(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the fifth article in a series on Cohort 3 of “Innovation Crossroads.” Earlier this year, the cohort graduated from the program. Each article will focus on what’s next for the innovators and their companies.)
By Kailyn Lamb, Marketing Content Writer and Editor, PYA
Alex Lewis, Co-Founder and CEO of Electro-Active Technologies Inc., is wrapping up a busy year.
Before graduating from “Innovation Crossroads” in June, Electro-Active won the “Emerging Markets Outstanding Venture” at the National Renewable Energy (NREL) Industry Growth Forum in April (read more in this teknovation.biz article). Shortly after that award, the company was the subject of an article from Waste360 (read more in this teknovation.biz article). Lewis also said Electro-Active is participating in Cohort 3 of Scale for Climate Tech, a New York-based accelerator.
“That’s helping us develop our manufacturing foundation for producing this system at scale,” he explained.
While this may seem like a lot for any entrepreneur to take on, it’s a similar pattern to what Lewis and his Co-Founder Abhijeet Borole were handling when teknovation.biz interviewed the innovators in 2019. At the time, Electro-Active was wrapping up one accelerator and starting in two more, including “Innovation Crossroads.” The Founders were also launching a seed round, which eventually raised $1.4 million. Read more about the start of Electro-Active in this teknovation.biz article.
That seed round, as well as lab space in the Fairview Technology Center, enabled Electro-Active to continue doing research during the height of the pandemic when Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) was shut down. Lewis said they had space in the Center before the pandemic and continue working out of the space today.
“Luckily, we had that to rely on and utilize during the pandemic when we couldn’t come on-site to ORNL,” he said.
After ORNL reopened, the facility only allowed a limited number of researchers in. Lewis said Electro-Active could continue collaborating with some of those scientists by bringing samples to ORNL to be analyzed.
In addition to the seed round, Lewis still has some access to “Innovation Crossroads” funds. Due to the pandemic, “Innovation Crossroads” and Department of Energy (DOE) leadership have given Cohort 3 no-cost extensions on some of the program’s funding, including travel and research funds.
“We are still excited to continue to use those to advance the technology,” he said.
Lewis said the “Innovation Crossroads” funds will be used more for investigating the microbial community in Electro-Active’s reactors which work to convert food waste and electricity into hydrogen. He also hopes to continue collaborating with other labs to use equipment that can be hard for a start-up to afford. At ORNL, for example, Lewis said Electro-Active is looking to test manufacturing processes at the lab to see if they will work on the company’s system.
Electro-Active is also part of a $1 million DOE research project with Southern Company. Click here for more details.
Lewis said the company is actively raising $1.2 million in private capital and is pursuing grants through the California Energy Commission for potential projects out West. Electro-Active was also recently accepted into another accelerator called Startupbootcamp Australia, focused on decarbonization, with the opportunity to work more closely with companies like Mitsubishi and NYK, a Japanese shipping company.
Electro-Active plans to stay in the region but may eventually open offices in other locations depending on where customers are located, Lewis said.
“The way we’re planning our development is to always have a presence here in Knoxville,” Lewis said. “We think Knoxville will be our innovation and research hub.”
As for operating a company in Tennessee, he said that access to talent has been a benefit to Electro-Active. Lewis added the company wants to “continue to foster that pipeline of getting access and making people aware that there are startups in the area looking for talent.”