NextCorps Awarded $4.5 Million National Science Foundation Grant to Bolster Innovation in Deep Tech
New Accelerator for Energy Storage to be Created at Binghamton University to Test “Accelerator Ignition” Model for Improving Startup and Technology Success
ROCHESTER, NY – October 2, 2023 – NextCorps, a non-profit that helps innovative technology companies launch and grow, announced today that it has been awarded a $4.5 million innovation grant from the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF). The grant (NSF-2334103) will be used to test a replicable model for better supporting the needs of early-stage, deep-tech businesses, improving the commercialization of new innovations, and strengthening economic development within region-specific technology hubs located across the US.
The model, called the Accelerator Ignition Program, will harness curriculum and learnings from two of NextCorps’ proven accelerators: Luminate, the world’s largest accelerator for startups developing optics, photonics and imaging (OPI) enabled technologies, and the Manufacturing Accelerator, which helps early-stage companies reduce the risk, waste, and cost associated with getting hardware from prototype to mass production. To test the model, Binghamton University’s Koffman Southern Tier Incubator will launch a new accelerator for startups working on energy storage applications. This accelerator will pair entrepreneurs with NextCorps’ packaged curriculum and the region’s battery industry expertise and resources, which include support from academic, corporate, regional clusters, professional societies, and government entities.
“We are experiencing a period of rapid expansion in deep tech, including clean energy, semiconductors and biotech, and it’s critical that we help our nation support development and ensure a healthy supply chain,” said James Senall, President of NextCorps. “This generous grant from the NSF enables us to share the comprehensive, success-proven accelerator methodologies that we have created over the past two decades. With the NSF’s support, we can train business accelerators in deep tech centers around the country to take advantage of the unique offerings of their region, such as we did with our rich OPI community. These centers will be able to run their own self-sustaining programs that both deliver game-changing innovation and support local economies.”
The two-year initiative will further New York State’s efforts to pioneer critical energy storage technologies through the New Energy New York (NYNE) project. Under the leadership of Senator Schumer, the state secured $63.7 million in federal funding through the EDA’s Build Back Better Regional Challenge, with a $50 million state match from Empire State Development, to build out a battery industry cluster and position the Southern Tier region of Upstate New York as a national leader in battery innovation, workforce development, and manufacturing. Binghamton and NENY also are finalists for an NSF engine regional designation.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said, “This new $4.5 million U.S. NSF investment will supercharge the proven strengths of NextCorps and Binghamton University to grow new battery and energy storage start-up companies across the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier. I was proud to deliver the once-in-a-generation $63 million investment last year to create the battery industry cluster that is now transforming the Southern Tier and Finger Lakes into America’s home for battery innovation and production. This new partnership will further boost our efforts to bring manufacturing back from overseas, and train thousands of workers for good-paying jobs in an industry that will define this century.”
U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand said, “I was proud to stand at Binghamton University last year to announce funding for New Energy New York through the Build Back Better Regional Challenge. This additional $4 million awarded to NextCorps through the NSF will only further this investment in clean energy by improving the development and commercialization of new technological innovations in this space.”
The Accelerator Ignition effort also connects to recent regional initiatives in New York to bolster domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors, along with supply chains–which are both critical to deep-tech applications–in the United States, through the CHIPS and Science Act.
Congressman Joe Morelle said, “Congratulations to NextCorps on receiving this support for their Accelerator Ignition Program. With federal investments in our local innovation ecosystem, we’re creating jobs and solidifying long-term economic stability. This grant from the NSF will enable NextCorps to continue to partner with other innovation initiatives in our region kickstarted by the CHIPS and Science Act.”
NextCorps’ Unique Accelerator Methodology Blends Industry-Specific Expertise and Community Involvement, Replicable Nationwide
The methodology used by NextCorps’ Luminate and Manufacturing accelerators leverages university, community, and industrial involvement to guide and speed the delivery of emerging technologies.
Luminate, which currently encompasses a portfolio of 60 companies with an estimated combined valuation of $650 million, offers entrepreneurs financial support along with comprehensive programming and lab facilities to help them scale their OPI enabled technologies and businesses. The startups are supported by carefully recruited advisors who are matched to their technology needs and immediate business goals, and through industry-specific seminars, ongoing mentorship, and introductions to vetted supply chain providers, manufacturers, and investors.
NextCorps’ Manufacturing Accelerator provides structured curriculum, training, and connections to manufacturers and suppliers who are receptive to working with hardware-based startups to help them scale the manufacturing of their products. It has been successfully implemented in Rochester, NY, and in Pittsburgh, PA, in partnership with local National Institute of Standards and Technology Manufacturing Extension Partnership Centers in each region.
With a more than 35-year history of serving entrepreneurs and early-stage tech startups, NextCorps has a high rate of success attracting program partners and private and corporate investors, as well as connecting startups with the industry resources that can forward their businesses. In the last five years alone, the non-profit has served 536 companies, and helped its startup clients raise $562 million in funding. In testing the model, the non-profit hopes to help improve startup success by rolling out the program to accelerators operating within deep-tech hubs in other areas of the country.
“The early-stage time frame is when some of the most transformative innovations emerge, yet it’s also when startups are the most vulnerable. This acceleration model will give them a safe harbour, as well as the time and support needed to initiate their first profits and grow their businesses,” said Dr. Sujatha Ramanujan, Managing Director, Luminate.
Binghamton University to Leverage Energy Storage Initiatives to Attract More Startups
The Binghamton region is internationally recognized for its expertise in energy storage. It’s Southern Tier Clean Energy Incubator program has fostered over 60 startup companies since 2017, including iM3NY, which opened the state’s first battery Gigafactory. Binghamton University, through its office of Entrepreneurship and Innovation Partnerships, is leading the New Energy New York initiative, with the cornerstone project Battery-NY for the development of a battery technology and prototyping center in an Opportunity Zone in
Endicott, NY. The addition of an energy-focused startup accelerator at the Koffman will help NextCorps and Binghamton to test the Accelerator Ignition model, while also attracting the best startups and talent to the region to advance innovative ideas and the regional economy.
“The critical energy storage issues facing our world can only be addressed by investing in innovation. By effectively supporting entrepreneurs and giving them knowledge, tools, and access to battery innovation ecosystem and resources, including manufacturers, we can help them accelerate the commercialization of energy storage solutions that prioritize climate goals, meet the growing energy demand, are financially sustainable, and provide quality career opportunities,” said Binghamton University Associate Vice President of Innovation and Economic Development, Per Stromhaug.
Congressman Marc Molinaro said, "Binghamton has the expertise and workforce to transform the Southern Tier into a battery storage hub. This additional federal funding will accelerate our region's economic growth and create jobs by helping innovative, early-stage businesses scale their operations. I am proud that this funding is coming to Binghamton, and will continue working with our local partners to build up this budding industry."
For more information about NextCorps, visit nextcorps.org.
For more information about Binghamton’s New Energy New York initiative, go to newenergynewyork.com.
For more information about NSF grants, visit nsf.gov.
NextCorps is a non-profit helping innovative technology companies launch and grow. It supports tech startups and existing manufacturers build their businesses through a variety of international, national, and regional programs and mentoring opportunities. NextCorps also provides incubation to more than 60 startups annually, and educational and coaching services to many more companies. Its incubator is located at Sibley Square at the heart of Rochester’s downtown Innovation Zone. NextCorps is an affiliate of the University of Rochester. Visit www.nextcorps.org to learn more.
The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts. Visit nsf.gov to learn more.