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Innovation Works invests nearly $3.7M in the first half of 2013

In the first half of 2013, Innovation Works (IW) put nearly $3.7 million to work for Southwestern PA technology companies through a variety of funding programs.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30, ten new companies joined the portfolio and another ten existing portfolio companies received follow-on investment.  In total, the portfolio companies received nearly $2.7 million in investment from the IW seed fund during this time period. In addition, IW provided more than $565,000 in funding to commercialize promising technologies, including four Technology Commercialization Initiative projects for robotics and electronics companies and six grants made to universities to bring innovations out of their labs and into the marketplace.

AlphaLab, a program to fund and develop capital-efficient companies that can launch a technology product within a 20-week timeframe, completed two cycles of investment and intensive mentoring.  IW invested $400,000 in 16 AlphaLab companies in the first half of 2013.

Finally, the Innovation Adoption Program, which helps existing manufacturing companies use technology to gain competitive advantage, provided $31,000 to help a mature company specializing in industrial and commercial water treatment systems to develop a new product. 


First-Time Portfolio Company Seed Fund Investments:
Accel Diagnostics, LLC  
BoardBookit, Inc.
Digital Dream Labs, LLC
Inteligistics Inc.
Liquid X Printed Metals, Inc.
MyMedCoupons, LLC
PECA Labs
PoweredAnalytics, Inc.
The Efficiency Network, Inc. (TEN)
Wexford Farms Pet Food LLC

Portfolio Companies Receiving Follow-On Investment:
8020 Select
CommunityVibe Inc.
Cognition Therapeutics, Inc.
FutureDerm Inc.
HeadRight Games, LLC
LoyalTree
NewCare Solutions, LLC  
NoWait, Inc.
Propel IT, Inc.
Voci Technologies Incorporated

Technology Commercialization Initiative  
Astrobotic Technology, Inc.
Nanophoretics, LLC
Qualaris Healthcare Solutions, Inc.  
Rewyndr.com

Existing Manufacturers Innovation Adoption Program
All Water Systems, Inc.  

AlphaLab Winter/Spring Cycle
Digital Dream Labs, LLC
Meaningfy, Inc
NetBeez, Inc.
PoweredAnayltics, Inc.
Sole Power, LLC
Woo with Style
Workshirt, Inc.

AlphaLab Summer/Fall Cycle
AthleteTrax, LLC
BudgetSimple
Collected Inc.
Crowdasaurus  
Dropkicker  
MegaBits, LLC
ProfilePasser, Inc.
Spacefinity, Inc.
Wing Ma’am, LLC


Penn State invention covers multiple agricultural bases

Cover crops offer multiple agricultural benefits. But farmers have typically had to wait until after the fall harvest to plant among their primary crops – not ideal. "You wouldn’t be planting flowers around your house in November," says Corey Dillon, a grad student at the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences
 
Now Dillon and Chris Houser, who recently completed his ag sciences master's, have made a significant contribution to the field with the invention of a machine that helps reduce the time, energy and costs of planting cover crops amid corn and soybeans. Their device plants cover crops, fertilizes the primary crop and sprays weeds, all in one pass and much earlier in the growing season.  (The pair is at work on a fourth, still secret, functionality.) 
 
Cover crops, often grass or clover, are increasingly recognized as a key element in sustainable agriculture. They help protect soil quality, prevent erosion, improve moisture retention, suppress weeds, boost yields and minimize runoff.  
 
With a patent pending, Dillon and Houser are moving towards commercializing their invention. They have built nine units, working with a Pennsylvania contract manufacturer. The so-called interseeder is being tested by the US Department of Agriculture, Cornell University, Penn State and elsewhere. 
 
With early coverage in trade publications, top prize of $7,500 at the recent Ben Franklin TechCelerator@StateCollege Boot Camp  and another $25,000 from Penn State's Research Applications for Innovation (RAIN) grant program, they have already sold two units to farmers in Clarion County and in Missouri and expect to launch a company, still unnamed, by fall in order to fill orders in time for spring planting. 
 
 
Source: Corey Dillon and Chris Houser
Writer: Elise Vider

Dimples saves $$$ and environment by cutting ink and toner use

Remember all the talk about the paperless office? News flash: it never happened. Along with all that paper comes vast – and costly  – amounts of ink, ink cartridges and toner, releasing harmful chemicals when manufactured and clogging landfills when discarded.
 
To the rescue comes Dimples,  an Ashville-based startup. Mother-and-son founders Mem and Jonathan Miller were awarded a patent last month for their proprietary technology that saves ink and toner when printing.
 
Miller developed the algorithm that strategically creates little bits of negative space and specialized bleed zones in fonts while maintaining the crispness and legibility of the text.  Dimples plugs right into MS Word and other software. 
 
Dimples addresses both the environmental impact of ink and toner use and the costs. The manufacture of ink and toner releases CO2 and other harmful chemicals into the atmosphere; Dimples claims to reduce CO2 emissions by over 1.0 kg per toner cartridge. On the cost side, Dimples quotes data that finds office-printing costs accounting for up to 3% of total corporate revenue and increasing 20 to 40% per year. Dimples claims to cut printing costs by 31.8% on ink and toner.
 
The target market, Miller says, is any large, paper-driven enterprise: government, large companies, hospitals and universities. Saint Francis University in Loretto has been a long-term beta partner. 
 
Now, the company, founded in 2011, is ready to start selling its product and is able to customize Dimples to specific user needs. In recognition of its success so far, the Small Business Administration in Pittsburgh recently named Miller its Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Western Pennsylvania.
 
Source: Jonathan Miller, Dimples
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Doylestown's KannaLife Sciences and Colorado firm enter joint medical marijuana agreement

A Doylestown company is at the vanguard of research and development of pharmaceutical products derived from plants – specifically cannabis.
 
KannaLife Sciences (its name is derived from the Greek word for cannabis) has entered into a 50/50 joint venture agreement with Biotech Inc., a Colorado firm and creator of Cannatol,  a phyto-medical compound derived from a highly standardized, consistent and high-yielding cannabidiol phyto stock, free from pesticide and mold contaminants.
 
Dean Petkanas, KannaLife's CEO, says that the company, established in 2010, conducts research and development at the Bucks County Biotechnology Center. But the joint venture will be housed in Colorado, where a mature medical marijuana industry follows best practices for quality control and assurance. (Colorado, along with Washington State, is also legalizing marijuana for recreational use.)
 
Petkanas notes that $25 billion in illegal marijuana arrives in the United States every year, without sufficient controls on its cultivation and safety. Working with Biotech CEO Jason Cranford, a horticultural scientist and winner of the "Cannabis Cup," Petkanas says the new South Park Ventures will establish and elevate industry standards.
 
In a statement, Cranford added, "In the field of cannabis related medicine, there is a widespread problem with contaminated crops being grown by illegal market participants and sub-standard producers. These products are largely in demand by a variety of patients across a pantheon of disease indications, most notably cancer patients. It is vitally important not to compromise chemotherapy with products containing trace elements, mold and pesticides consistently found in low-grade, untested and unsanitary products. Through South Park Ventures, we believe we will put forth, among other things, a gold standard from seed to sale on cannabis related medicaments."
 
Source: Dean Petkanas, KannaLife Sciences
Writer: Elise Vider
 

PA's first flywheel energy storage facility underway in Hazle Township

As many as 40 Pennsylvania construction workers are hard at it, building an innovative flywheel energy storage plant in Hazle Township.
 
Designed and built by Beacon Power of Massachusetts, the facility is the first of its kind in Pennsylvania and is projected to save state ratepayers $2 to $5 million a year. 
 
Flywheel energy storage systems are an efficient and cost-effective way to achieve frequency regulation, the fine-tuning of the ongoing imbalances of electricity supply and demand to maintain grid stability. The facility will insure a steady supply of power, absorbing electricity from the grid when there is too much, storing it as kinetic energy, and returning it back to the grid when there is not enough power to meet demand. These cycles can occur multiple times in time periods as short as one minute.
 
Beacon spokesman Gene Hunt describes the facility as "a shock absorber for the grid" with abundant green advantages. Rather than relying on additional power plants for increased generation at peak demand, the plant will recycle existing power, minimizing costs and benefitting the environment. It will help promote renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar, by smoothing out their inherent variability. And it will do it all efficiently, "without pollution, emissions or consuming fuel," Hunt says.
 
The plant, being built on almost 10 acres in a Keystone Opportunity Zone for PJM Interconnection, will eventually have 200 flywheels. The first four megawatts of energy storage are scheduled to enter commercial operation in September, with the full 20 MW plant online during the second quarter of 2014. Once operational, Hunt says, the plant will be fully automated and controlled remotely by PJM.
 
Source: Gene Hunt, Beacon Power
Writer: Elise Vider
 

ACF Industries reopens its shuttered Milton railcar plant, creating 230 jobs

Four years ago, ACF Industries closed its railcar manufacturing facility in Milton, a victim of the recession and declining sales.
 
Now the more-than-100-year-old company has reopened the plant, hiring 230 employees. ACF expects to create a total of 333 jobs in the next three years, according to the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).
 
Gov. Corbett spoke at the plant’s reopening earlier this month, attributing it to the state’s “booming energy sector [which] has led to an increase for demand in railcars to transport goods.”
 
DCED said that railcars manufactured in Milton will be shipped to gas fields in the Dakotas and Canada and used to carry crude oil to refineries across the country, including in Philadelphia.
 
Corbett noted that three Philadelphia refineries were saved last year. “Making sure that those refineries stayed open didn't  just save jobs, it opened up opportunities not directly related to refining and the proof is right here … at this rail yard in Milton,” he said.
 
DCED said that because of the increased extraction of propane from Marcellus Shale and continued growth in the natural gas industry, ACF is making plans to begin manufacturing propane tanks at the Milton location by the end of the year.
 
DCED also said that ACF chose to reopen in Milton, rather than elsewhere in the United States because, as a large natural gas consumer itself, the low cost of energy in Pennsylvania was a draw.
 
ACF, headquartered in Missouri, was formed in 1899 as the American Car and Foundry Company. Over the decades, it has made cars for New York City’s then-fledgling subway system and the London Underground and materiel for use in World War I and II.
 
Besides Milton, it also has a manufacturing plant in Huntington, West Virginia.
 
Source: DCED
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 
 

How sweet it is: King of Prussia’s Renmatix enters sugar-to-biofuel partnership

Renmatix  of King of Prussia has entered into a partnership with the Helsinki-based pulp and paper multinational UPM.   Under the recently announced joint development announcement, both companies will further develop Renmatix’s proprietary, water-based Plantrose process to convert  woody biomass into low-cost sugar intermediates for further processing into biochemicals and fuels. The ultimate goal: cost-competitive, bio-alternatives for certain petrochemicals on an industrial scale.
 
The Plantrose process, says Renmatix, deconstructs cellulosic biomass, from wood waste to agricultural residue, much more quickly and cheaply than existing technologies.
 
“Consistent with our state’s strong heritage in traditional chemicals, Renmatix is focused on converting a broad range of non-food plant material into cellulosic sugars that will enable the chemical industry’s transition forward to a bio-based future,” says Mark Schweiker, the former Pennsylvania governor and Renmatix senior vice president. “We are leading this transition and building the biochemical cluster in our own backyard. Its rapid development, which is enabled  by our sugars, will help to stimulate bio-industrial growth and reinvigoration of rural economies in many regions across the country.”
 
The new collaboration “combines UPM’s core competencies in sustainable sourcing and efficient industrial processing of wood with Renmatix’s unique conversion technology,” said Michael Duetsch of UPM in a statement.
 
Renmatix opened its headquarters in King of Prussia in 2011 and currently employs 54 in Pennsylvania. It opened an R&D facility there in 2012, and earlier this year commissioned a new processing facility at the technical center to support commercial development with its key partners. The company also has a facility in Georgia capable of converting three dry tons of cellulosic biomass into sugar per day.
 
Source: David Okubo, Antenna Group
Writer: Elise Vider
 

State College’s Videon Central adopts quick response manufacture of consumer electronics

The early days of the DVD technology explosion prompted the founding of State College’s Videon Central in 1997. The company grew rapidly as a supplier of streaming video and Blu-Ray Disc technology to the consumer electronics market.
 
But by 2011, says Videon’s chief operating officer Paul Brown, a silo approach was creating problems. “Materials were piled, orders were on backlog and employees were not truly working together,” Videon said in a statement. “The company was missing out on the learning and innovation that can come from collaboration and streamlined planning. Despite having a talented team and a solid product, Video wasn’t making the most of its resources and wasn’t optimizing its work.”
 
The solution came at the prompting of a customer, Rockwell Collins, an aviation electronics company headquartered in Iowa, to pursue Quick Response Manufacturing (QRM).
 
QRM, explains Videon, “emphasizes relentless reduction in lead time, allowing opportunity for improved quality, elimination of waste and reduced cost.” Using the “Accelerate” supplier model offered by the Wisconsin Manufacturing Extension Partnership, Videon launched a three-phase plan.
 
First, Videon took a hard look at its performance and established specific, measurable goals. By mid-2012, the company had streamlined its operations, resulting in significant operational improvements in quality, on-time deliveries, and capacity. Now, as Videon goes ever leaner with a focus on error proofing and preventative measures, the company was recently recognized at an international QRM conference.
 
Videon employs 80 and generates nearly $15 million in sales. One of its most recent innovations is aVia, an Android app that allows users to play, manage and share various types of media on multiple devices.
 
Source: Videon-Central
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 
 
 
 

PHEAA hiring 150 for its new Allegheny County student loan center

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA),  which already employs nearly 3,000 in the state, is adding another 150 positions at a new customer service facility in Green Tree in Allegheny County.
 
PHEAA, created by the legislature in 1963, is a self-funded state agency and a national provider of student financial aid services, serving millions of students and thousands of schools through its loan guaranty, loan servicing, financial aid processing, outreach, and other student aid programs.
 
The Green Tree customer service center will be  PHEAA’s fifth facility in Pennsylvania; the others are in Dauphin, Cumberland, Centre and Delaware counties. PHEAA began recruiting loan counselors for the new center this week and will begin operations with a fully-trained staff in the fall.
 
State Sen. Wayne Fontana, vice chair of PHEAA’s board of directors, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette  that the location was chosen because of the availability of an educated workforce and proximity to public transportation and parking.
 
PHEAA's earnings are used to support its public service mission and to pay its operating costs, including administration of the Pennsylvania State Grant and other state-funded student aid programs.  PHEAA conducts its student loan servicing activities nationally as American Education Services (AES) and FedLoan Servicing.

Source: PHEAA
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 
 

Philadelphia's Rumble aims to monetize ailing print media

Few industries are as challenged as newspapers, which have seen readership and revenues plummet in recent years. Seeking to reverse that decline, Rumble, a startup headquartered in Philadelphia, is itself growing.
 
“Rumble makes mobile scalable, profitable and easy for publishers through the first integrated native mobile platform,” says Jennifer Eident, the company’s director of marketing.
 
Founded in 2011, Rumble has over 70 publisher clients, including the New Pittsburgh Courier, Jerusalem Post,  Fan IQ,  Interstate General Media,  publisher of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News, and the Pennsylvania NewsMedia Association.
 
Rumble’s platform publishes interactive content to mobile apps and devices, offering publishers options including ads, paywalls, content syndication, e-commerce and search capitalization.
 
“We combined the best parts of existing mobile technology and fused it together with our proprietary technology so that when publishers carry out their mobile strategy, they have the best technology for long-term success. We come from the media industry and understand the unique needs and challenges facing the print and newspaper industries,” says Eident.
 
“As veterans in both media and mobile technology, we understand the need for a full infrastructure so that publishers are not forced to make trade-offs between scalability, speed, user experience and functionality,” she adds.
 
A graduate of Philadelphia’s Project Liberty Digital Incubator, Rumble received $150,000 earlier this year from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania. Rumble currently employs 30 and plans to expand to 40 by the end of the year. It recently opened an office in New York and also has offices in Tel Aviv and Ukraine.
 
Source: Jennifer Eident, Rumble

Writer: Elise Vider

Seneca Resources marks 100 years in Pennsylvania with an eye to the future

Seneca Resources, a venerable Pennsylvania energy company, is marking its centennial with a celebration of its history and an eye to the future.
 
The exploration and production segment of National Fuel Gas Company was founded on June 9, 1913 as the Mars Natural Gas Company, producing and selling natural gas. Over the decades, the company grew, acquired significant holdings, was re-formed and changed names several times.
 
Today Seneca, headquartered in McCandless, holds about 800,000 acres and operates about 3,000 wells in the state’s shale play, with significant operations in Elk, Lycoming, McKean, Tioga and Venango counties.
 
Rob Boulware handles public affairs for Seneca and his position, established about a year and a half ago, itself tells of a old-line company modernizing its operations. Boulware is busy creating the company’s first-ever radio ads and billboard, along with an improved web site, brochures and other manifestations of 21st century branding.
 
As a major landowner, Boulware says, Seneca has aggressively pursued innovations in technology and best environmental practices with, for example, the first fully natural-gas-fueled drilling rig in the Pennsylvania Marcellus Shale, and the use of recycled, coal-mine drainage, rather than fresh water, as part of the drilling process.
 
Currently, about 150 of its 200 Seneca’s employees nationwide are in Pennsylvania and the workforce has doubled twice in the last five years, Boulware says, as the company has expanded its drilling operations.
 
If natural gas prices continue to stabilize and even rise (“a hard asterisk,” Boulware notes), it is possible the company would go online with one or two more rigs in Pennsylvania, each creating about 50 contractor jobs onsite and another five to 10 in back-office support, in the foreseeable future.
 
Source: Rob Boulware, Seneca Resources
Writer: Elise Vider

From Maxwell Smart's shoephone to SolePower, a Pittsburgh startup with a power-generating insole

In the 1960s, Agent Maxwell Smart’s shoephone was a high-tech marvel. Now a Pittsburgh startup is taking the concept to the next step with an insole that charges cellphones as you walk.
 
SolePower is the brainchild of Hahna Alexander and Matt Stanton, recent Carnegie Mellon grads, who, in less than a year, are AlphaLab graduates, ready to begin testing of  a functional prototype. They’ve attracted the interest of the military (as a potential market) and national media and have been finalists in two national competitions. In less than two weeks, their Kickstarter campaign was more than halfway to its $50,000 goal and the company, which employs six fulltime, is about to move into its own offices in Pittsburgh.
 
The company is moving quickly to commercialization, and Stanton expects to be able to accept orders no later than December 2014.
 
SolePower’s patent-pending technology captures the energy in a step normally lost to the surrounding environment and converts it into usable electrical power for mobile electronic devices such as cellphones and GPS. The mechanism is embedded within a waterproof insole that can be slipped into any shoe. The power generated is stored in an external battery and accessed via micro or mini USB ports. The user does not need to remove the insole, and does not need to attach their electronic devices to their footwear.
 
Alexander and Stanton have identified several potential markets, starting with  outdoor enthusiasts, a $7 billion market. “They’re often off the grid for long periods time, but need their cellphones, GPS and compasses,” says Alexander.
 
For the military, the device offers potential to charge an array of electronics, while significantly lightening the load that servicepeople have to carry on their backs. Similarly, the product has huge potential in developing nations, where electrical service is often  so unreliable that cellphones are sometimes sold with solar collectors.
 
Sources: Hahna Alexander and Matt Stanton, SolePower
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 
 
 

Faster means bigger for Breinigsville's Cyoptics

Cyoptics of Breinigsville was founded in 1999 with the vision of providing core optical technologies to enable bandwidth for high-speed networks. We don’t have to tell you about demand in that sector. Still, as Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania  noted in awarding CyOptics its 2013 award for entrepreneurial achievement, “The early to mid-2000s were filled with uncertainty in the telecom optoelectronics sector. CyOptics not only survived this difficult time; it thrived by building intellectual property and market share.”
 
By growing its technology and making a series of acquisitions, CyOptics has grown rapidly and expanded its customer base to over 180 customers worldwide, achieving a compound annual sales growth rate of 36% from 2005 to 2011. In 2012, the company reported $210 million in annual revenue.
 
CEO Ed J. Coringato, Jr. attributes the growth to “continued expansion of communication networks and infrastructure worldwide and having the differentiated products and technologies that customers want.  We enable high speed, small size, and low power consumption, providing the carriers with reduced capital and operating expense.”
 
CyOptics products are used in equipment manufactured by system original equipment makers and sold to enterprise and telecom carriers for the transport of voice, data and video signals over fiber optics networks. Cyoptics fabricates chips and does high-performance packaging in Breinigsville; its optoelectronic assembly and testing takes place in Mexico.
 
To insure continued growth, Coringato says CyOptics continues to invest in R&D: “We play heavily today in metropolitan and fiber to the home (access) networks and will continue our expansion into data center and long-haul markets as  technologies move from 10Gbits/sec transmission to 100Gbits/sec and beyond.”
 
And faster will mean bigger still: CyOptics currently employs 326 in the Lehigh Valley and 831 worldwide and anticipates additional job growth.
 
Source: Ed J. Coringato, Jr., CyOptics
Writer: Elise Vider

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