January 4, 2016
Morgantown, W.Va. — The State Journal’s “Expert Panel” series recently featured Carl Irwin, director of NRCCE Energy Efficiency Division. The paper asks a variety of experts from a wide range of fields the same five question about their careers. Irwin’s feature focused on his successful business development partnerships and his work with Industries of the Future – West Virginia and the more recent TransTech Energy Research and Business Development Program.
The following is reprinted by permission from The State Journal.
Expert Panel: Carl Irwin
Carl Irwin is Director of the Energy Efficiency Division at the West Virginia University National Research Center for Coal and Energy. In 2001, he received the U.S. Department Of Energy Office of Industrial Technology’s “Partner of the Year Award” for his work in developing the Industries of the Future — West Virginia (IOF-WV) program. Since 2008, Irwin and his team have focused on developing the TransTech Energy Research and Business Development Program.
He has a BS in aeronautical engineering from Auburn University, MS and Ph.D. in mathematics from Emory University and is a professor in the WVU Department of Mathematics.
The State Journal: What is your biggest day-to-day challenge?
Carl Irwin: Every day I try to think of new ways to increase effectiveness of the TransTech Energy (TTE) Research and Business Development Program. This means identifying commercially promising TTE innovations, connecting with entrepreneurs and potential co-sponsors, attracting investors and strategic partners, and raising expectations for new ideas that lead to good jobs, successful start-ups and prosperous communities.
TSJ: What has been your proudest professional success?
CI: I am very proud of the research and business development partnerships I have helped create during the past 25 years working at the WVU NRCCE with programs such as the Carbon Products Consortium, the Electric Industry Research Group, Industries of the Future — West Virginia (IOF-WV) and TransTech. I am particularly proud that TTE partnerships have enabled us to hold four Business Development Conferences where 72 TTE start-up companies and commercializable projects representing 13 regional states have been pitched to investors, industry partners and technical experts.
TSJ: What trends do you see on the horizon for your field?
CI: Out of necessity, there is a definite trend toward deploying and commercializing innovations from academic and national lab research, private industry and creative entrepreneurs working in basements and garages around the country. It is especially important that this trend be strongly promoted and supported by leaders in West Virginia and neighboring states.
TSJ: What advice do you have for someone starting out in your field?
CI: One thing that has worked for me is to attend conferences and meetings around the country where there is a vibrant entrepreneurial “ecosystem” that encourages and supports start-up companies and new jobs in a diversity of industry sectors. New contacts will become key advisors and partners — and lessons learned can be adapted to the particular circumstances and needs of one’s own region.
TSJ: Who is your mentor?
CI: The Industry Growth Forum (IGF) organized by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) was my inspiration for TransTech. NREL VP Bill Farris generously advised us on starting TransTech and shared experiences based on their 25-plus years of IGF enabling investment in renewable energy start-ups. On a more personal level, my Ph.D. adviser, John Neuberger, taught me to think for myself. Denise Swink introduced us to the national IOF program and encouraged us to start IOF-WV. Cheryl Martin and her Tech-to-Market team at ARPA-E provided the impetus for TransTech and were co-sponsors for the first three TTE Business Development Conferences. The TransTech program would never have been possible without the participation and advice of entrepreneurs, investors and great friends in West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio.
This story first appeared in the print edition of The State Journal and on their website.