Mars Materials – Places captured CO2 into plastics and carbon fibers by converting waste CO2 into acrylonitrile and drastically improving the resource intensive acrylonitrile production process used to create electronics, clothes, and carpets (Oakland, CA).
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Author – Mike Riedlinger
Bringing new products to market at scale that help solve energy problems and reduce greenhouse gas emissions is an urgent challenge that will create huge opportunities for savvy hardware entrepreneurs. In New York State, there are scores of grants and financial incentives available for the creation and adoption of products that help achieve the goals of the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act—one of the boldest initiatives in the world. Nationally, we are at the cusp of billions in funding programs that address the many issues of climate change.
Capitalizing on innovative products for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in transportation, buildings, industry, and agriculture requires connecting inventors and engineers with the rich manufacturing assets we have in New York State.
This is a key focus in the Scale For ClimateTech program. One of the hurdles that we have discovered from working with hardware startups and dozens of contract manufacturers over the past three years is that startup founders and contract manufacturers have different understandings of what “engineering” means and what needs to be done to successfully mass produce products.
Your definition of “engineering” isn’t always the same definition for manufacturers.
There are more than 1,500 manufacturers in the Greater Rochester, NY region. Many of these have high-precision machining capabilities for producing high-tech products like those needed for a greener future. But very few contract manufacturers open their doors to work with startups, primarily because most first-time hardware entrepreneurs have the mistaken view that all of the “engineering” work was done by them when they made their prototype product and there is little value for “engineering” services from a contract manufacturer.
It’s true that startup founders invest a lot of time and money to design and build their product to be sure the underlying technology works the way they believe it should. But that’s “engineering” to meet the inventor’s requirements, and only about 10% of the effort that’s needed to get to a mass-produced product. The other 90% represents knowledge gaps that often exist when moving from prototype to mass production. Bridging these gaps is a big lift for almost all contract manufacturers that do take the time to work with a first-time hardware entrepreneur.
Designing for manufacturing and your customer
Prototypes need to be intentionally engineered to be manufactured and assembled as new products, which is known as “design for manufacturing and assembly.” Consideration also needs to be given to “design for service” if there are parts that wear in use and need to be frequently replaced, along with and “design for sustainability” to embrace the full life-cycle of a product. Contract manufacturers have big investments in their workforce training and specialized equipment. Engineering needs to make the best use of those so that finished products can be made with consistent quality and at costs that suit market needs. This level of “engineering” needs to be done by the contract manufacturing firm working with the startup to meet customer and market requirements.
Understanding customer requirements and solving their pressing problems with an innovative product that people will pay for is what drives all of this activity. Contract manufacturers are actually as interested in knowing about the market opportunity for new hardware products as they are in seeing dimensioned drawings with critical tolerances and working prototypes. Market and product requirement documents help them design for manufacturing and assembly, and enable startups to bring new products to market at scale.
Advance Your MRL and Access Support
If you’re working on a hardware product that addresses climate and energy related problems, we encourage you to learn more about manufacturing and how to advance your manufacturing readiness level (MRL). In the months ahead there will be more materials and tools available through Scale For ClimateTech. You can also connect with us and reach out to the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) network, including our MEP Growth Services group within NextCorps. If you’d like more information on our region’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem, you can get started here.
Ms. Carroll A. Thomas is the former Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP). The MEP National Network helps U.S. manufacturers across the country compete globally by accessing new technology and strengthening supply chains. Ms. Thomas has also served as the Associate Administrator of the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) for the U.S. Small Business Administration. In addition to recently joining the For Climate Tech board, she also serves on the Boards of the Information Technology Innovation Foundation bipartisan thinktank , the Manufacturing USA MxD digital manufacturing institute and the State Department Federal Credit Union. With more than 30 years of entrepreneurial and small business development experience, Thomas’s accomplished public and private sector career demonstrates her leadership expertise as a catalyst for creating effective partnerships and advocating economic development by supporting dynamic innovation ecosystems. Ms. Thomas has a Bachelor of Science degree from Drexel University’s Nesbitt College of Design and a Master of Business Administration from John Hopkins’ Carey School of Business.
For ClimateTech’s monthly newsletter highlighting emerging innovations, company spotlights, and commentary from experts in the climate tech community.
Congratulations to the following Scale For ClimateTech cohort companies selected to present at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) Industry Growth Forum
A total of 40 investor-selected climate tech companies will pitch to compete for the Outstanding Venture Award. Judged live by a panel of investors, the overall top scoring company will receive the Best Venture Award.
Competition Category: Early Stage
Combined Energies is focused on the design, manufacturing, and sales of specialty power electronics for renewable power generation, energy storage, and electric vehicle markets. Initially designed for fuel cell applications, its patented 10kW DC-to-DC Converter designs provide improved functionality, higher efficiency, smaller footprint, and lower cost than available alternatives.
Competition Category: Emerging Market
Electro-Active Technologies Inc. is developing a modular system to convert food waste and renewable electricity into affordable, renewable hydrogen. The system can be deployed onsite or in a decentralized fashion as a local, urban solution. This will enable companies and communities to reinvest their waste for added value and improved sustainability.
Power to Hydrogen
Competition Category: Early Stage
Power to Hydrogen is commercializing Clean Energy Bridge (CEB), an advanced reversible fuel cell technology that dramatically reduces the cost of green hydrogen and energy storage.
Competition Category: Commercial Stage
Opus 12’s device converts CO2 into valuable chemicals and fuels that are cost competitive with conventional products. It bolts onto any source of CO2, and uses only water and electricity as inputs.
See NREL’s full release here.
Actasys Successfully Demonstrates ActaJet Technology for Next-Gen Electric Vehicles
Actasys has announced it has successfully demonstrated its ActaJet technology as a Smart Temperature Management (STM) system for future Electric Vehicle (EV) battery pack cooling. As the size of battery packs for EVs increase, keeping them cool will ensure safety and allow for faster charging.
Actasys worked with ALGOLiON Ltd., which provided its market-leading diagnostic software for detection of critical cell conditions to trigger ActaJet for adaptive spot cooling. The testing was performed at DNV GL’s Best Test and Commercialization Center (BTCC) in Rochester, NY.
Read their full announcement here
Dynamo Energy Hub Spotlights WexEnergy
Watch the full interview to hear about Rachel’s New York roots and how her experience as a developer and property manager lead to WindowSkins.
Watch the full interview here.
Zinc8 Energy Solutions Featured in The POWER
In the most recent POWER issue, Ron MacDonald, president and CEO of Zinc8 Energy Solutions, highlighted the benefits and current implications of zinc batteries.
Hear about where Zinc8 Energy Solutions is being implemented and how Zinc batteries will help decarbonize the electric grid.
Suma Reddy Launches Agricultural Robotics Company, Future Acres
Future Acres has officially launched! Suma Reddy, current advisory board member of Scale For ClimateTech and former M-Corps cohort member, is CEO of Future Acres, an agricultural robotics company creating farm tools for the toughest chores, starting with Carry, an autonomous harvest companion that increases farm production efficiency and farmworker safety. The company officially launched a $3M equity crowdfunding campaign on SeedInvest in late Feb 2021, and to-date, has over $600,000 in reservations.
Actasys, commercializing a unique sensor cleaning technology for the automotive and transportation industries is seeking:
TZOA, is an emerging Vancouver-based startup using IoT air quality monitors and solutions to improve in home air quality, is seeking:
- Senior Software Developer
- Front End Software Developer
- Software Test Developer
- Electrical Engineer
- Operations Manager
- Inside Sales Representative
- Community Manager
- Director of Finance
Apply through TZOA’s career portal here.
The Clean Energy Business Incubator Program (CEBIP) is now accepting applications from founders with a clean technology that has the potential to transform the market. Open spots at CEBIP are rare, so don’t miss this opportunity. Learn more and apply here.
Scale For ClimateTech is Heading to the NREL Industry Growth Forum… VIRTUALLY!
April 20-22, 2021
We strongly encourage Scale For ClimateTech Cohort companies to register for the NREL Industry Growth Forum. Meet with 100+ investors, cheer on our presenting cohort members, and receive an Industry Growth Forum box of swag.
Register for the NREL Industry Growth Forum here.
Scale For ClimateTech cohort companies are eligible for a GREATLY reduced registration fee with our promo code and program reimbursement. Email Chris.Carpenter@nextcorps.org for more info.
Meet Some if the Innovative Women of Scale For ClimateTech Cohort 3
We’d like to highlight some of the Innovative Women of Scale For ClimateTech cohort 3 in celebration of Women’s History Month
Evelyn Allen | CEO of Evercloak
What motivated you to work on the current technology or problem your innovation addresses?
Like many individuals and organizations, I am deeply concerned about the impacts of climate change, and energy consumption is a key contributor to that. As an engineer, I wanted to develop a solution. Evercloak is a materials-based start-up that is developing graphene based membranes to make building cooling significantly more energy efficient. In the future, our ultra-thin coatings can also improve efficiencies across battery fuel cells, smart food packaging, water treatment and other markets. I have great confidence that by transforming today’s technologies with tomorrow’s advanced materials Evercloak will make a positive impact on building a sustainable future.
What are the best ways you think companies and investors can support women?
- Women in leadership roles
- Mentorship opportunity and resources for training, advancement
- Monitoring pay equity as an issue across the board and making adjustments as necessary.
- Building awareness within company structure by collecting data for bench-marking
- Diversify within their organization
- Build awareness within the company with bench-marking
Are there any individuals, publications, or organizations that you feel are doing the work to support women founders, investors, and engineers?
Lithu Muraleetharan | Project Engineer, Urban Energy
1.) What motivated you to work on the current technology or problem your innovation addresses?
As an engineer who grew up in New York City, I had imagined all the ways in which clean energy could be made more viable for New Yorkers. I was excited to work with Urban Energy to build something new and innovative that would give communities across the boroughs greater access to renewable energy.
2.) What are the best ways you think companies and investors can support women?
Companies need to support women tangibly and monetarily by actively hiring more women, paying women an equal salary, and promoting more women to leadership positions.
3.) Are there any individuals, publications, or organizations that you feel are doing the work to support women founders, investors, and engineers?
Venture For ClimateTech Wraps Up Inaugural Recruitment
Venture For ClimateTech is thrilled to announce that they received 589 applications from 64 countries in their inaugural year!
“We knew our program was helping fill a gap in the ecosystem but we have been blown away by the caliber of the candidates and their impactful solutions.”
-Jacqueline Ros Amable, Managing Director
What We Think Went Well: We implemented a Venture For ClimateTech scouts program that helped us spread the word faster than we could have on our own and find founders we would not have reached otherwise. This year the scout program was a test, but it’s clear we will keep this program in the future!
What We Want To Improve: We knew this year’s recruitment cycle would set the baseline for our work in the future years, but it is clear to us we want to actively work on building a stronger pipeline into diverse climate tech innovators. We are working alongside our partners to implement programs this year that we believe will help close this gap. Hopefully, we will have exciting updates for what will take shape for this by our next board meeting.
From here our applicants head into the selection process and we’ll close in on our inaugural cohort, which will be announced at the NREL Industry Growth Forum on April 22.
The Global Innovation Challenge Recruitment Success
The opportunity for founders to apply to win $10k to help launch their climate tech innovation closed on March 18! The Global Innovation Challege closed with 137 applications!
The winners, which will be announced on April 9, will get a chance to join the Venture For Climate Tech Inaugural Cohort, in addition to $10K to jumpstart their much needed climate tech solution.
Katie is a climate leader with over a decade of experience in international development, non-profit leadership, political organizing, business acceleration, and strategic partnerships within the climate space. Katie joined NYSERDA in February 2020 where she serves as the Assistant Director of Technology to Market managing a team responsible for accelerating climate solutions that New York State needs to reach its nation-leading climate goals.
Katie comes to NYSERDA from Greentown Labs, the largest cleantech incubator in the United States, where she was Senior Director of Strategic Partnerships responsible for corporate partnerships and industry accelerator programs. At Greentown, Katie designed and scaled the ‘Greentown Launch’ model for corporate / startup partnership development and ran first- of- a- kind programs in energy storage, hydrogen, solar materials, circular economy, and distributed energy resources.
Before Greentown Labs, Katie served as Executive Director of Cleantech Open Northeast, the region’s premier cleantech business accelerator. Katie has worked for organizations including the World Bank, 350.org, and Amherst College to build innovation programs, organize communities, and drive climate impact. Katie sits on the Board of 501CTHREE, a first of a kind non-profit dedicated to catalyzing social and entrepreneurial action on climate and water issues. Katie also serves on the Advisory Board of the Carbontech Leadership Council, a NYSERDA lead initiative focused on commercializing solutions that can turn CO2 waste into valuable products.
is the North America Lead for Accelerators and Incubators at Amazon Web Services where she leads a team of superstar former founders and supports startups going through the top accelerators and incubators, with a particular focus on Climate Tech. She is also the cofounder of KitSplit, the gear rental marketplace called “The Airbnb of Cameras” by Forbes. Under her leadership, KitSplit acquired a competitor and built a profitable business serving 60k creators, with a virtual inventory of $250m worth of gear. Prior to KitSplit, Lisbeth was focused on climate change as an energy/environment/agriculture policy advisor in the United States Senate. There she built a first-of-it’s-kind energy efficiency retrofit program and wrote a clean energy bill for farmers that got passed into law. Lisbeth has a BA from Yale and an MBA from NYU Stern where she was a Dean’s Scholar.
Having worked in micromobility internationally for half a decade, Georgia has worked in partnership with cities across Europe, North America, Latin America, South East Asia and wider, in reaching their active and sustainable transport goals. A firm believer that collaboration and partnership underpin sustainable services, Georgia is responsible for driving the strategic growth projects, and team, behind Beryl’s leading UK services. Alongside, as Chair of Women@Beryl and an active member of multiple Gender, Diversity, Mobility and Tech networks – Georgia is active in raising the volume of women of color in tech and mobility.