Resnick Institute


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Rocket Fund Awards Seven New Grants

PASADENA, CA – July 26, 2019

The Resnick Sustainability Institute’s Rocket Fund awarded seven grants fostering innovation in novel firebreak materials, advanced manufacturing, air conditioning/storage technologies, grid management software, and new approaches to EV charging. This cohort is the fifth funded by a program that helps young companies validate their technologies, secure investment for their ventures, and customers for their products.

The Rocket Fund is a partnership which includes Caltech, the ETCC group of six California utilities, the San Diego based Moxie Foundation, and a consortium of industry and incubator partners. The program was created to provide vital funding for building commercial prototypes necessary for field testing technology and securing potential customers. The Rocket Fund awards grants of up to $75,000 to build demonstration units where companies work under guidance from potential buyers, and further refine their products.

The 2019 award recipients are:

  • Aralez Bio, Inc: Founded on Nobel Prize winning research, Aralez Bio uses engineered enzymes to provide developers and manufacturers of peptide therapeutics with a high quality, reliable, and sustainable source of a chemical fundamental to the process, amino acid analogs. This advance in manufacturing not only is cost effective and sustainable, producing 100x less waste and requiring 35% less energy, but also can produce novel molecules not seen in nature or produced by chemists. Support from the Rocket Fund will allow Aralez to purchase equipment and materials critical to designing and quality control testing its first products. They will also develop a manufacturing process with two initial customers.

  • Blue Frontier, LLC: Blue Frontier's patented approach to climate-friendly energy storage air conditioning builds on award winning technology developed by the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The technology includes non-vapor compression, desiccant-enhanced evaporative cooling, chemical energy storage and a highly efficient converter for transforming renewable electricity into heat. Once commercialized, Blue Frontier’s products yield a number of environmental benefits including reduced building energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. Once widely adopted, Blue Frontier technology will permanently reduce peak electrical AC demand in the summer, and efficiently store, and use intermittent renewable energy, enabling carbon-free grid and zero-net-energy buildings. The Rocket Fund grant will enable Blue Frontier to begin designing, building and testing prototypes suitable for the California climate and marketplace.

  • DTE Materials: DTE Materials is developing a new type of wall insulation consisting of natural hemp fiber waste. This engineered material is embedded in a ceramic cementitious matrix to produce natural fiber concrete. The results are robust, fireproof, breathable, and highly insulating. The product is a modular, precast bio-aggregate concrete that is built off-site, and then installed in a single day at the foundation. The Rocket Fund award will enable ASTM standardized testing essential for the next step of installing prototype wall panels in a 1,000 sq. ft. accessory dwelling unit (ADU), provided as a test site by a potential customer.

  • EVmatch, Inc: EVmatch approaches public charging of electric vehicles through an app-enabled, peer-to-peer charging network that takes advantage of existing charging resources at homes and businesses. This “Airbnb” type of service provides affordable EV charging that can be reserved. The EVmatch commercial application is currently compatible with three charging station brands, including eMotorWerks, ClipperCreek, and AeroVironment/Webasto. EVmatch wishes to expand this footprint and will apply Rocket Fund money towards building a management console for commercial charging hosts, and developing one additional access-control Application Program Interface (API) integration with another EV charging hardware manufacturer.

  • LaderaTech, Inc: LaderaTech's FORTIFY product is the industry’s first preventative and proactive fire retardant, sprayed in advance of wildfire season to stop fires at their source. It combines environmentally-benign proprietary materials that are approved for use in the environment. FORTIFY has demonstrated high adherence to vegetation, as well as resistance to weathering, such as wind and rain. The breakthrough allows the product to stay on vegetation in high-risk fire areas through the entire peak fire season with a single treatment. The Rocket Fund grant will be used to manufacture and apply FORTIFY along high-risk roadways in Southern California that are prone to fire starts to prevent the fires from starting in the first place. This grant will also enable LaderaTech to begin field testing with utilities to prevent fires and protect critical infrastructure during the 2019 fire season. Demonstrated success on these projects will help the company to rapidly commercialize the FORTIFY product with state and federal agencies, as well as expand the product’s use with utility and insurance companies in 2020.

  • NeoCharge, Corp: NeoCharge's mission is to eliminate barriers to electric vehicle adoption by providing convenient, affordable, and easy home charging access. Their flagship product is a smart splitter device that plugs into a 220-volt outlet occupied by an electric dryer, hot water heater, EV charger, or electric heat pump in or near the garage. It ensures that charging between the appliance and the car is synchronized, so the appliance receives power when needed, and the car resumes charging afterward. This plug and play solution can be installed without an electrician, the need for infrastructural changes, or permits. The smart system integrates charge scheduling, automated carbon emission reduction, metering and demand response capabilities. NeoCharge's goal is to enable lower-income families, home renters, and homeowners to feasibly own an electric car by using already existing electrical infrastructure to save time and money on home charging installation. The Rocket Fund grant will allow the company to obtain UL listing, which is essential for commercialization, and to begin tooling for production.

  • Weave Grid, Inc: Weave Grid is developing an innovative machine learning and grid optimization platform to understand the impacts of electric vehicle (EV) fleets on grid operations, with the goal of helping utilities predict and manage added EV charging demands. The company’s mission is to accelerate the adoption of clean transportation by bringing together disparate energy data with modern computational techniques, enabling EVs to act as a flexible grid resource and informing important planning decisions. The Rocket Fund grant will be used to meet data integration and security requirements mandated by utility partners, and forward app design for customer engagement.