Firms seek energy fundingWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
While two local companies were among 10 statewide that received grants from Ohio’s Third Frontier Advanced Energy Program, many other applicants, including eight from Northwest Ohio, did not receive any funding.
Eight of the 10 companies that received energy grants were previous recipients of grants from the state’s program. Those eight companies received 84 percent of money available through the Advanced Energy Program this year.
Xunlight of Toledo received nearly $1 million to add to approximately $60 million in capital it has raised. SuGanit Systems of Toledo also received nearly $1 million from the program.
“They didn’t spread the money around very well,” said Jeff Culver, president and CEO of Solargystics Ltd. of Sylvania, whose firm applied for a grant but did not receive one.
“You get no feedback on these grant applications from the state nor does it disclose the scoring system for them. How does the state decide how to give this money out?” Culver said.
“I do believe that politics creeps into it,” he said.
Culver said there was an equitable distribution of the grant money across the state and that Northwest Ohio got its fair share. He said the state could have awarded a larger number of smaller, yet sizable, grants to more companies.
“You never write a grant counting on it for funding,” Culver said. “We have angel investors from outside Ohio and continue to court a number of investors in the state because we qualify for the Ohio Technology Tax Credit.”
Culver said the company believes that it has a more efficient process for low-cost manufacturing of solar cells than others in the field, but have not received the funding or coverage like Xunlight.
“We’re developing a high-efficiency and low-cost method to turn solar energy into electricity,” Culver said.
Solargystics is working on the development of its process with the Wright Center for Photovoltaic Innovation and Commercialization at UT.
Nextronex Energy Systems of Toledo is another solar energy company that applied for a Third Frontier Advanced Energy grant for $770,950, but did not receive one. It is developing a next-generation utility-scale solar inverter at its test labs located near Metcalf Field, said chief technology officer Peter Gerhardinger.
Nextronex is working in collaboration with UT, EPI Global and Advanced Distributed Generation (ADG), two other spin-off firms from research conducted at UT. ADG was another local applicant that did not receive a grant from the state program.
Nextronex is involved in a joint venture with Intellectual Property Dynamics (IPD), a holding company that funds intellectual properties, according to Robert Robinson of IPD. He said the company works closely with UT and the Regional Growth Partnership (RGP) in Toledo.
“We think RGP has developed into a very exceptional resource for Northwest Ohio. It works hard for economic development dollars for our region,” Robinson said.
“There’s lots of intellectual property in Northwest Ohio that has the potential for global impact. An enormous potential for commercialization still exists here,” he said.
IPD considers itself a “commercialization contractor” that gets paid from making successful investments. IPD has raised nearly $2 million for its own ventures, as well as investments in firms such as Nextronex and Arbor Plastic Technologies (APT) in Bloomfield Hills, Mich.
As IPD’s first undertaking, APT started from an idea, and one year later it’s an operating company with scientific research and manufacturing capacity, according to Robinson. Its production and research facilities are located in Marblehead.
“We test ideas for proof of concept and determine if there’s a market for it. We estimate the upside of potential there and build a business around that concept,” Robinson said.
IPD’s mission is to grow intellectual property, ideas and small ventures into bigger ones, enabling investors to have an acceptable return on investment. The owners and their employees have jobs, personal satisfaction and success into the future, he said.
IPD is also working with Innovative Thin Films, LLC, another Toledo-based company that is developing technology used to deposit thin solar films on glass.
Innovative Thin Films was founded in 2002 by Dean Giolando and Alan McMaster, who are working with Norm Johnson on that development. The three men were pioneers in the development of the technology to convert solar energy into electricity at UT, Robinson said.
“Ex-Toledo people would invest in Toledo if it can get past the pettiness and become a world-class player in some technology,” Robinson said, referring to the solar energy field.