped co-found the New York Medical Angels (NYMA), an Upstate New York seed stage investor group for life science and healthcare startups.

Indoor Modular Climate Control – Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Modular Indoor Micro-Climate Control (MIMiC) Technology is novel modular and scalable building panel systems that delivers localized, switchable, on demand radiant heating or cooling where and when needed. This results in significant energy savings, a healthier indoor environment and increased occupant comfort.

Theodorian Borca-Tasciuc, RPI (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)Technical Lead: Theodorian Borca-Tasciuc, Professor and Associate Head for Graduate Studies of the Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering (MANE) Department at RPI.  Dr. Borca-Tasciuc holds a PhD in Mechanical Engineering from UCLA. He received the NSF CAREER award (2004), and is an associate editor for the Journal of Nanomaterials. Borca-Tasciuc is also a member of the ASME’s K8 committee on Fundamentals of Heat Transfer and K9 committee on Nanoscale Thermal Transport.

Berardo Matalucci, RPI (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)Entrepreneurial Lead: Berardo Matalucci, PhD student, Center of Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) at RPI. Matalucci specializes in user-driven design strategy for the development of next-generation building technologies. He was awarded Europe 40 UNDER 40 2012 Emerging Young Architects and Designers. Prior to joining CASE, he worked in Europe and the United States, and he co-founded ‘echomaterico‘, an internationally awarded collective for design and architecture.

Efficient Photobioreactor for Algae-Based Fuel & Semiconductor Nanomaterials for Capturing Conversion – Cornell University

New for 2016, NEXUS-NY is piloting a way for university researchers to test the commercial potential of their research without fully participating in the program’s rigorous process. Instead, the selected researchers will spend 1-2 hours per week providing scientific advisory support to entrepreneurs recruited by NEXUS-NY. The first year pilot resulted in a combined team, which is looking at two technologies from Cornell University separately and in combination.

The first technology is high-density photobioreactor which optimizes light and Co2 delivery for efficient generation of algae. This technology delivers sunlight efficiently through low-cost, plastic, light-guiding sheets to increase efficiency and decrease water use compared to conventional algae reactors.

The second involves a hybrid organic/inorganic nanofluid with the combined capabilities of CO2 capture and photocatalytic CO2 reduction.

David Erickson, Cornell UniversityScientific Advisor: David Erickson, Associate Professor in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University. His research focuses on mobile and global health technology, microfluidics, photonics and nanotechnology. Erickson’s research has been funded by grants from NSF, NIH, ARPA-E, ONR, DOE and DARPA. He has also co-founded 3 companies commercializing smartphone enabled medical diagnostics, global health technologies and high-throughput nanoparticle analysis instrumentation. Among his several awards, in 2011 Erickson received the Early Career Award for Scientist and Engineers (PECASE) by President Obama. He holds a Phd from the University of Toronto.

Tobias Hanrath, Cornell UniversityScientific Advisor: Tobias Hanrath, Associate Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineer at Cornell University. Hanrath received a PhD from the University of Texas at Austin, and has served as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow for MIT, TU Eindhoven and The Netherlands. His research interests include the fundamental study of optoelectronic properties of semiconductor nanocrystals. Hanrath has also received several awards including the Ben Streetman Prize for Outstanding Research in Electronics and the Faculty Early Career Development Award by the National Science Foundation.

Jason SalfiEntrepreneurial Lead: Jason Salfi, Business Development Executive at McDonough Innovation. Salfi was the founder and prior owner of Comets Skateboards, and an Entrepreneur in Residence for NYSERDA and High Tech Rochester. He holds two BS degrees from Cornell University in Natural Resource Management for Biology and Policy.

Clayton PoppeEntrepreneurial Lead: Clayton Poppe, Chief Technology Officer and VP of Engineering at e2e Materials. Poppe is an engineering and technical management professional specializing in new technology development and production scale-up. He received an SM in Engineering Systems and an MBA from MIT. Poppe’s also holds two patents in the areas of composite panels and biodegradable resin composites

Graphene Lithium Ion Batteries – Rochester Institute of Technology

Technology incorporates carbon nanotubes and lithium ion batteries to improve their performance.

Raffaelle Ryne, RIT (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)Technical Lead: Ryne Raffaelle, VP Research and Associate Provost, Professor at RIT. Dr. Rafaelle holds a PhD in physics from the University of Missouri-Rolla, and he’s the Managing Editor of Progress in Photovoltaics. With more than 20 years of experience, Raffaelle is the former Director of National Center for Photovoltaics in the U.S Department of Energy’s (DOE) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the Academic Director for the Golisano Institute for Sustainability and Director of the NanoPower Research Laboratory at RIT in New York. He has authored or co-authored more than 100 refereed publications and books.

Brad Sparks, RIT (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)Entrepreneurial Lead: Brad Sparks, Entrepreneur in Residence at RIT. Sparks leads business activities to determine new technology commercial viability for Venture Creations, RIT’s new business incubator. He is also the President of Sparks Consulting, a business and personal financial strategy consulting service. Prior to this, Sparks worked for Delphi and General Motors. He holds an MBA in General Management from the Harvard Business School. This is the third time Sparks has participated in the NEXUS-NY program.

Learning Center Controls – Binghamton University

Robust autonomous learning solutions that improve energy efficiency and effective operations in systems within highly complex, uncertain and dynamic environments. In Smart Energy domains such systems include: smart grids, smart buildings, wind turbine control systems, and combined heat and power control systems.

Robert Wright, Binghamton University (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)

Technical Lead: Robert Wright, Computer Scientist, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL). Wright is the co-lead for Autonomy Community of Interest, Machine Perception Reasoning and Intelligence technical challenge area. In this role he provides analysis for the Office of the Secretary of Defense for the DOD’s portfolio in Autonomy investments. He is also an in-house Research Scientist for AFRL, responsible for initiating and executing several research efforts in machine learning, artificial intelligence and autonomous systems. He holds a PhD in Computer Science from Binghamton University, and has published more than a dozen works.

Lei Yu, Binghamton University (NEXUS-NY Cohort 3)Entrepreneurial Lead: Lei Yu, Associate Professor, Department of Computer Science, Thomas J. Watson School of Engineering and Applied Science at Binghamton University. Yu received a PhD in Computer Science from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Arizona State University. His research interests include data mining, machine learning and bioinformatics. Yu’s research publications have been cited by other researchers more than 4,000 times. He has served on the program committees of a number of leading conferences in machine learning and data mining.

Funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and administered by High Tech Rochester, each of these research teams will now work with NEXUS-NY staff and mentors to accelerate the commercialization of their early-stage, clean-energy technologies.

Sign up for NEXUS-NY newsletters to receive updates on their progress throughout the year, including invitations to Demo Days in New York City and Rochester, NY.

ChromaNanoTech Receives National Science Foundation Grant

In 2015 several university researchers and pre-revenue companies worked diligently with NEXUS-NY to accelerate the commercialization of their early-stage, clean-energy technologies. Now with the educational, financial and business support of the NEXUS-NY clean energy seed accelerator, six research teams have completed cohort 2, including Binghamton-based ChromaNanoTech.

ChromaNanoTech is one of the most promising clean energy startups in New York. In 2016, ChromaNanoTech was awarded a competitive SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation. Over 6 months ChromaNanoTech will receive $150,000 for research and development. The funding will be used to refine manufacturing capabilities for their passive solar window treatment applications.

For more details on this company, please enjoy the latest edition of the NEXUS-NY New Energy Magazine.

ChromaNanoTechCompany: ChromaNanoTech


Description: ChromaNanoTech has developed highly thermally stable optical nanomaterials, which are synthesized using commercially available dyes. The resulting materials can be made into masterbatch pellets and used for a variety of applications, including within window films. Window films produced using Chroma NanoTech’s materials are compatible with standard industry “hard coat” processes, providing the added benefit of passive solar protection. Most importantly, these films block IR and UV wavelengths, thereby limiting unwanted heat from passing through windows. Having recently received the first shipment of their own master batch pellets, ChromaNanoTech has now begun initiating testing and characterization of these materials for passive solar applications.

Location: Binghamton University’s Center for Excellence Building, Binghamton, NY

Achievements: Together with Crystal-Lyn Chemical Company, Binghamton University licensed nanotechnology to ChromaNanoTech in September, 2015. This intellectual property partnership marks the first of its kind at BU. In November 2015, ChromaNanoTech also received the 2015 Technology Innovation Entrepreneurship of the Year award, sponsored by Binghamton University, S31p (Small Scale System Packaging and Integration) Center and NYSTAR. The award included a citation from the New York State Assembly endorsed by representative Donna Lupardo. In January 2016, ChromaNanoTech received a National Science Foundation Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) awards grant for $150,000.

ChromaNanoTech | Bill Bernier & Kenneth SorenkoFounding Team: William Bernier, PhD (CEO); Wayne Jones, PhD (Cofounder); Kenneth Skorenko, PhD (CTO)

“Our optical nanomaterials can be selectively tuned to protect against ultraviolet light which causes fading of fixtures and furnishings, as well as protect against infrared light which can generate heat within a dwelling,” said ChromaNanoTech CTO Kenneth Skorenko. “This heats your space nicely in the winter and lessens your cooling expenses during the summer months.”

NEXUS-NY Research: As part of the NEXUS-NY program, ChromaNanoTech went from conducting product research based on the needs of 100 prospective customers, to creating a minimally viable prototype, developing a network of contacts and scaling its manufacturing for production.

Next Steps: In addition to passive solar, ChromaNanoTech is excited to explore new product lines in the near future, one of which being laser shield applications for the medical and industrial industries. Optical nanomaterials can also be applied to display technology to create green solutions for Plasma and LCD screens found in home appliances, TVs, computers, billboards and smart devices.

Contact: 607.239.9626 |

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.

AMBIS Produces First High Fidelity Prototype Panel

NEXUS-NY accelerates the commercialization of New York’s early-stage, clean energy technologies of university researchers and pre-revenue companies by providing educational, financial and business support. Throughout the NEXUS-NY program, the AMBIS team was able to develop a cost-efficient way to cool buildings by upcycling the world’s most underutilized material resources. Take a closer look at AMBIS’ breakthrough technology in the latest edition of NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Magazine.

AMBIS | NEXUS-NY Cohort 2Company: AMBIS (Agricultural by-product Modular Building Integrated Systems)


Description:  AMBIS developing building panels from up-cycled agricultural waste targeting varying problems with increasing complexity. Most simply, AMBIS will manufacture “green” building panels without toxic resins. At the next level, AMBIS will add acoustic dampening features to its panels. At the highest level of integration, AMBIS will deliver custom systems incorporating panels with sorption capabilities with integrated sensors that will promote optimal air flow. These components will be integrated along with traditional building environmental control systems in order to minimize HVAC loads. 

Location: Center for Architecture Science and Ecology (CASE) at RPI in Troy, NY

AMBIS Produces First Panel PrototypeAchievement: AMBIS has produced their first high fidelity prototype panel in partnership with e2e Materials and Ecovative. These early prototypes have lead to what AMBIS hopes to be their first product: acoustic ceiling sorption panels that use a coconut fiber mat for the middle layer. AMBIS is now working with CASE and NEXUS-NY as customers. In partnership with CASE and Rensselaer School of Architecture, AMBIS also won the Rotch Travel Architecture grant to install their panels in a demonstration project in Ghana in August 2016!

Founding Team: Mae-ling Lokko (Founder, Director); Josh Draper (Technical Lead).

“Customers won’t just buy our panels from Home Depot. We’ll help determine their needs, and show them how to integrate these panels effectively,” said AMBIS founder Mae-ling Lokko. “We sell materials, we integrate them into buildings, and we provide long-term environmental monitoring. It’s these three pillars that make up what we do at AMBIS.”

NEXUS-NY Research: With a goal to determine their distinct value proposition of their product, the market research and customer discovery AMBIS performed as part of NEXUS-NY enabled the team to switch from concentrating on coconuts to use what is regionally available, like corn, flax and hemp.

Next Steps: AMBIS hopes to launch in mid 2016. In the interim, the team will secure their intellectual property with a systems patent, as well as continue to build newer and larger panels before testing their sensors at room scale, and developing an app that will deliver critical data from the sensors. AMBIS is also in the process of raising seed funds.

Contact: 917.941.1682 |

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.

Photo Gallery: Upstate New York Clean Energy Event

The Upstate New York Clean Energy Event celebrated the most promising clean energy companies in New York. The graduating class of NEXUS-NY cohort 2 shared updates on the progresses made after undergoing the NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Seed Accelerator, while world renowned keynote speaker, Dr. Brian Greene, spoke about innovation, exploration and discovery. The event also included a special book signing with Professor Greene, tours of the beautiful George Eastman Museum and a cocktail reception for all whom attended. Here is a photo gallery of the Upstate New York Clean Energy Event and NEXUS-NY Demo Day.

PEMtek is the Future of Fuel Cells

NEXUS-NY, a clean energy accelerator, provides educational, financial and business support for university researchers and early-stage companies across New York state. Administered by High Tech Rochester, NEXUS-NY is one of three NYSERDA-funded proof-of-concept centered chartered with accelerating the translation of clean-energy technologies from New York’s research labs into the marketplace. Throughout the NEXUS-NY program, PEMtek was able to solve a market problem for mid-size UAV power systems by designing and building a fully integrated fuel cell system that is three times more quiet than an internal combustion engine (ICE). Learn more about PEMtek’s unique fuel cell power plan for mid-size unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s).

PEMtek | NEXUS-NY Cohort 2

Company: PEMtek

Twitter: @FC_Rochester

Description: PEMtek Is developing a compact, mobile high-temperature PEM fuel cell with integrated reformer and which can be optimized to operate using a variety of liquid fuels. PEMtek is initially targeting the midsize UAV market with its highly integrated fuel cell. This market is desperately seeking power systems with longer range, lower noise, and which can operate using various logistics grade fuels (propane, diesel, and JP8).

Location: Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY

Achievement: Alpha Bench Prototype is now assembled and undergoing testing.

Founding Team: Mark Walluk, Brad Sparks, Mike Waller and Mike McCourt

NEXUS-NY Research: As part of the NEXUS-NY program, PEMtek went from a laboratory concept to testing an alpha prototype. The team focused on customer development, interviewing over 50 potential customers and partners.

Next Steps: PEMtek will transfer the technology from a mobile lab prototype to a compact product ready for installation on UAVs. In 2016, the team plans to integrate a compact system based on current CAD design and functioning prototype. By 2017, PEMtek will deploy their first flight onboard UAV with a collaborating UAV manufacturer.

Innovative Xallent Testing Solutions for Semiconductors, Thin Films

NEXUS-NY is a clean energy accelerator that provides educational, financial and business support for university researchers and early stage companies across New York state. Xallent was part of NEXUS-NY Cohort 2. Xallent is now underway with the final stages of testing on their commercial platform for thin-films. You can also read more about their technology and team in the latest edition of NEXUS-NY Energy Magazine.

NEXUS-NY Research Team | Xallent | Cohort 2

Company: Xallent


Description: Xallent is developing nano-machine based testing platforms to analyze mechanical and electrical characteristics of advanced semiconductor devices and thin films.  Its innovative multiple integrated tip technology scales down to single nanometers, enabling continued miniaturization across a range of industries.  Micro and nano-scale tests on Xallent’s platforms are simpler, faster and much more cost effective than using conventional test systems.

Location: 95 Brown Rd, M/S 1035, Ithaca, NY

Achievement: Xallent has received funding support from the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and NEXUS-NY to fast-track its commercialization activities. In order to establish market adoption and validation of their products, Xallent has established collaboration with a major semiconductor foundry.

Founding Team: Kwame Amponsah, PhD (Founder); Ashish Kumar, PhD (Commercial Advisor) and Amit Lal, PhD (Technical Advisor).

“We are developing testing platforms that allow researchers to probe semiconductor devices and thin films at ever smaller scales,” said Amponsah. “Our products enable engineers to analyze materials much more quickly and at a fraction of the cost of conventional instruments.”

NEXUS-NY Research: Throughout the NEXUS-NY program, Xallent has been working with customers to refine an understanding of their needs, build prototypes and launch beta testing.

Next Steps: The company is now in the final stages of testing of their first commercial platform for thin-films, while scaling down their semiconductor probes that approach the IBM 7nm breakthrough.

Contact: 607.262.0515 |


Since kicking off in January, our 2015 Cohort—which consists of 9 Business Discovery Teams—has worked hard to bridge the gap from technology to commercialization. On April 9th, 2015 each team presented their findings.

These presentations were unlike typical investor pitches; rather, teams gave progress updates, highlighting what each team had discovered and accomplished within Phase One of the NEXUS-NY program.

At stake was a spot in Phase Two, which allows teams to de-risk their technology by building prototypes while continuing to engage customers and to 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.

After the presentations, attendees, mentors and team presenters enjoyed lunch and an hour of networking.  

Here’s a few shots of the event, hosted at Woodcliff Hotel and Spa: