Energy Foundry recently announced its first investment – Root 3. Root 3 has developed a revolutionary Central Utility Plant optimizer platform and is led by a strong team. Root 3 helps large institutions such as universities, airports and hospital, which spend millions of dollars on energy each year, save 10 to 30 percent on this significant cost. Energy Foundry joined with a strong syndicate of top-notch investment partners to provide capital & support for Root 3’s growth plans.
Two business teams founded in Northwestern University’s NUvention entrepreneurship courses took first and second place at the Rice Business Plan Competition this weekend, walking away with more than $1 million combined in cash and investments.
It is the second straight year that Northwestern teams have won the competition.
The competition is the world’s richest and largest graduate-level business plan competition. Forty-two teams competed in front of 300 judges for more than $1.2 million in prizes. The emerging companies from graduate schools around the world pitched their business ideas to venture capitalist and industry experts seeking startups in which to invest.
Winning first place was SiNode Systems, a clean tech startup that commercialized an anode for lithium-ion batteries that allows the battery to charge more quickly and hold a charge 10 times longer than current technology.
Developed in the lab of Harold Kung, professor of chemical and biological engineering at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, the anode could greatly enhance battery life for smartphones and electric vehicles.?
SiNode’s winnings of $811,000 included the competition’s grand prize — $350,000 from the Goose Society of Texas — as well as $100,000 from OWL Investors. Other prizes came from Mercury Fund, Greater Houston Partnership, the U.S. Department of Energy, Trailblazer Capital, PKF of Texas, Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, BBVA Compass, Miller, Egan, Molter & Nelson LLP, and others.
The SiNode team came together last year during NUvention: Energy, an energy entrepreneurship course offered by Northwestern’s Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Initiative for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN). In the course, interdisciplinary teams of students from across the University develop commercialization plans for early-stage energy products, technologies or services.
Click here to view the ISGRIC/CET Grant Opportunities Newsletter for March 2013.
Click here to view the ISGRIC/CET Grant Opportunities Newsletter for February 2013.
The Trustworthy Cyber Infrastructure for the Power Grid (TCIPG) center is excited to offer our third summer school, to be held June 17-21, 2013! We invite and encourage utility and industry practitioners, researchers, and students to attend and explore the nexus between electrical energy systems and cybersecurity.
Our summer school program is designed to provide an essential background in the basics of security and resiliency for cyber infrastructure in power and smart grids. Participants will also gain an understanding of the smarter energy system evolving from the power grid, as well as associated cybersecurity challenges. Experts from industry, national labs, academia, and government will lead sessions that include industrial case studies and examples from current research. Deep dive sessions will partner industry and academic experts to explore critical security topics in depth. An optional hands-on SCADA security assessment lab will be offered to a limited number of participants on a first-registered, first-served basis. A networking reception will also offer participants additional opportunity to connect with leading experts, researchers, and practitioners in fields that address cybersecurity and resiliency for smart energy systems.
By Kari Lydersen, Midwest Energy News
Heidi Lubin has long been an avid outdoorswoman – she is a certified kayaking and skiing instructor — so she feels strongly about protecting the environment. And in 1999 she spent time in Nigeria with the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy, seeing first-hand the violence and chaos that was in part fueled by the country’s oil resources.
These experiences and values are part of the road that has brought Lubin, at age 34, to be CEO of an award-winning start-up electric motor company.
The motors designed by Chicago-based Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technologies (HEVT) don’t use the rare earth metals that are a key component of most modern electric motors. While rare earth metals are not actually rare, their mining is concentrated in China (which provides 97 percent of the current world supply), and has caused serious social and environmental problems.
While much attention has been focused on the need to create better batteries to power electric vehicles, experts note that improved electric motors are also key.
HEVT’s technology is an improvement on the switched reluctance motor, an existing design that isn’t in widespread use because, until now, it’s been difficult to build one that runs smoothly.
“The concept for this type motor has been around for a while – they’re updating the physical motor design and applying new software based controls to it making the overall system work much better,” said Niccolo Aieta, director of the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Center at the federal National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado.
Lubin noted that advances in computing and electronics have also made the components and production processes central to switched reluctance motors much more cost-effective.
“Switched reluctance motors have roots maybe even in the 1850s to 1870s, but the technology has really been enabled increasingly by the computing industry: better, faster cheaper power electronics, semiconductors, those kinds of things,” she said. “We’re now at a tipping point where things are cheap enough and fast enough that you can do this.”
Formal launch for Energy Foundry
By Julie Wernau, Chicago Tribune
A growing number of entrepreneurs will be vying for a pot of money set aside to seed startups that would take advantage of the state’s yet-to-be-installed digital electricity grid.
The Energy Foundry, a $22.5 million venture fund established under the same 2011 legislation that authorized the $3.2 billion 10-year grid modernization, formally launches Friday. Already more than 30 startups have reached out to the Foundry, said Jason Blumberg, CEO and managing director of the Energy Foundry.
Funding comes from shareholders of Illinois electric utilities Commonwealth Edison Co. and Ameren Illinois.
The Foundry’s mission is to invest in and nurture Illinois energy and clean-tech companies that could tap into the state’s smart grid as a proving ground for their products and services.
“We’ve been getting two to three applications a week,” said Blumberg, who operates the Foundry out of the 1871 startup hub at the Merchandise Mart.
Examples of technology on the Foundry’s radar: a bug that eats carbon dioxide, a heater that warms water as needed instead of heating it all day and a company that allows homeowners to combine solar panels and batteries to produce and store power.
“You can see with any of these if it took off it could be big,” he said. “The question is, which ones?”
In the first year, Blumberg expects the Foundry will fund and become part-owners in about eight companies.
“If they get some money, how do they get going and how can we make them successful? It’s not a space where you can just put something in the app store and see how it goes,” said Blumberg, an adjunct assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business and a former member of McKinsey & Co.’s energy and climate change leadership team.
Blumberg and Foundry Managing Director Sara Hochman, who previously worked at the renewable energy division of General Electric Co. and advised entrepreneurs involved in energy-related technologies, are hoping to stem the tide of Illinois clean tech startups moving to the West Coast. Silicon Valley spent $1.3 billion on clean tech investments in 2011 compared with $93 million in the Midwest, according to PricewaterhouseCoopers.
If clean tech investment isn’t taking off in Illinois, it isn’t for lack of innovation, it’s funding, said Mark Peters, deputy laboratory director for programs for Argonne National Laboratory and a Foundry board member. “Chicago has a fantastic opportunity here to become this incredible innovation ecosystem around energy,” he said.
Will Illinois become a clean energy hub?
By Katherine Tweed, Greentech Media
Buried in the Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) is a provision that the state’s two large utilities, Commonwealth Edison and Ameren, provide funding for a nonprofit, energy-tech venture fund, Energy Foundry, that will help fund and incubate Illinois-based companies.
It is easy to miss the creation of the new fund. Most of the news coming out of Illinois related to smart grid is an endless tit-for-tat between the Illinois Commerce Commission and the state’s legislature over implementing the EIMA.
While ComEd has recently had its smart meter timeline delayed and Ameren has not received approval for its smart grid business plan, Energy Foundry quietly launched last week.
San Francisco and the Bay Area get most of the glory when it comes to tech and clean energy startups, but Illinois is already growing in the digital space and is poised to make its mark in the energy sector. From 2008 to 2011, the number of digital startups in Chicago grew from 35 to about 200. Illinois also has two of the top five engineering schools in the nation and is home to Argonne National Lab. The winner of the 2012 Cleantech Open, HEVT, is headquartered in Chicago, as well.
“We’re a bit of an oasis in the desert,” Jason Blumberg, CEO of Energy Foundry, said of the new fund’s role in the Midwest. He noted that there is plenty of money and support for late-stage startups, but for the company that needs $100,000 or even $1 million, “it doesn’t exist.”
Energy Foundry will initially use $22.5 million from ComEd and Ameren to fund startups and provide mentoring and turnkey support. The utilities were on board because it helps build jobs in Illinois, but also gives them the ability to see what’s happening on the forefront of technology. Seed money will be available for $50,000 to $150,000 and early-stage investment will be from $500,000 to $1.5 million.
Energy Foundry is an evergreen fund that will reinvest any profits back into other businesses. Blumberg noted that the money from the utilities comes from their profits, and not ratepayer dollars. The fund is also currently looking for other investment firms that would be interested in partnering.
To keep young companies from fleeing to the coasts, Energy Foundry is not only providing money, but also various support systems that bring together utilities, the business community and research centers. The fund will provide government strategy to young companies, primarily in the form of helping startups know which government programs are the right ones to apply for.
Like other incubators, there will also be a mentor network comprised of people from venture capital funds, research labs, other successful entrepreneurs and large corporations such as Eaton and Johnson Controls, which are both headquartered in the Midwest.
By Matthew L. Wald
NY Times - The Energy Department will establish a research hub for batteries and energy storage at Argonne National Laboratory in Lemont, Ill., and spend up to $120 million over the next five years, the department announced on Friday.
The hub is meant to mimic the creative environment of the old Bell Labs, where the energy secretary, Steven Chu, once worked, with physicists, chemists, engineers and others collaborating on practical problems.
Dr. Chu, a Nobel laureate in physics, had sought to establish eight “innovation hubs,” but Congress has gone along so far with only five. Three are now operating: One in energy efficient building designs, in Philadelphia; one on developing fuels from sunlight using artificial photosynthesis, split between Berkeley and the California Institute of Technology, and one in improving light-water nuclear reactors, the type of reactor now in common commercial use, at Oak Ridge, Tenn.
In addition to the new hub for batteries and energy storage, which will be the fourth, the department is planning another for rare earth and energy-critical materials. It has not announced a location.
The battery hub is intended to produce revolutionary advances in batteries for electric cars, and for use on the grid, where they would help in integrating intermittent renewable energy sources like sun and wind.
“It’s a new operating model for doing R.&D., where you bring the discoverers, scientists like myself, and designers, who know how to think about putting those discoveries into prototypes, and finally manufacturers, people who build things, under one roof,’’ said Eric D. Isaacs, a physicist who is the director of Argonne.
“Part of our partnership is actual companies who make massive amounts of things,’’ he said. “When I’m sitting in a lab, discovering, I have a colleague who is looking over my shoulder, who is thinking about how am I going to make that into a device, and make a million of them.’’
Up to 120 people will work at the hub, he said, which is to begin operations in the next few months.
Batteries have advanced from lead-acid through nickel-cadmium, and nickel metal-hydride, to the current lithium ion, and lithium will remain the basis of batteries for the next few years, he predicted, but the hub is looking for the next big thing, something that will store five to 10 times as much energy in a package of the same size and weight. In this search, there are “known unknowns,’’ he said, maps of what needs to be worked out. There are various chemical approaches, but no ability now to manipulate the materials at a molecular level.
Energy Department Announces Team to Receive up to $120 Million Over 5 Years
CHICAGO – November 30, 2012. Governor Pat Quinn was joined today by U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel to announce that a multi-partner team led by Argonne National Laboratory has been selected for an award of up to $120 million over five years to establish a new Batteries and Energy Storage Hub. The Hub, to be known as the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), will combine the R&D firepower of five DOE national laboratories, five universities, and four private firms in an effort aimed at achieving revolutionary advances in battery performance. Advancing next generation battery and energy storage technologies for electric and hybrid cars and the electricity grid are a critical part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy to reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil and lower energy costs for U.S. consumers.
Governor Quinn is providing $5 million through his Illinois Jobs Now! capital construction plan to help build the state-of-the-art JCESR facility, which will be located on the Argonne National Laboratory campus in suburban Chicago. Additionally, the governor has committed to working with the General Assembly to provide an additional $30 million in future capital funding for the building, which will serve as a nationwide center for energy storage research and is a key part of the governor’s plan to create jobs and grow Illinois’ economy through cutting-edge innovation.
“Illinois is the birthplace of innovations that have changed the world, including the web browser, the cell phone and the ultrasound,” Governor Quinn said. “As I highlighted during my State of the State address, this innovative center will attract the best minds from across our state and country to turn cutting-edge scientific research into new companies that will create more American jobs and revolutionize our energy economy.”
“This is a partnership between world leading scientists and world leading companies, committed to ensuring that the advanced battery technologies the world needs will be invented and built right here in America,” said Secretary Chu. “Based on the tremendous advances that have been made in the past few years, there are very good reasons to believe that advanced battery technologies can and will play an increasingly valuable role in strengthening America’s energy and economic security by reducing our oil dependence, upgrading our aging power grid, and allowing us to take greater advantage of intermittent energy sources like wind and solar.”
“This new Hub brings together, under a single organizational roof, the world’s leading scientists, engineers and manufacturers in energy storage and provides them with the tools, resources and market reach necessary to produce major breakthroughs,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin. “The large-scale, innovative research and transformational new battery systems that will result from this venture will mean more effective, lower cost and longer life energy storage technologies with real world applications for anything that can use a rechargeable battery. The project promises to have a significant economic impact across Illinois with the help of towns and businesses who have already agreed to partner on the commercialization of promising technology developed at the Hub.”