Tag: NEXUS-NY Cohort 3

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

Website: ductedturbinesinternational.com

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 | kvisser@clarkson.edu

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

Website: phaseinnovations.com

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 | jowejan@phaseinnovations.com

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.

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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.

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.”

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.

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.