Building a Cleantech Industry on Long Island

From research development to product marketing, Stony Brook University’s Long Island High Technology Incubator (LIHTI) and the Clean Energy Business Incubator Program (CEBIP) are dedicated to helping cleantech startups on Long Island bridge the gap between innovation and the marketplace.

by Jodi Ackerman Frank

When Paul Schwartz saw a prototype of a novel natural-gas-driven heat pump built in the 1990s, the Long Island native didn’t know he was about to change his career from a financer who invested in high-tech startups to an entrepreneur who would be looking for investment.

Schwartz is cofounder of ThermoLift, a startup developing an all-climate air-source heat pump, which has the potential to replace current residential and commercial heating, cooling and hot water systems across the nation. The heat pump, which runs on natural gas and doesn’t require a refrigerant, is expected to reduce fuel consumption by 30-50 percent in heating and cooling applications.

ThermoLift is a member of the Clean Energy Business Incubator Program (CEBIP). Managed through Stony Brook University, CEBIP is one of six clean-energy business incubator initiatives funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Connecting the Dots

NYSERDA Business Development Efforts

Learn about how New York State and NYSERDA are helping inventors, innovators and investors bring clean energy technology to market. Visit the Clean Energy Startups page

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As someone well versed in both the finance and high-tech startup worlds, Schwartz knows the importance of finding ideal resources and partnerships for both product development and company investment.

“For a cleantech startup to truly succeed, you have to bridge the gap between the technology and commercialization, and then there’s a whole management team that needs to be involved in raising capital and building up a business. And, of course, you need your engineers,” Schwartz said. “CEBIP has been a tremendous resource in all of these areas.”

ThermoLiftLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. was cofounded by Schwartz and German engineering scientist Peter Hofbauer. During his 20-year career at Volkswagen, Hofbauer developed the highly successful Volkswagen diesel engine, with the latest model still enjoying popularity today for its fuel efficiency.

Schwartz, a financer by profession who has an extensive background in funding start-up companies, met Hofbauer in the late 1990s when he helped Hofbauer finance another startup in California. Having no time to pursue his heat pump invention, Hofbauer encouraged Schwartz to do so.

“He said, ‘It’s a crying shame that ThermoLift is not in production. So, I started a company in my basement,” said Schwartz, who was able to obtain the last German prototype of the ThermoLift heat pump in existence.

Since the company was accepted into CEBIP in 2012, it has secured $1.63 million in funding from the Long Island Angel Network in addition to $1.23 million in grants from NYSERDA and the U.S. Department of Energy. In February, ThermoLift was the winner of the ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit investor pitch competition in Washington, D.C.

ThermoLift also has acquired an office base in the university’s Advanced Energy Center (AEC). The 50,000-square-foot AEC building, completed in 2012, is a world-class facility built to promote maximum energy efficiency, from building construction management to energy-efficient lighting. Solar tube skylights, for instance, stream in “ducted daylight” into the second floor, replacing artificial lighting during the workday.

The AEC’s labs, high-bay areas and outdoor spaces support research at different stages, from nanoscale development projects to product simulations. It’s also the home of the Advanced Energy Incubator, the university’s newest business incubator. A CEBIP office is located there as well.

Pumping Up a Better Heat Source
ThermoLift was cofounded by Paul Schwartz in 2012. The startup, based at Stony Brook University, is a client company in the Clean Energy Business Incubator Program. CEBIP is one of six clean-energy business incubators around the State funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). Read More.

“ThermoLift is a perfect example of how a startup can take advantage of all that CEBIP and the university as a whole have to offer,” said David Hamilton, CEBIP director of business development.

One of the most comprehensive R&D programs that ThermoLift has taken advantage of as a CEBIP member is the Strategic Partnership for Industrial Resurgence (SPIR) program.

The program, which Stony Brook played a leadership role in establishing in the mid-1990s, leverages resources in the engineering programs of the State University of New York (SUNY), of which Stony Brook is a part, to help companies improve their market posture and create new jobs. The program gives startups access to more than 250 engineers and applied scientists, top engineering and science students, and advanced-manufacturing and high-tech facilities.

“I was interested in finding a way to work with researchers in the university’s engineering school, and the SPIR program provided the perfect opportunity to do just that,” Schwartz said.

Through SPIR, ThermoLift is collaborating with John Longtin, a well-respected professor of engineering, and two of the professor’s graduate students. The group is creating a high-efficiency thermodynamic simulation and an energy audit analysis of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to determine ThermoLift’s advantages over traditional HVAC technologies.

“We started our formal relationship with ThermoLift through the SPIR program, and it has continued to grow and prosper since,” Longtin said. “The SPIR program is a great vehicle to get companies interacting with the university at a variety of levels, and with a minimum barrier-to-entry. ThermoLift’s success is a great example of this.”

“We are very happy with this partnership,” Schwartz said. “Professor Longtin and his students have been a critical source of assistance to advance our product development.”

Helping Companies Scale Up for Success

A flagship institution of New York State, Stony Brook University plays a critical role in world-class research development and the growth of the regional economy. Generating more than $2.5 billion annually in regional economic impact, its campus comprises more than 200 major buildings and boasts one of the nation’s most comprehensive suites of economic development programs.

It’s also is one of the few campuses in the country with a vice president for economic development. The university incubates 45 companies, including 16 cleantech startups, through its four business incubators.

Recognizing its growing expertise as a national leader in energy research and its impact in economic development, Stony Brook established CEBIP in 2011 to expand the university’s reach in helping cleantech startups succeed.

CEBIP provides technical, financial and marketing expertise to new and growing cleantech businesses. Through its extensive partnerships across campus and throughout Long Island, CEBIP’s mission is to bridge the gap between innovation and the marketplace. The incubator program is administered by the Long Island High Technology Incubator (LIHTI). Established in 1992, LIHTI is Stony Brook’s oldest and largest of four business incubators.

"The NYSERDA incubators located throughout New York have successfully helped bring tenant businesses more than $100 million in private capital while creating hundreds of new jobs and bringing clean-energy products to market," said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA. "They are a great example of how Governor Andrew Cuomo is spurring innovation in the cleantech economy, and will continue to support new technologies and products to ensure a world-class energy system."

In addition to Stony Brook’s four incubators, CEBIP feeds into numerous multidisciplinary programs and partnerships that include SPIR, the Center for Advanced Technologies in Sensors (Sensor CAT) Development Program, the Small Business Development Center, the Advanced Energy Center (AEC), and the workforce development programs of the Center for Emerging Technologies, among others.

Stony Brook also co-manages Brookhaven National Laboratory, a prominent government research lab with a main focus on energy research.

“Stony Brook University is unique in the sheer amount of resources it offers to entrepreneurs and high-tech companies,” said Anil Dhundale, LIHTI executive director who works with Hamilton in administering CEBIP.

Attracting Companies to Long Island

Companies, such as WATT Fuel Cell Corp.Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. (WATT), are taking note of such State initiatives, programs and talent, and are remaining on Long Island to reap the benefits of these resources.

Incorporated in 2010, WATT Fuel Cell became a CEBIP company member in 2011. The company has developed a solid-oxide fuel-cell system that can be up to 10 times more energy efficient than the typical diesel generator engine counterpart, while producing negligible amounts of pollution.

“Part of our initiative to make regional inroads is to be affiliated with all a university has to offer, including identifying potential staff, and that’s one of the advantages of being a CEBIP member.”
- Benjamin Emley, WATT Fuel Cell director of technology

“Part of our initiative to make regional inroads is to be affiliated with all a university has to offer, including identifying potential staff, and that’s one of the advantages of being a CEBIP member,” said Benjamin Emley, WATT Fuel Cell director of technology.

“We also have been able to utilize Stony Brook University’s facilities, such as the scanning electron microscope laboratory in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering, to help with product development,” he added.

WATT, which has 15 employees, has attracted investors as well as partner companies. In January 2013, the startup secured a partnership with Parker Hannifin Corporation, the global leader of motion and control technologies and systems for mobile, industrial and aerospace markets.

The agreement allows Parker Hannifin to integrate WATT’s fuel-cell technology into generator units for use in recreational vehicles, boats and long-haul trucks.

“The goal of WATT is to produce fuel-cell platforms that will provide environmentally responsible energy solutions for a range of applications in the portable power and distributed-generation energy markets,” said founder and CEO Caine Finnerty.

WATT also has built its own fully functional 500-watt fuel-cell generator capable of supplying power for portable applications. The company expects its fuel-cell systems to replace the traditional diesel generators that can be noisy, heavy, and expensive to run, as well as release pollutants into the environment. The WATT generator, which runs on natural gas, propane or diesel, is much less expensive to run and is about as audible as a fan in a laptop.

“One big advantage our technology has over other types of fuel cells is the ability to run on readily available fuels such as natural gas or propane,” Finnerty said. “If you think about it, what’s the point in having a new generation of devices that provides power if you can’t buy the fuel? That’s why, instead of waiting for tomorrow’s hydrogen economy, we’ve developed a way to use the fuels we already have in a more responsible and cost-effective manner.”

The company, which is working to scale up its manufacturing facility in Port Washington, is planning to demonstrate a 1-kilowatt generator sometime later this year. This larger combined heat and power generator has numerous applications, including for use in residential buildings, providing direct cost savings to the homeowner while allowing for independent onsite power generation.

From Serious Scientist to Entrepreneur

Stephen Boyd - cofounder of Havelide Systems
Stephen Boyd, cofounder of Havelide Systems,
stands in front of lab equipment at Stony Brook
University while he was a postdoctoral fellow in
a joint appointment with Hunter College and
Stony Brook. Now CEO of Havelide, he and his
company team have developed a method that
uses one-fifth of the energy currently needed to
convert natural gas into a liquid for easy
transport.

Stephen Boyd, who earned his doctoral degree in chemistry in 2012 from Stony Brook, is a scientist with a focus on cleaner fuel consumption. He, along with a team of colleagues, is pioneering a new way to convert natural gas into a liquid that’s easier to transport and far cheaper than is now possible.

Yet, he knew early on that in order to infuse such a technology into mainstream usage, he also had to develop a business mentality.

“I have gravitated heavily toward science because that’s what I love to do. But, I soon realized that by meshing the science with a business background, you can really accomplish something significant in the marketplace,” said Boyd, founder and CEO of Havelide SystemsLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page., established in 2012.

Still, despite an undergraduate degree in international finance from Michigan State University and some years in business, Boyd realized that pitching to investors and marketing a new product can be nearly as challenging as the science itself.

Havelide Systems has developed a process that uses one-fifth of the energy currently needed to convert natural gas into liquid.

Natural gas, the cleanest of the fossil fuels, has a much wider market base when converted to liquid form because it is easier to transport. There are a couple of ways to convert natural gas to a liquid. One method relies purely on physics. The gas is condensed into a liquid by cooling it to minus 161 degrees Celsius (about minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit). The liquefied natural gas must then be transported in specialized cold (cryogenic) tanks before returned to its original gaseous state as a usable fuel.

Another method, which is chemistry based, involves partial oxidation through the Fischer–Tropsch process. In this process, the standard industry incorporates high pressure, high heat and expensive high-value metal catalysts to initiate a chemical reaction that turns the natural gas into liquid hydrocarbons, which is used to make naphtha, a feedstock for producing high-octane gasoline.

Both processes are energy intensive.

Using a proprietary liquid catalyst, however, Havelide has developed a low-pressure way that uses much less heat to produce a liquid blend called Havelide Naphtha™, which the company says is superior in composition to naphtha now produced. Additionally, the Havelide process naturally produces ultra-high purity hydrogen gas for convenient, optional chemical conversion into hydrogen peroxide, a valuable byproduct.

“The Havelide process of converting natural gas to liquid hydrocarbons has many advantages over other gas-to-liquid technologies. In addition to using much less energy to convert natural gas into liquid hydrocarbons, our process does not emit any pollutants into the environment. Other than hydrogen, both naphtha and optional hydrogen peroxide can be stored at room temperature,” Boyd said. “It is the perfect platform for cleaner precursors to plastics and gasoline. Furthermore, our chemical components are recyclable on the fly, for reuse.”

The Havelide process can be complicated, but Boyd and his team have it down to a science. What they needed help with was to convince investors and others that their technology is laudable and can be turned into a profitable product. In other words, they needed to be able to explain their product development in layman’s terms to a broader audience. This is where CEBIP has played an important role, Boyd said.

“CEBIP has given us several outstanding opportunities to practice and hone our presentation skills in front of investors. I’ve done numerous presentations to an audience of scientists, which couldn’t be more different than an entrepreneur presenting in front of a group of potential investors,” Boyd said.

“The focus is different. The language is different,” he added. “I can make safe assumptions that my science-minded audience will know specific scientific terminology related to chemistry. But with potential investors, the science and technology education level varies. And, they aren’t looking for Nobel Prize winners — they’re looking for a product that can be sold. So, bridging the science and business gap can be a challenge.”

Havelide, which became a CEBIP member in 2013, has a six-member management team and is expecting to market its product within the next 18 months.

Huge Implications

Triglia Technologies - Joseph Triglia and John Hunt
Joseph Triglia and engineer John Hunt test
Triglia’s wood-drying technology in the Forest
Products Laboratory in Wisconsin, where Hunt
works. Triglia, founder of Triglia Technologies,
has developed a method of drying wood to save
the lumber industry energy, labor and equipment
costs while reducing the environmental impact
of drying wood.

Joseph Triglia, founder of Triglia TechnologiesLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. in West Islip, has added a whole new dimension to his high-end flooring installation business. His company is working to commercialize a new technology for the lumber industry.

The CEBIP member company has developed an innovative method — the Triglia Method — of drying wood, using a combination of radio frequency and microwave technologies. The patented technology, which accelerates the drying time from months to days, will save the lumber industry energy, labor and equipment costs while reducing the environmental impact of drying wood.

“The technology not only could revolutionize the wood flooring manufacturing industry, but also has huge implications for the entire lumber industry,” Hamilton said. “The substantial savings in operational costs associated with drying wood for any number of products, from furniture to construction materials, are enormous.”

Conventional kilns use large amounts of energy to dry lumber at high temperatures, which releases volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from the wood. VOC pollutants can pose significant health risks. By transferring energy directly into the moist wood instead radiating heat throughout the kiln space, microwave drying reduces the temperature, and thereby the energy, needed for proper drying, without the release of harmful VOCs.

Large microwave ovens the size of house trailers are sometimes used to shorten the time required to kiln dry lumber. The challenge of direct microwave drying, said Triglia, has been the “bound-water” extraction, which compromises the strength of the wood fibers. H2O molecules that penetrate the cell walls of the wood become bound to the cellulose molecules and are difficult to extract.

“The Triglia Method uses a proprietary method of microwave induction to rapidly move the bound and unbound water in wood without weakening the wood fibers and without emitting pollutants,” Triglia said.

The technology is integrated in a conveyor-belt system that will allow sawmills to switch from the current batch method of drying to a “just-in-time” strategy, further cutting energy and labor costs as well as wood waste.

Lumber is currently stacked in large kilns. Drying the wood in batches in this way means uneven drying that results in defects, such as splintering and bowing. Using a conveyor-belt method with an electronic monitoring system that keeps the humidity levels at a constant at all times means a continuous feed that makes loading and unloading wood easier and a more even heating process.

“We are able to consistently monitor the drying process to ensure that the wood has zero defects,” Triglia said.

Triglia said the CEBIP has been instrumental in helping his company develop a solid vision on how to commercialize the technology by encouraging him to revise and expand his business plan.

“Dave Hamilton really helped me mature my business focus. The strategy from where I started and where I am now is like night and day,” Triglia said. “My initial plan was to retrofit existing kiln buildings with my technology, but I soon realized that’s not the way to do this. The intent now is to replace not only the technology, but also the space that will better accommodate a conveyor-belt process.”

Over the past two years, Triglia has teamed up with John Hunt, an engineer at the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), to perfect the patented technology. The FPL is the research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service.

Triglia is collaborating with a saw mill company in Kingston, N.Y., to test his equipment. More recently, his startup has partnered with Ceralink to help bring the technology to scale. Ceralink, an R&D and engineering firm in Troy, specializes in microwave and radio frequency material processing, among other specialty areas. The goal is to have a fully automated system by the end of 2014.

Poised for More Growth

CEBIP is part of the broad entrepreneurial ecosystem at Stony Brook University. With additional support from Governor Andrew Cuomo and Long Island lawmakers, CEBIP, and Stony Brook University as a whole, is poised to do more.

For instance, the Start-Up NYLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. program that Governor Cuomo launched in 2013 turns the Stony Brook University campus and its Research and Development Park into tax-free zones, where selected industries can locate and establish research or manufacturing enterprises without State or local tax liability.

“The recognition of what our CEBIP client companies are doing to address our future energy needs while contributing to the region’s economic growth is very telling. It shows how successful an emerging technology business can be here on Long Island, and how all the resources, programs and support offered regionally and throughout the State are helping to make that happen.”
- David Hamilton, CEBIP director of business development

Also in 2013, the State set up the Innovate NY FundLink opens in new window - close new window to return to this page., a seed-stage business equity fund to support innovation and entrepreneurship throughout New York State. The $45 million investment fund, administered through Empire State Development, is a public-private partnership that’s expected to leverage more than $450 million in additional private investment for small businesses.

In light of such Statewide programs as these, Governor Cuomo and Long Island representatives are recognizing the importance of cleantech incubators, such as CEBIP, as conduits to business development for new-sector jobs.

Last November, Governor Cuomo announced that ThermoLift will expand its operations at the AEC, further solidifying CEBIP as an influential facilitator in moving cleantech companies forward. The expansion, enabled by a $482,000 NYSERDA grant, builds on the State’s vision to invest in SUNY campuses as drivers of local job creation.

“(T)he State is pleased to be investing in ThermoLift’s work to improve energy efficiency in our homes and businesses,” the Governor said during his announcement.

A few months earlier, ThermoLift a received a visit from Congressman Tim Bishop as part of the first annual Startup Day Across America tour. Startup Day was organized by the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Innovation and Entrepreneurship of which Congressman Bishop is a member.

During his visit, Congressman Bishop saw firsthand how CEBIP assists startups in developing their technologies and products.

“I strongly support innovative public-private partnerships like the Clean Energy Business Incubator Program at Stony Brook to help entrepreneurs leverage great ideas into startup businesses that create jobs here on Long Island,” Congressman Bishop said during his visit.

On the same day, Congressman Steve Israel visited WATT Fuel Cell at the company’s headquarters in Port Washington.

“The recognition of what our CEBIP client companies are doing to address our future energy needs while contributing to the region’s economic growth is very telling,” Hamilton said. “It shows how successful an emerging technology business can be here on Long Island, and how all the resources, programs and support offered regionally and throughout the State are helping to make that happen.”

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