(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is another in a series of seven articles spotlighting the start-ups that comprise Cohort 3 of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Innovation Crossroads” program.)
By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
Alex Lewis and Abhijeet Borole, Co-Founders of Electro-Active Technologies Inc., are taking advantage of every opportunity they have to advance the start-up.
As noted in this teknovation.biz article from June, the duo was finishing-up participation in the “Indie Bio” accelerator program in San Francisco, showcasing their company that week at the “TechConnect World Innovation Conference & Expo” in Boston, starting the “H2 Refuel Accelerator” in New York, and gearing-up as one of seven start-ups in Cohort 3 of Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s “Innovation Crossroads” (IC) program.
Oh, and just for good measure, they had started planning to raise up to $2 million in a seed round. And you thought you were busy!
Electro-Active Technologies is developing a modular system that can be placed onsite or in a decentralized location to produce renewable hydrogen from organic waste. This will enable companies and communities to reinvest their waste for added value and improved sustainability.
For the Co-Founders, each of these programs has proven valuable for different reasons.
“There was a full house at the theater in San Francisco for ‘IndieBio Demo Day,” and we had additional investor conversations that were worthwhile,” Lewis said. ‘TechConnect World’ was an opportunity to raise awareness of the start-up, expand the Co-Founders’ network, and add new partners.
In the case of the “H2 Refuel Accelerator,” Lewis says the involvement of global corporations like Shell and Toyota brings several benefits. “Conversations with their representatives help us understand how carbon-friendly our pathway is, how much of a market we can reach, and how many new hydrogen users we can identify.”
Borole will represent Electro-Active Technologies in the “H2 Refuel Accelerator” which continues into November while Lewis focuses his efforts on the IC program and further testing food waste as a feedstock for producing renewable hydrogen.
“Our initial work at ORNL focused on switchgrass,” he said. “Over the last year, we have changed our focus to food waste as this is a major challenge the world is facing.”
Lewis explains that the move from switchgrass to food waste is driven by a great need for processing and regulations that encourage alternate approaches to the traditional use of landfills as a final resting place.
During the two-year IC program, Lewis says his focus will be on “optimizing the microbial community for food waste conversion. We’ll be able to apply what we’ve already learned with switchgrass. The training on processing biomass waste better prepared us to use food waste.”
There’s still a good deal of research work to be done, particularly in areas like maintaining a community of hundreds of microbes over a long period of time. The payoff can be significant, he says, noting that early indications are that food waste results in a higher performance of Electro-Active Technologies’ device over a longer period of time.