Two Binghamton University-based startup companies, Charge CCCV and ChromaNanoTech, were awarded a total of $750,000 on Nov. 30 for being finalists in the first national 76West Clean Energy Competition, a program funded by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The competition was announced in January 2016 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo with the purpose of creating jobs by promoting entrepreneurial endeavors in the Southern Tier, and will be held annually until 2019 to attract businesses and create jobs. This year’s competition resulted in six finalists.
Micatu, a company that focuses on advancing the capabilities of smart grids, power and navigation through optical sensor technologies, was awarded the first-place prize of $1 million. Charge CCCV received the second-place prize of $500,000 and ChromaNanoTech, along with three other companies, received $250,000 each.

The 76West Clean Energy Competition was held at Cornell University and received 175 applications, which was then narrowed down to 24 semifinalists who gave 10-minute presentations. They then had five minutes to answer questions asked by the judges, who narrowed the field down to six.

C4V works on increasing the performance of lithium-ion batteries, which power cell phones, laptops, electric vehicles and solar grids by using nontoxic raw materials. According to Shailesh Upreti, founder and president of Charge CCCV and a former postdoctoral scientist at BU, the startup is still in an early stage of development, so being awarded $500,000 will help the company expand and allow for a more viable business.

“Award money, mentorship received, recognition in community as well as globally, and networking opportunity with various entrepreneurs have catalyzed this journey in various ways,” Upreti wrote in an email. “Any form of such catalyst that helps us move from point A to point B is a big contributor for us.”

ChromaNanoTech focuses on passive solar technology by incorporating it into a transparent, thin polymer film that can be integrated into surfaces — such as windows — with the purpose of blocking heat in the summer, reducing the use of air conditioning and retaining heat during the winter to reduce the use of heating.

William Bernier, the CEO of ChromaNanoTech and a research professor of chemistry and material sciences and engineering at BU, said that what makes this product so unique is its low cost and energy efficiency. He also said that this money will help the startup buy new equipment and hire more people to improve the company and help it grow.

BU President Harvey Stenger said that the 76West Clean Energy Competition contributes to the Southern Tier’s clean energy and economic development initiatives.

“We’re making the Southern Tier the clean energy hub of New York state,” Stenger said in a statement. “We have a strategy here in the Southern Tier called Southern Tier Soaring, and 76West complements this strategy of fostering economic development; expanding entrepreneurship; and supporting technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce loads on the electric grid at key times and provide energy storage options.”

Per Stromhaug, assistant vice president for entrepreneurship and economic development, said that startups are important because they take research out of the laboratory and put it into the community.
“We have faculty and research happening in our labs here, but what’s the point of doing the research if it doesn’t result in some kind of application that benefits the community at large?” Stromhaug said. “It’s one way to help that research become either a product or a service that can directly benefit people.”