Innovation Fund Success Stories
Halomine is disrupting the way we think about disinfecting and infection control to save lives and save money for customers. HaloFilm, its consumer product, is a disinfectant companion that acts as a chlorine extender with the potential to make any surface antimicrobial for as long as a month.
Halomine’s CEO, Ted Eveleth, needed funding to promote awareness of the company’s technology, which had previously received Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of the Army, and the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Halomine pitched at FuzeHub’s 2019 Commercialization Competition and won a $50,000 award. The company used this money to improve its marketing materials, including a new website. Halomine also hired a PR firm and an e-commerce consultant.
COVID-19 forced the cancellation of tradeshows that Halomine planned to attend, but the company pivoted and developed a Kickstarter campaign to promote awareness and test the consumer space. Even in today’s challenging business environment, strong sales are anticipated.
"The FuzeHub prize was a godsend and a force multiplier. With grant funding available for technical development, but commercialization closing in, we really need to upgrade our image and were able to do that with FuzeHub's help."
Meet Molecular Glasses
Molecular Glasses is a Rochester-based startup that produces glassy small molecule organic light emitting diode (OLED) materials, called OLEDIQ, for use in such applications as cellular phones, flat screen televisions and specialty lighting. OLEDIQ materials are designed to improve the efficiency and extend the lifetime of OLED displays. They also are compatible with both of the leading manufacturing processes: thermal vacuum deposition and solution printing.
Like any startup, Mark Juba, COO of Molecular Glasses and his team had a need for money. Specifically, they lacked the wherewithal to scale-up supply of OLEDIQ from the few grams required for initial customer assessment to the higher volume needed to enable potential customers to do pilot-scale evaluations.
Molecular Glass applied for FuzeHub’s 2019 Commercialization Competition and won a $50,000 prize. The company is using part of the money to purchase, install and validate a 3-inch single zone sublimator, used to purify its materials. The rest will fund the scale-up of OLEDIQ through the company’s manufacturing partner, an upstate New York chemical manufacturer, with the goal of producing about 100 grams of materials.
Although the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed Molecular Glasses’ plans by about six months, the 2019 Commercialization Competition Award did result in the company picking up three additional customers who are now evaluating its materials.
"The money was definitely helpful. It enabled us to do things that frankly would have been quite difficult to do without the funding and the support that was available."
Electroskip LLC is a Buffalo-based footwear electronics company with a patented biofeedback system for people with walking disabilities from such conditions as Parkinson’s Disease, Cerebral Palsy, Multiple Sclerosis, stroke and lower limb loss. The company started by working with dancers to trigger electronic beats and musical notes during performances but pivoted once it saw the medical benefits of its technology.
Jamie O’Neil, co-inventor and CEO of Electroskip, and his team needed money to learn how to manufacture their product. They also needed to determine which medical device category was the right fit and go through the validation and testing process necessary to register it with the FDA as a turnkey medical device.
Electroskip applied for FuzeHub’s 2019 Commercialization Competition and won a $50,000 prize. It used the money to work with its manufacturing partner, K-Technologies in Buffalo, on the design for manufacturing process. It also hired a Buffalo consulting firm, Guideline Medical, to determine that its product is best categorized as a Class II Biofeedback device and to assist it with testing, building out design controls and making the necessary filings with the FDA.
With these vital steps completed, Electroskip is on the precipice of being able to offer its device, which it has recently named the Eskiptrainer, for sale to medical professionals. O’Neil has had meetings with a world-renowned expert in Parkinson’s and has discussed validation testing with the Institute for Human Performance at SUNY Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse. The company also has a committed team of consultants in place, including a physical therapist, an engineer and a sales consultant. It expects to make at least two of these individuals full-time employees and hire a third person with manufacturing skills once sales begin. Some manufacturing, including work on a new technology developed in part with two FuzeHub manufacturing grants, will take place in-house. And although the primary focus is on the medical market, the company is continuing to pursue the musical side of the business and has had talks with a major pop star.
"The Commercialization Competition really helped us think beyond being a “start-up.” Of course, we are still a start-up! However, our mindset has completely changed. Really, FuzeHub has enabled us to focus on the business aspects of what we were doing first and foremost. We had a lot of research, but there wasn’t a place for us to go to get the funding to turn into a company until we found FuzeHub."
Bonbouton is a New York City startup that is developing a smart insole that detects diabetic foot ulcers before they form. This comfortable, easy-to-wear insole is paired with a mobile app so that users will continuously know the status of their foot health and can seek medical treatment if required.
Bonbouton’s founder, Linh Le, needed funding to improve a proof-of-concept prototype for both manufacturability and usability. He also wanted connections that could help Bonbouton to develop a process for printing graphene, a sensor material that can detect changes in temperature and pressure.
Bonbouton applied for FuzeHub’s 2018 Commercialization Competition and won a $50,000 award. The company used this money to pay for design and engineering, several iterations of prototypes, and for the consulting services of a podiatrist who treated diabetic patients on a daily basis. At the Commercialization Competition, Linh Le met Xerox’s Santokh Badesha, a prolific inventor who is also a member of FuzeHub’s Board of Directors. Badesha shared advice and continues to provide guidance to Bonbouton, which is now developing a graphene mask during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of its 2018 Commercialization Competition award, Bonbouton has created two jobs and retained three jobs. In addition, the company’s $50,000 award led to $145,000 in follow-on investment and $200,000 in increased sales.
"FuzeHub has given me the opportunity to explore different manufacturing options within New York and expand our network from New York City to the Capital Region for collaborations. Winning the Commercialization Competition grant not only helped us with funding, but also provided validation that we're adding value to the community."
Meet TelosAir Corp
TelosAir Corp (formerly Potsdam Sensors) is a Potsdam-based company that provides energy-efficient air quality solutions by combining advanced networked sensors with cloud-based machine learning/ artificial intelligence models. Its mesh-networked sensors are designed for easy deployment and seamless integration with building management systems to ensure desired air quality over an entire facility.
Suresh Dhaniyala, President of TelosAir, needed money to establish the company’s technology and develop a prototype of its device for demonstration to clients.
What was then Potsdam Sensors (now TeloSair Corp), applied for FuzeHub’s 2017 Commercialization Competition and won a $50,000 prize. It used the money for initial prototype development, building a validation prototype that demonstrated the sensor’s capability to hospital clients, for whom air quality control is of critical importance.
The FuzeHub funding was crucial to TelosAir’s go-to-market plans, helping it develop a product for pilot installation in a hospital and positioning the company to secure vital funding from the National Science Foundation.
"The competition helped our commercialization efforts in several different ways. The funding was critical for us to build a prototype that was ready for pilot deployment. The funding was a critical bridge between phase 1 and phase 2 NSF small business grants and helped us gather necessary data to secure NSF STTR Phase 2 funding. Subsequently, guidance from FuzeHub has also helped us navigate the manufacturing ecosystem in New York for advancing the development of our sensors."
Meet Leep Foods
Empire Medicinals, doing business as Leep Foods, is a Rochester-based business that produces mushrooms using a range of agricultural byproducts produced by businesses in the Western/ Upstate NY region.
George Zheng and Chris Carter, the co-founders of Leep Foods, along with Sarad Parekh, Ph.D., and two researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology — Thomas Trabold, Ph.D. program director department head at the Golisano Institute for Sustainability and Jeff Lodge, an associate professor in the biology department — wanted to address a major problem in the food industry, the disposal of acid whey, a byproduct of Greek yogurt manufacturing. They needed funding to determine if, at a bench top level, mycelium could grow on acid whey, creating a new commercial pathway for turning an agricultural byproduct into a high value food.
RIT applied to FuzeHub for a 2018 Manufacturing Grant and received $49,460. It used the money to support a team of researchers that included RIT graduate students and a scientist from Leep. Using equipment already in place at RIT, they executed a year-long bench-scale proof-of-concept demonstration project, which succeeded in producing mycelium on acid whey.
The FuzeHub-funded project directly informed a follow-on research project funded by the National Science Foundation through a $141,000 grant to Professor James Hewlett at Finger Lakes Community College. This research, which is currently ongoing, is focused on the "downstream processing" of the completed fermentation broth volume to isolate and recover high molecular weight beta-glucan polysaccharides. It will define the manufacturing process steps required to effectively recover the valuable fungal sugars from a fermentation broth. Leep also is poised to begin a pre-pilot manufacturing demonstration project to develop product samples in sufficient quantities to enable widespread customer testing.
For RIT, the project also added to a portfolio of technical solutions for food waste.
The FuzeHub program is an outstanding mechanism for bringing together academic researchers and companies with specific technical needs. I think it worked out very well and we developed a very close working relationship with Empire. I think we’ve laid the foundation for future support and research & development with them."
"Fuzehub has been a blessing. As a small and growing company elevating the mushroom industry, we are grateful to have had FuzeHub’s support."
CathBuddy is developing a reusable urinary catheter that is designed to improve the standard of care for patients with neurogenic bladder, the name given to a number of urinary conditions in people who lack bladder control. CathBuddy’s modular technology provides an alternative to single-use catheters and includes radio frequency identification (RFID) tagging and a patent-pending sterilization system.
CathBuddy’s founder and CEO, Souvik Paul, needed assistance with the development of the catheter’s insertion aid and the development of the sterilizer, a critical system component intended for at-home use.
CathBuddy pitched at FuzeHub’s 2019 Commercialization Competition and won a $50,000 award. The company used this money to develop a manifold design for a sterilizer that can pump steam directly through the inner lumen of the catheter and insertion aid. CathBuddy also completed a preliminary design for the sterilization tray on which the catheter and insertion aid will be mounted.
The FuzeHub project led to the retention of one job and is expected to have further economic impacts as the technology continues to advance.
"The FuzeHub funding has greatly accelerated our progress towards a functional engineering prototype of the CathBuddy sterilizer."
Meet Combined Energies
Combined Energies is a Rochester-based startup that is developing a Universal DC-to-DC converter platform, a device that links the power output of an energy storage, renewable, fuel cell or other power source to an end use. By utilizing silicon carbide switching devices that can operate at high speed and high temperatures, the company’s patented design eliminates the need for active cooling, increases efficiency, lowers costs, all in a smaller footprint.
Combined Energies’ Co-founder Rhonda Staudt and her team needed money to improve their prototype and give it a more “production-ready design.” Design-for-manufacturing analysis and feedback from the company’s contract manufacturer had revealed some specific issues that needed to be addressed.
Combined Energies applied for FuzeHub’s 2019 Commercialization Competition and won a $50,000 prize. It used the money to hire a firm to redesign its product, including splitting one large board into two smaller components.
The design change put Combined Energies closer to where it needs to be for full-scale manufacturing and commercialization. Dividing the board into two pieces will not only make it easier to produce, it will enable the company to target more markets by allowing it to change the output side of the converter to meet different needs while leaving the input side as is. Although Combined Energies itself did not hire additional people as a result of the grant, it supported jobs at two Rochester area firms —design engineer Vanteon Wireless Solutions and contract manufacturer Surmotech.
"The FuzeHub Commercialization Award enabled Combined Energies to improve our commercial prototype designs and ready hardware for in-application evaluation by potential customers. We implemented over 10 Design for Manufacturing initiatives that will reduce part cost, assembly time and reduce scrap. Additionally, we were able to leverage the FuzeHub award to secure additional funding from both investors and manufacturing related government programs. As a result of attending the CC, we also applied for FuzeHub’s Build4Scale program which connected us with manufacturing design personnel that assisted in reducing our enclosure cost by 10 times. The bottom line is we now have a much-improved commercial design and are poised to engage the market!"
Meet Ferric Contrast
From its home in the University at Buffalo Technology Incubator, Ferric Contrast is producing a novel family of iron-based MRI contrast agents. Its mission is to provide improved images for faster and more accurate diagnosis, and to create a contrast for people with medical conditions that prevent them from accessing this critical technology.
Bradford La Salle, President and Co-founder of Ferric Contrast, and his team needed money to supplement the $225,000 in funding it had received from the National Science Foundation and improve its chances of winning a larger NSF award.
Ferric Contrast applied for FuzeHub’s 2017 Commercialization Competition and won a $50,000 prize. It used $8,000 of the money to purchase a rotary evaporator, a key piece of equipment in any chemistry lab. It had been using the one in the University at Buffalo Instrument Center but having its own enabled it to work faster, more efficiently and more accurately. With the equipment and award money, Ferric Contrast was able to increase its research and build a more robust data set to show experts.
The FuzeHub award put Ferric Contrast on the path to receiving a $750,000 NSF award earlier this year. The company has hired a second chemist and expects to add a third, with a different skillset, by early next year. It also is investing in additional equipment, including a nuclear magnetic resonance machine, which will enable it to test the magnetic properties of its agents.
"The Commercialization Competition came at a critical time in the company’s development. The $50,000 gave us the ability to exceed the milestones in our NSF grant and make a much stronger demonstration of the technology. We were able to write a robust phase II application and we were awarded $750,000 in April 2020."
SparkCharge makes a fast, portable charging system for electrical vehicles (EV). The company wants to end “range anxiety”, a major obstacle to EV adoption, by making any location a charging station. SparkCharge was founded by Joshua Aviv, a graduate of Syracuse University, and has operations in Buffalo.
SparkCharge needed to enhance a prototype and produce first articles for potential customers. However, the metal enclosure for its portable charging system was relatively expensive to produce. The company also needed engineering talent to help it apply lessons learned to product development.
FuzeHub’s Commercialization Competition award enabled SparkCharge to buy a 3D printer that it used for prototyping and first article production. Instead of paying a vendor and waiting for enclosures to arrive, the company quickly and cost-effectively made what it needed in-house. The award also enabled SparkCharge to leverage engineering talent and enhance its product design. The company learned how to manufacture portable EV chargers more efficiently and to refine the assembly process. By evolving its prototype into a production-ready unit, SparkCharge was ready to grow.
As a result of its 2018 Commercialization Competition award, SparkCharge realized a $50,000 cost savings in labor, material, and equipment. The company also enjoyed a $500,000 increase in sales. Follow-on investments totaled $5,000,000, including a $1 million top prize in the 43 North Competition.
"Winning the Commercialization Competition gave us the capital we needed to create new jobs and grow our team. Competing helped connect us to the upstate New York manufacturing industry and further establish our company. Without the mentorship we received from Steve Melito and the support of the FuzeHub ecosystem, SparkCharge wouldn’t be where it is today."
Meet New Scale Technologies
New Scale Technologies (NST), based in Victor, NY, develops and manufactures highly precise closed-loop positioning solutions that enable smaller, smarter imaging systems, scientific instruments, medical devices, aerospace and defense systems and more. In 2018, the company released the NSR-PG parallel gripper, which is certified for use with the 6-axis Universal Robots (UR) collaborative robot (cobot) arm and is the smallest UR certified gripper with the lightest weight. It has high precision for small parts handling, measuring, sorting and assembling and is smart with teachable finger positions and the ability to collect data on what it picks up.
NST and Dr. Sam Samanta of Finger Lakes Community College (FLCC), who have informally collaborated for the past 8 years, wanted to adapt the NSR-PG for use on other cobot arms such as Aubo, TM/Omron, Fanuc, ABB, and Epson. The next generation of FLCC students needed to be prepared to support the fast-growing use of cobots and best practices of Industry 4.0, but the college could not fund the purchase of a cobot.
FLCC and NST applied for a FuzeHub 2019 Manufacturing Grant and received $50,000. The money was used to purchase an Omron Cobot TM5-700, accessories, and supplies. It also supported payments to student co-ops from the college’s Instrumentation and Control Technologies AAS degree program.
The project helped develop the interface between the OmronTM cobot and NST’s NSR-PG, resulting in one additional employee at NST. The company was able to leverage the knowledge gained from this project to enhance and grow its latest product offering - Q-Span Workstation Solutions, which is one of the first automated quality control workstations in the market.
The FuzeHub project funded participation of students in R&D activity with the New Scale Robotics division of NST. After the key phases of the project, the OmronTM robot was moved from NST to the Instrumentation and Control Technologies Lab at Victor Campus Center of FLCC, allowing for training in the use of cobots, which is very important for small and medium-sized businesses.
"New Scale Technologies leveraged the information learned from working with the FuzeHub funded TM Omron 'cobot' into our launch of the Q-Span Workstation; an automated inspection station for small and mid-size manufacturers. See www.newscalerobotics.com. This new product line added three full-time jobs at New Scale and adds a new option for small part inspection that will save companies money and improve their internal inspection operations."
“Cobots are one of the key components for Smart Manufacturing and are playing an important role in the high-tech ecosystem gearing up for the pervasive 'Digital Transformation', now accelerated due to the pandemic. The experience with this project, in part, prompted transformation of our AAS Instrumentation and Control Technologies program to AAS Smart Systems Technologies, so that we continue to educate and train technologists preadapted for Industry 4.0 Revolution underway.”
Herkimer-based Casestry, LLC is a print-on-demand partner for large enterprise retailers.
The fabrication lab at Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) needed funding to acquire a high-end 3D scanning system in response to requests from its clients, including Casestry. Casestry needed the high-quality scans to shorten its production cycle. In addition, having the technology at MVCC would enable this critical step in their process to be handled locally./p>
MVCC applied for a 2019 FuzeHub Manufacturing Grant and received $35,000. It used the money to purchase a high-end 3D scanning system.
The scanner has enabled MVCC to work with a number of new clients, including a local company that makes linings for police helmets, and to offer additional services to Casestry. It also is integrating the technology into some mechanical engineering classes to arm students with some valuable skills. For Casestry, the project created both savings of time and operational costs, enabling the company to serve its customers more efficiently and effectively.
"The people at FuzeHub were great to work with. We could not have upgraded our 3D scanning system without them."
“Through and through, a wonderful experience with great people. I highly recommend FuzeHub and encourage others to explore what they have to offer.”