Ryan calls energy incubator lab opening ‘thrilling’
By Ed Runyan
The congressman who secured funding to get the Tech Belt Energy Innovation Center started and TBEIC’s board chairman both admitted they were never sure they would see this day.
Thursday was the day TBEIC’s new shared resources lab was unveiled to the public – a clear sign that the downtown business incubator has arrived.
“To see it come to this point is really thrilling,” said U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th. “This was a pipe dream.”
But it’s a dream that came true, thanks to chairman John Pogue and TBEIC vice president Rick Stockburger, Ryan said.
Ryan secured the $2.2 million from the Department of Energy in 2010 to renovate the building TBEIC now occupies on Courthouse Square. He expected to use additional earmarks to continue to develop it.
“Then earmarks went away,” the congressman said.
Funding for lab equipment came from a $248,000 Appalatian Regional Commission grant and matching money from the Ohio Board of Regents.
The incubator’s traditional funding sources, such as grants and community donors, paid for the consultants who put the lab together.
Ryan noted that the Brookings Institute has said as incubator tenants graduate to their own facility, they typically locate within five miles of the incubator.
“That’s why I wanted it in downtown Warren,” he said.
Before cutting the ribbon on the large second-floor lab, Pogue recalled the 2010 vision of an energy business incubator with a shared services lab and the long wait for it to happen. “This brings us to the vision we had eight years ago,” he said.
The lab specializes in energy integration and energy storage, including batteries and fuel cells.
The lab has a grid simulator that allows companies to hook a product into it and simulate a lightning strike, brown-out or black-out to show how the product will respond.
An “Internet of Things” lab will facilitate pre-certification for sensor products – anything a person connects to the internet that gathers data from multiple devices, Stockburger said.
“Nobody has officially started testing yet, but it will begin in a couple weeks,” Stockburger said.
The facility recently attracted a new tenant, with the New Mexico company PetroPower moving into TBEIC. Companies from Chagrin Falls, New Philadelphia and Columbus have signed on to use the lab.
TBEIC, which opened in 2015, is now fully occupied, with all 16 of its office spaces filled by energy startups and non-profits.
Thursday’s event featured a tour, equipment demonstrations, dinner and keynote address by Matt Petersen, CEO of the LA Cleantech Incubator.