The words “passion, vision, persistence, patience, commitment and the right talent” come to mind in describing the latest undertaking by Dan Hurst, President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Knoxville-based Strata-G.
In a recent interview with teknovation.biz at the company’s offices off Hardin Valley Road, Hurst and three of his associates described how they turned the CEO’s passion for technology into a new company with two licenses from the Y-12 National Security Complex (Y-12). Joining Hurst in the interview were Jenny Freeman, Danny Norman and Greg Phillips.
Hurst recalls that winning his first science fair project and getting a trip to tour Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) “created excitement and connection for my love of science and engineering.” That passion resulted in the 2002 creation of Strata-G, a company that describes itself as a “veteran-owned small business committed to a legacy of environmental and energy stewardship through the successful application of engineering, science, and technology.”
The company employs scientists, engineers and business professionals who work with clients around the globe on complex energy and environmental challenges.
Strata-G grew to about 100 people, but Hurst still had a hunger to do more. He said that he continually reminded himself that “with all of these tools (bright people), it makes sense to bring technologies into the mix.”
So, in late 2008, Strata-G began a systematic process of examining the technology portfolios of Y-12, ORNL and the University of Tennessee. “We knew we did not have the financial resources to start a world-class R&D operation, but we could partner with others,” Hurst said. He described his strategy as one of being a “pollinator,” helping identify demand and translate the optimal technology into products.
Strata-G even leased an office in the Halcyon Commercialization Center (HHC) in the Oak Ridge S & T Park to be close to ORNL researchers. Freeman believes that the decision to lease space in HHC “set in our minds the commitment and intention to do this.” Hurst agrees, saying it was “definitely a milestone.”
The search reached another milestone in February when Sustainable Environment Technologies (SET), LLC, a company created by Strata-G, licensed two technologies fromY-12. He believes that “Greg (Phillips) was the missing link” someone with the right knowledge of technology and opportunities on “both sides of the fence”. Phillips had worked at Y-12 until 2007, so he had knowledge of Y-12 licensing processes and even worked for Lee Bezorgi, the inventor of the two technologies that SET licensed.
“I took Dan and his team over to Lee’s lab in the New Hope Center, and everyone liked the people and technology involved.” Phillips said. By November, Strata-G and B&W were negotiating licenses for the two safeguard and security technologies that SET will market to organizations requiring heightened security offered by a simple proven delay device. Hurst described the likely customers as those responsible for “highly specialized environments with very restrictive access.” This market includes federal agencies, commercial nuclear power plants, and correction facilities.
The two technologies are an “Access Rate Control System” that has been deployed at Y-12 for five years and the “Delayed Latching Mechanism” that is currently being tested at Y-12.
Phillips said that SET executed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Y-12 at the end of March. This agreement will allow “modifications and improvements to the technologies.”
Next up on Phillips’ agenda is securing fabricators and machine shops to make the product that could reach 30 to 50 units by the end of the calendar year.
“This is just the first in a series” of technologies that Hurst and his team hope to license and commercialize, adding that he hopes to execute a similar agreement with ORNL.
As far as the negotiations with Y-12, he was particularly complimentary of their pace and professionalism – negotiations started in November and the deal was inked in February.
Hurst’s passion borne out of a science fair trip to ORNL resulted in a vision to commercialize technologies. He maintained his patience over four years while continuing to pursue his vision, something that many are unwilling to do. It’s clear from the interview that his resolve is even greater to find more opportunities to commercialize technologies, grow jobs, and be a leader in the community through Strata-G’s commitment to stewardship and sustainability.