$30M and Counting: Building Up Early-Stage Cleantech with TechBridge

Fraunhofer TechBridge provides support to early-stage cleantech companies through service awards. Here, TechBridge Project leader Peter Klint presents a demonstration award to Yoav Lurie of Simple Energy at the Utility Technology Finals.

Fraunhofer TechBridge provides support to early-stage cleantech companies through service awards. Here, TechBridge Project leader Peter Klint presents a demonstration award to Yoav Lurie of Simple Energy at the Utility Technology Finals.

As an initiative designed to assist early-stage energy start-ups in finding the resources needed to bring their promising concepts to market, the success of Fraunhofer TechBridge is all in the numbers: to date,TechBridge portfolio companies have raised over $30 million in follow-on funding, a figure that continues to grow.

Next week, CSE’s TechBridge team will be exhibiting at the ARPA-E Innovation Summit, an annual event bringing together companies and organizations working on transformative energy solutions. ARPA-E, the US Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, launched the Summit in 2010 to create a forum for breakthrough technology companies, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and researchers to collaborate on new ways of sourcing, distributing, and using energy.

Last year, TechBridge co-exhibited with Cambridge-based start-up Arctic Sand, which is commercializing a small-scale power-conversion electronics concept.  Since then, Arctic Sand has successfully raised $9.6M in Series A funding from financial and strategic investors, and is now pursuing a project to drive energy efficiency for big data centers, some of the world’s largest consumers of energy.

In preparation for the 2012 ARPA-E Summit, CSE’s PV Technologies team created a prototype solar module using Arctic Sand’s miniaturized power electronics.

In preparation for the 2012 ARPA-E Summit, CSE’s PV Technologies team created a prototype solar module using Arctic Sand’s miniaturized power electronics.

Nadia Shalaby, CEO and founder of Arctic Sand, credits Fraunhofer CSE and TechBridge for helping make it possible: “Arctic Sand’s collaboration with Fraunhofer enabled us to develop the power conversion concepts within a solar panel system, and gave us opportunities to apply for government grants and jointly showcase the technology at ARPA-E 2012.“

This year, TechBridge is sharing a booth with Ubiquitous Energy, a Massachusetts start-up developing photovoltaic coatings that selectively convert incident ultraviolet and near-infrared light into electricity, making it possible to harvest energy from everyday products and surfaces.

Ubiquitous was one of several companies that received Fraunhofer technical services through TechBridge at the 2011 Cleantech Open Northeast competition, and has leveraged this award to further develop their technical concepts. As Ubiquitous President and CTO Miles Barr notes, “Through TechBridge, Fraunhofer researchers modeled the performance characteristics of our ClearView technology and provided valuable data for our discussions with prospective investors and partners.”

Ubiquitous President Miles Barr demonstrates a sample of his company’s ClearView power coating.

Ubiquitous President Miles Barr demonstrates a sample of his company’s ClearView power coating.

 

Whether Ubiquitous will be able to match Arctic Sand’s breakout success remains to be seen, but the company is already off to a strong start, havingraised $1M in a seed financing round led by entrepreneur and investor Arunas Chesonis and $150,000 through a Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant obtained from the National Science Foundation in late 2012.

Two other TechBridge portfolio companies will also be making an appearance at the Summit: microturbine manufacturer Dynamo MicroPower and composites start-up N12 Technologies, one of the very first companies to receive grant support from the TechBridge program.

TechBridge works in a difficult industry, and there are many potential pitfalls for cleantech start-ups en route from idea to the creation of a successful product or service. By providing access to research and development services, identifying market applications, providing introductions to investors and partners, and connecting them with a network of incubators, TechBridge supports innovative start-ups when – and where –  they need it most.

Fraunhofer CSE’s technical teams evaluate and validate innovative clean energy technologies.

Fraunhofer CSE’s technical teams evaluate and validate innovative clean energy technologies.

On the technical front, TechBridge offers access to Fraunhofer’s renowned international research network, augmenting start-ups’ scientific and engineering capabilities with the specialized knowledge – and experience – needed to develop products and capabilities. Laboratory and field testing carried out by Fraunhofer CSE’s technical teams provides invaluable real-world data and concept verification.

And by analyzing data provided by early-stage companies and using CSE’s in-house knowledge of market conditions and actors, TechBridge can help find new, more effective ways for companies to improve themselves or demonstrate their capabilities to potential investors.

The result: prototypes and verified technologies that are able to showcase their commercial potential and attract angel investment and government grant funding. As of February 2013, TechBridge has directly worked with or supported almost 40 promising companies, in fields ranging from wastewater treatment to biofuels production.

TechBridge and Ubiquitous Energy will be exhibiting at Booth 811 at the ARPA-E Summit, which runs from February 25th to 27th in Washington, DC.

About author
I'm a freelance writer, journalist, and former Marketing Associate at Fraunhofer CSE. My work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Knowledge@Wharton, Recessionwire, and Data Informed.
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