Energy Abounds at Functional Films Commercialization Center

June 3, 2013

(ROCHESTER, NY) – Based in the Wayne County, NY community of Newark, Ultralife Corporation manufactures batteries that go into everything from military equipment to medical devices to supporting the electric grid. A few miles away in the Ontario County village of Victor, Progressive Machine and Design (PMD), provides advanced and traditional battery manufacturing, assembly, and test systems that include many sophisticated processes. In nearby Caledonia, NY, Applied Energy Solutions is constantly studying new ways to build a better battery charger for fork lifts and similar machines.

Beyond the fact that all of these companies are in the business of harnessing battery power and storing it for future use, there is one other common thread linking these and hundreds of other companies in New York State: a large part of what they do is research and development, then transforming that new idea into a profitable reality.

The process of bringing a new energy storage concept to market can be very time-consuming and costly. But the pathway may have just gotten simpler and more straight-forward, thanks to the NY-BEST Commercialization Center at Eastman Business Park, Rochester, NY.

The new center, just getting started in the Functional Films Commercialization Center in Building 308 off Mount Read Read Blvd., will be one site where companies and universities can help each other create prototypes for new energy storage and delivery systems, test them, do pilot manufacturing and then get business assistance to take those products to market.

“A significant amount of the emerging battery and energy storage technology requires the deposition of novel materials onto flexible substrates using roll-to-roll manufacturing processes,” said Dan Ocorr, director of Kodak’s Pilot Coating Lab located in the Functional Films Commercialization Center. “The equipment and know-how to operate these roll-to-roll processes already exists at EBP, and it exists under the same roof as the NY-BEST Commercialization Center.”

“We can prepare novel materials, deposit them in a variety of thicknesses on a variety of substrates, slit/chop/spool them to a specified format, and then send them across the hall to NYBEST for performance testing,” Ocorr said.

"The center could do amazing things," said Andrew Naukam, an Ultralife vice president. "It could get us a much more cost effective and quicker solution, so our products could be brought to market much more quickly than they are now."

There are over 100 companies working in the battery and energy industry in New York state, which leads the nation in jobs representing the battery and energy storage industry. Indeed, energy experts say these are among the highest profile jobs of the clean energy sector. That should continue well into the future, rapidly becoming a potential multi-hundred billion dollar industry creating hundreds of additional new jobs in the innovation economy.

NY-BEST, the New York Battery and Energy Storage Consortium and its new commercialization center, is the centerpiece of all this activity, begun with about $7 million NY-BEST has already raised, including $3.5 million alloted by the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council. NY-BEST leaders are confident that an additional $13 million will be raised in 2012 to complete the first phase.

The center also serves as proof that Kodak and Eastman Business Park still have much to offer the community and the clean energy sector.

“We’re excited about this national center of excellence here at Eastman Business Park,” said Michael Alt, EBP director. “We are building upon the technology that has been in existence at the Park for the past 100 years.” Alt said that technology comes in three pieces: chemical development to create the materials needed for energy storage, thin film capabilities for the manufacture of next generation energy storage products, and extensive deposition capabilities to deposit materials that can be incorporated in a moving web process.

Currently the site of Cerion Energy (developing next generation lithium-ion batteries), plus Natcore Solar, Graphene Devices, NOHMS, Novomer, and other clean energy/ sustainability upstarts, Eastman Business Park is becoming a New York State hub for clean energy technology. Its on-site tri-generation power plant, water and wastewater treatment facilities, and immense infrastructure offers the “ideal innovation ecosystem for testing and commercializing battery and energy storage equipment and related technologies,” Alt said.

“The commercialization center helps NOHMS and other companies like ours, with testing facilities where we can get world class analytical equipment, pilot coating facilities that represent milions upon millions of dollars that have already been invested by Kodak for our use, and the cycling testers which NY-BEST plans to install here,” said Nathan Ball, CEO of NOHMS. “This is equipment NOHMS doesn’t have to buy, that we can leverage and use on an as-needed basis and save a tremendous amount of money on the road to commercialization.”

There is a lot of optimism surrounding this effort.

"We have great ideas, great universities, a great workforce. The challenge is how to do you make those great ideas into products and services that will be bought in the marketplace and create jobs," said Greater Rochester Enterprise President & CEO Mark Peterson. "All we're doing is making sure we get a head start, that we can commercialize those great ideas and make those new jobs and that new investment happens right here at Eastman Business Park."