Funding the Clean Energy Revolution
6 NEXUS-NY Clean Energy Companies are seeing GREEN
NEXUS-NY is a proof-of-concept center chartered with accelerating the transition of clean energy technologies from New York’s research labs into the marketplace with educational, business and financial support.
“NEXUS-NY is focused on connecting our companies with available capital to help bring breakthrough clean energy technology to market,” said Doug Buerkle, Executive Director of NEXUS-NY. “Providing new and more diverse approaches to innovative funding sources is one of our top priorities.”
Since 2014, NEXUS-NY has assisted dozens of early-stage companies across New York. Among our graduates, several have raised nearly $35 million in follow-on funding. Here’s a look at some of the teams and their stellar wins:
Shell GameChanger – From Proof-of-Concept to Rapid Worldwide Deployment
Shell GameChanger is a global, proof-of-concept program that helps businesses with quick and cost-efficient ways to show the technical and commercial viability of their novel ideas, and how they can drastically impact our future.
“We’re looking for the next billion dollar companies, and for this to happen we need to focus on revolutionary ideas,” said GameChanger James Unterreiner. “Right now, there are a lot of clean energy ideas coming out of New York,” he added.
This highly competitive program selects the best of the best, including Kite Power Systems, Brent Sonar Sphere and NEXUS-NY 2016 graduate Dimensional Energy.
Dimensional Energy is an engineering-technology company driven by a vision of a sustainable energy future modeled on nature’s ability to recycle waste into valuable resources. This Cornell researched-derived startup has created an artificial photosynthesis process that converts waste carbon dioxide from power plant emissions into useful fuels and feedstocks of higher values. The company recently received a contract from the Shell GameChanger program. In 2017, Dimensional Energy was also awarded an NSF Phase 1 SBIR for $225K.
“Closing the loop on our carbon cycle means reducing energy demand, saving money, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and creating new economic opportunities along the way,” said Jason Salfi, CEO of Dimensional Energy. “As a result of NEXUS-NY, we have raised over $1MM with lots of good stuff coming down the pipeline.”
NYSERDA ACE – Advancing Clean Energy Research
Advanced Clean Energy (ACE) Exploratory Research Funding supports inspired, innovative, and disruptive thinking about technologies and business models that will transform New York State’s energy landscape. This ongoing funding opportunity is part of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) historic commitment to clean energy projects. NYSERDA has been advancing energy solutions and working to protect the environment since 1975. NYSERDA ACE funding helps provide the foundation NYS clean energy startups need to grow and develop.
NEXUS-NY 2016 graduate Ecolectro received a $455,000 grant under the NYSERDA ACE PON. Ecolectro creates ultra-stable alkaline membranes, which are used in a range of applications, including electrolysis and fuel cell systems that improve performance and drastically decrease costs.
“Ecolectro remains busy making materials and doing evaluation work with customers, as well as reaching out to more clients,” said Dr. Gabriel G. Rodriguez-Calero, CEO of Ecolectro. “This process involves talking to clients and finding more potential synergy with system integrators that can use Ecolectro’s materials in their devices.”
Ecolectro has also received a NSF SBIR grant totaling $225,000, as well as an award from the Grants for Growth initiative.
NSF SBIR – American’s Seed Fund
The National Science Foundation’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program – also known as America’s Seed Fund powered by NSF – provides small businesses with equity-free funding to conduct research and development work. The funding is intended to allow recipients to bring innovative new products and services to market that drive the commercial success of the small business. The NSF SBIR program seeks innovative proposals that show promise of commercial and social impact. The program focuses on high-risk, high-impact technologies with the goal of fostering innovation and helping to create businesses and jobs in the United States.
NEXUS-NY 2017 graduate, Sunny Clean Water, received a $225,000 NSF SBIR Phase I grant. The company was derived from research out of the University at Buffalo, which innovates solar technology that harnesses the power of the sun during water purification. “Sunny Clean Water’s solar-powered water purification device is posed to deliver an infinite amount of potential,” said UB professor of electrical engineer and Sunny Clean Water Cofounder, Qiaopiang Gan. “We can increase the speed of evaporation, and decrease the associated energy costs to relieve shortages in drinking water in developing areas and regions affected by natural disasters.”
“The NSF SBIR award is important for us since it helps us to better understand the market needs and refine our product R&D to meet customers’ needs,” added Dr. Haomin Song, CTO of Sunny Clean Water. “Based on the feedback from the customer discovery, we are going to use the funding to accelerate the development of our solar water still prototype and test its water purification capability in selected regions to demonstrate its potential to address the global water scarcity.”
Luminate – The World’s Largest Startup Accelerator for Optics, Imaging and Photonics
Luminate is a new startup accelerator focused on advancing next generation optics, photonics, and imaging enabled companies. Launched in 2017, the program seeks visionary entrepreneurs who are solving difficult problems in augmented and virtual reality, autonomous vehicles, machine vision, biophotonics and other fields. Luminate is a program of NextCorps, and funded by New York State.
“Fueled by its legacy of Eastman Kodak, Bausch+Lomb and others, Rochester has been recognized as the optics and photonics capital of the world for decades,” said Sujatha Ramanujan, Managing Director of Luminate. “Luminate will now harness this rich infrastructure, making Rochester the prime location to help these companies achieve bright futures.”
NEXUS-NY 2015 graduate, Molecular Glasses, was among the ten companies chosen to participate in the inaugural Luminate accelerator. Selected from over 100 applicants from around the world, Molecular Glasses received a $100,000 investment to help commercialize its organic semiconductor technology. The company focuses on proprietary NONcrystallizable™ molecular glasses for stable and long-lived OLED and other organic electronics, such as displays for smartphone and flatscreen TVs.
“Being part of Luminate will only accelerate our push towards commercialization,” said Mike Molaire, CEO and Founder of Molecular Glasses. “In 2015, the NEXUS-NY program similarly accelerated our customer discovery process.”
In 2017, Molecular Glasses was selected as one of only five companies in NYS to receive funding to spur M/WBE innovation, entrepreneurship and job creation with the assistance of local venture capital firm, Excell Partners. The company also received $400,000 from NYSERDA ACE. This summer, Molecular Glasses will compete for $2 million in additional funding as part of the Luminate accelerator.
Angel Investments & Venture Capital – Backing Emerging Technologies
While cleantech angel investments and venture capital has seen a decline in recent years, there are some investors who believe in helping to deliver the next generation of reliable and affordable clean energy technologies with the potential to change the world. SelfArray, a NEXUS-NY 2017 graduate, recently attracted such attention from Excell Partners, HighTech Rochester and several alumni investors from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) totaling nearly $300,000 in seed funding. SelfArray also received a $750,000 Phase 2 SBIR grant.
“Excell was attracted to SelfArray’s ingenious use of diamagnetic levitation to replace an otherwise laborious and expensive process for LED assembly,” said Theresa Mazzullo, CEO of Excell Partners, Inc. “In addition, Dr. Ballinger’s presentation was effective in demonstrating the distinct advantages to his technology in a rapidly growing market.”
SelfArray is enabling the direct view LED display market through the development of Directed Self-Assembly (DSA) using diamagnetic levitation. This leads to lightning fast assembly of millions of LEDs into an array. LED dies with a thin layer of pyrolytic graphite are deposited on the vibrating magnetic stage where they quickly orient themselves with the magnetic field. Once oriented, the LEDs can be transferred to the final PCB for bonding in a massively parallel fashion.
“Grant money from the NSF helped us reduce the technology risk of this breakthrough, which has made us more attractive to investors,” said Dr. Clint Ballinger, SelfArray’s CEO. “With this new seed funding, we’ll be able essentially come out of stealth mode, and concentrate on partnering with industrial leaders to help us accelerate development.”
SelfArray executives are also considering taking on more investment before closing the round.
FuzeHub – Igniting Growth in NYS Manufacturing
FuzeHub is an organization responsible for assisting small to medium-sized manufacturing companies (SMEs) in New York State. Last year, the nonprofit conducted its first ever Commercialization Competition, awarding five companies throughout New York with $50,000 each for their innovative ideas.
NEXUS-NY 2016 graduate, NanoHydroChem, was one of the companies selected after pitching live to a panel from judges. NanoHydroChem has developed a novel, proprietary nanomaterial capable of generating hydrogen gas from water, on demand and at room temperature.
“The byproduct of energy conversion from hydrogen is water, making fuel cell a green and environmentally sustainable technology,” said UB CBE PhD Parham Rohani, Co-founder of NanoHydroChem. “Our technology can service several potential markets including electric drones and backup power generators.”
In 2017, NanoHydroChem also won the Henry A. Panasci Jr Technology Entrepreneurship Competition.
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