News Article

Mass. Clean Energy invests in tech startups to promote efficiency
Date: May 24, 2013
Author: John Larrabee
Source: bizjournals ( click here to go to the source)

Featured firm in this article: Coincident Inc of Boston, MA

A half-dozen young companies that have developed energy-saving technologies -- from storage batteries to improved solar panels -- will be sharing $734,134 in seed money from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to showcase their ideas to potential investors.

Mass Clean Energy, a publicly-funded agency, awarded the grant money through a competitive program, InnovateMass, that's intended to spur economic growth and promote development of energy-efficient technologies. The grant program is funded through a small surcharge to electricity bills.

Winners are also required to partner with other businesses or public agencies to raise matching funds. The total raised by this year's winners: $1.3 million.

"These new ideas and technologies will get their first real-world testing right here in Massachusetts, making the Commonwealth a staging ground for innovation once again," said Alicia Barton, CEO and executive director of Mass Clean Energy.

"Clean energy is currently one of the fastest growing sectors in the Massachusetts economy. One way we try to spur the expansion is by building private-public partnerships to fill gaps that might exist. Energy technology companies have consistently told us there was a need for this. They have the ability to develop a product in the lab, but to attract investors and customers they need to be able to prove their technology works in the real world."

This year's winners are:

Ambri, Inc., a Cambridge company that hopes to commercialize a battery technology developed at MIT, has received $150,000. They also raised $452,355 in matching funds, with help from Raytheon, Analysis Group, the publicly-funded Massachusetts Development Finance Agency, and the Massachusetts Military Reservation, a Cape Cod base used by the Massachusetts National Guard and several branches of the US military. Their liquid metal battery technology could be used to store excess energy for later use.

"As we move from traditional energy to renewable energy, storage is a key piece of the puzzle," says Barton. "It could be a real game changer."

XL Hybrids, a Boston company, has received $150,000 to design and test a retrofit device that would transform vehicles into electric hybrids. They've proposed using the technology with vans and trucks that are part of commercial fleets. The company estimates their technology could reduce carbon emissions by as much as 24 percent. XL Hybrids worked with Johnson Controls, Kiessling, and NatVans to raise $230,336 in matching funds.

"We're talking about very high-mileage vehicles, so there's a huge potential for energy savings," Barton says.

Boston-based Coincident, Inc. has developed an advanced energy management system for homes and small businesses. The Boston Redevelopment Authority hopes to test the product in public housing, to improve efficiency of heating and air conditioning systems. Coincident has received a $150,000 grant, and has raised a $251,000 match, working with Urbanica, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Sage Builders, GFC Development, and the BRA.
Keystone Tower Systems has received a grant of $95,500 to develop a manufacturing process that makes it cheaper to build taller wind turbines. They worked with the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority and Gillette to raise an additional $96,500.
Save Energy Systems of Boston won a $150,000 grant to test a wireless sensor that would allow homeowners to remotely control heating and air conditioning systems. The company raised $210,000 in matching funds with Next Step Living and Building 36 Technologies.
Bandgap Engineering of Woburn received $38,634 to develop, install and monitor a new solar panel that could be more efficient that the silicon wafer panels now widely used. Working with Broadway Electrical Company and the Fraunhofer Center for Sustainable Energy, they raised $39,185 in matching funds.

The New England Clean Energy Council, an industry group, applauded the award winners and the program. "Even the most promising early-stage cleantech companies face formidable funding gaps that limit their ability to prove out their technologies and attract investments," said president Peter Rothstein. "We see the potential for the InnovateMass awards to provide timely financial support for demonstration opportunities, thus helping companies bridge the technology valley of death."

"This funding will advance clean energy demonstration projects that have strong commercialization potential, fueling an already innovative and robust clean energy sector," added Rick Sullivan, the state's secretary of energy and environmental affairs. "Massachusetts companies are creating solutions for the world's clean energy needs, and creating jobs as these businesses grow."