TransTech conference promotes energy entrepreneurs

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November 3, 2014 by Trina Karolchik Wafle, NRCCE

Morgantown, W.Va.– Windows that warm buildings when it’s cold outside.

Personal power wind turbines that provide electricity in remote areas.

WVU graduate student and energy entrepreneur Justin Chambers will be making a repeat appearance at the 2014 TransTech Energy Business Development Conference, November 12-13. Chambers’ WindPax LLC was recognized as a top student-run company at the 2013 event. WindPax makes collapsible, portable, personal power wind turbines for generating electricity in remote locations.

WVU graduate student and energy entrepreneur Justin Chambers will be making a repeat appearance at the 2014 TransTech Energy Business Development Conference, November 12-13. Chambers’ WindPax LLC was recognized as a top student-run company at the 2013 event. WindPax makes collapsible, portable, personal power wind turbines for generating electricity in remote locations.

Drones that monitor pipelines and construction sites, automatically returning to a recharging base and flying for months without human intervention.

These are some of the innovations to be presented by regional entrepreneurs at the 2014 TransTech Energy Business Development Conference, November 12-13, at Waterfront Place Hotel in Morgantown, West Virginia.

WVU President E. Gordon Gee will be on hand to introduce keynote dinner presenter, former University of Kentucky President and veteran entrepreneur Lee Todd. Other featured conference speakers include U.S. Department of Energy National Energy Technology Laboratory Director Grace Bochenek, U.S. DOE Advanced Manufacturing Office Director Mark Johnson, and U.S. DOE ARPA-E Interim Director Cheryl Martin.

Reminiscent of the popular TV show, Shark Tank, in which entrepreneurs seek financial backing for their companies, the TransTech Energy Conference seeks to connect energy innovators with potential investors and strategic partners. The conference is the brainchild of West Virginia University Mathematics Professor Carl Irwin.

Irwin mentors WVU grad student Josh Metheny before the TransTech competition.

Carl Irwin and WVU graduate student Josh Metheny discuss the 2013 TransTech competition. (Photo by Tracy Novak, NRCCE)

Irwin left the classroom more than 20 years ago to promote energy research at WVU’s National Research Center for Coal and Energy. His passion is technologies to transition society toward more environmentally friendly ways to create and use energy. According to Irwin, technologies that make traditional energy sources cleaner and more efficient, promote affordable renewable energy, or lead to products and manufacturing processes that use less energy overall qualify as TransTech Energy concepts.

“Over the years, I had seen and heard lots of good ideas for improving energy and manufacturing systems from our own faculty at WVU and from other researchers and inventors I’ve met. I worried that these great ideas would just sit on the shelf and never be deployed in the real world to create jobs, improve the environment, and add downstream value to our natural resource base,” said Irwin.

“In 2008, I started attending the Industry Growth Forum that’s organized by the U.S. DOE National Renewable Energy Laboratory and has been held in Denver, Colorado for more than 25 years. I saw innovators and entrepreneur who were passionate about their ideas connect with investors who were keen to help them get their innovations to market.

“This model struck me as a way to encourage commercialization of energy innovation in states like West Virginia, except we would have to broaden the scope from renewables to include technologies that help us transition to a low-carbon, competitive, sustainable  economy of the future – hence the term TransTech Energy.”

This is the third year for the TransTech Conference. Irwin and his team have invited 23 entrepreneurs from a pool of 30 applicants to present 8-minute pitches to panels of experts who will decide which of them merit awards.

“It’s not just about the awards for great pitches,” said Irwin, “the real payoff for a start-up company is when an investor says, ‘Hey, I like what you’re doing, let’s talk some more.’ ”

The event is designed for anyone who is interested in the future of energy and entrepreneurship. “You don’t have to have a start-up company to get some benefit from attending the conference,” said Irwin. “If you’re wondering what entrepreneurship is all about, if you’re wondering how we can improve upon our traditional energy systems, If you’re looking for a start-up to invest in, this is a great event for you.”

Irwin said that most all of the 36 presenters from the first two TransTech Conferences are doing well and are benefitting from contacts with investors, partners, and customers that were made at the TransTech Conferences. Three TransTech alumni companies that have made significant progress are returning in 2014 to make new pitches.

This year, eight of the presentations will be by West Virginia-based entrepreneurs. Other presenters hail from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, and Michigan. Their projects cover a variety of industry sectors including electricity generation and transmission, engines, water purification, plastics, batteries, coatings, glass, and sensors for industrial, commercial, and residential settings.

Since 2003, companies making a pitch at NREL’s Industry Growth Forum have raised more than $4 billion in growth funding. Irwin hopes the WVU TransTech Energy conferences will do the same for transitional energy technologists.

Learn more at http://transtechenergy.org/.  Registration is available online and at the door.

NRCCE

CONTACT:  Trina Karolchik Wafle; 304.293.6038