Recently, a team of three Fermilab employees and a member of industry wrapped up their time in the DOE’s Energy I-Corps program. The two-month training pairs teams of researchers with industry mentors. Researchers receive training in defining technology value propositions, conducting customer discovery interviews, and developing viable market pathways for their technologies. They return to the lab with a framework for industry engagement to guide future research and inform a culture of market awareness within the labs.
Over two months, the I-Corps team — IARC General Manager Charlie Cooper, who was also the I-Corps team’s principal investigator, Fermilab scientist Brendan Kiburg, Fermilab engineer Vito Lombardo, and Jeff Margolis of Innovation Strategies Consulting — trained in marketing the use of electron beams to treat waste water. The accelerator-based technology can help mitigate perfluorates in water, a concern in multiple sectors of society. They gave their team a name — Purebeam — that reflects the advantages of the real treatment method developed at Fermilab.
The I-Corps team’s efforts were based on Cooper’s recent application development work at Fermilab on the use of electron beams to treat water. Fermilab is currently collaborating with the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewer District, and the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center in water treatment. Prior to the start of the I-Corps program, Cooper hosted an NSF-funded workshop with Florida Atlantic University on the topic, attended by government, industry, military, academia and professional organizations. The Energy I-Corps program allowed the I-Corps team to do a deeper dive on the unmet needs electron beam technology could address in the military and industrial sectors. One of the next steps will be to conduct some lab-scale demonstration work using IARC’s A2D2 accelerator. This will inform the design of a demonstration unit and aid in fund-seeking.
As part of their I-Corps training, the team submitted a video about their experience. The video captures the lessons they learned in interacting with potential customers and the business side of science and engineering.
View the 3-minute video below. Also check out this interview with Kiburg and Margolis by NREL Entrepreneur.